A leading eating disorder advocate has called Topshop’s unnaturally thin mannequins damaging to a person’s “psychological and physical well-being”.
The Butterfly Foundation CEO, Christine Morgan, said that beauty and appearance were often wrongly defined by the fashion industry and retailers like Topshop.
“These high levels of body dissatisfaction among Australians are also leading to an increasing number of men and women engaging in disordered eating behaviours, which can trigger an eating disorder,” Ms Morgan said, something she encounters regularly at her foundation.
The Butterfly Foundation provides support for Australians who suffer with eating disorders and negative body image.
The UK fashion chain Topshop has attracted criticism over the use of extremely thin mannequins in stores recently.
The 187cm tall, size six mannequins have been removed from selected stores after a customer complaint on their Facebook page, drawing attention to the proportions of the mannequins, went viral in the United Kingdom.
Laura Berry from Gloucestershire posted the images of the slender mannequin when shopping at the Topshop store in Bristol. The Facebook photo was accompanied by a statement that said the mannequin was “ridiculously-shaped”.
The post attracted over 3000 likes and hundreds of comments accusing the retailer of not considering the negative impact such standards have on its youth following.
Topshop has since responded to the public outcry claiming that the mannequins have been selected more for practicality than their physical attributes.
“The mannequins are solid fibreglass, their form needs to be of certain dimensions to allow the clothing to be put on and removed easily,” Topshop said in a statement.
It also said that no more of those mannequins would be ordered.
According to Topshop brand manager Jane Shepherdson, the demographic for the brand is 15-30-year-old women.
Talia Sigsworth, a 16-year-old from Woonona, said the mannequins “look silly” and create an “extremely unrealistic expectations of women”.
Charlotte Simpson, also 16, agreed and said mannequins should be an accurate representation of women.
“If it looks abnormal or exaggerated it’s portraying an unrealistic body image to the impressionable younger women and girls that shop there,” she said.
“The regular use of underweight or extremely thin mannequins in store promotes unrealistic, unobtainable and highly stylised appearance ideals that cannot be achieved in real life.”
Research conducted in 2010 by the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) found that eating disorders are estimated to have affected 9 per cent of the Australian population, with 84 per cent of young Australians claiming they at least know one person who they believe may have an eating disorder.
Wollongong student Keely McCarthy said that it is not just women who are exposed to the skewered perception that mannequins suggest, with male mannequins suited out with muscles. “They are made to depict the fantasies and societies poorly mistaken ideals,” she said.
Visual merchandiser Blair Cording from Sydney’s northern beaches believes that curves are more appealing.
“Curves equal better… any honest merchant and customer knows this,” he said. – Photo and report by Greta Levy