We’re all familiar with the experience of glancing into a shop window and seeing a pin-thin, unrealistically proportioned mannequin staring back at us, ‘wearing’ the clothes which we’re leafing through on the rails. It can be a disconcerting feeling, and often gives little indication of how said clothes will look on our bodies.
British retailer Long Tall Sally, specialists in creating designs which fit and flatter women over 5′ 8”, are on a mission to make mannequins less like awkwardly propped-up statues and more of a relatable visual aid for their customers. And so they decided to enlist one of their long-time fans to become the basis for a new mannequin which would be created to mirror her exact proportions.
Enter 32 year-old Harriet Winters, an IT contractor from London whose body will now be seen in mannequin form in the windows of Long Tall Sally’s flagship shop on Chiltern Street, while more body replicas will also be sent to the label’s design studio so that the creative team can fit their work on a real-life customer.
“I did it on a bit of a whim” Winters admits of her decision to enter the competition which LTS had launched to find a customer who fit the bill to become a mannequin. “I filled in a form and then sent off some photos which my boyfriend had taken of me but I was very surprised when I was selected.”
At exactly 6ft and a size 14, she encompasses a realistic version of Long Tall Sally’s customers. “I think the idea is great, to use actual customers as mannequins is really positive,” Winters says, “you should design clothes for actual people rather than aspirational shapes or models that don’t represent those customers.” Her feelings echo a movement which is growing across the fashion industry, coinciding with British Vogue‘s November issue being declared a model-free zone.
So how did the process work? Winters visited the LTS studio where technicians from animation and design company Studio 43 scanned her body. “Tom (the technician) points a flashing gun at you and images beam up on a computer screen mapping you’re proportions” she explains. All the data was then used to create the 3D model which formed the recreation of Winters’ exact proportions.
“It was very surreal to see for the first time,” she laughs. “It was quite freaky looking at the resulting model- fun and out of the ordinary but you do also feel a bit self-conscious. And then they keep talking about disassembling it and taking the arms on and off which made me feel quite protective over it!”
Winters says that she hopes the mannequin will make shopping a more positive- and easy- experience for other women. “You don’t go shopping to find clothes which fit someone else, you look for them to fit you. So having models which reflect a more regular size is great, you can go into a shop, see a dress on a model and it looks like you rather than seeing them on skinny models.”