Just as there is a “glass ceiling” with people of color having access to corporate boardrooms, there is a “glass window” in the retail sector. Mannequins of color are absent from retail window displays. Whether you are in Minneapolis, New York, Tokyo or Rio, 95% of the mannequins in the store window are either Anglo or headless.

mannequins body image

In my previous posts I wrote about how store window mannequins silently sell us on accepting the narrow standard of beauty perpetuated by the fashion industry.

Young, Anglo and Tall (YAT) are the three qualities the fashion industry requires to be attractive and so that is what 95% of store mannequins look are.  There is virtually no acknowledgment of the beauty of other races and ethnicities.

mannequins body image

The fashion industry wants mannequins to be a fantasized version of a woman. It is one thing to say that mannequins are not supposed to look like the “average” woman – with curves, laugh lines and under 6 feet tall.  But why are non-Anglo women not part of this fantasy?

At least in fashion magazines you will occasionally see a woman of color who meets the “standard of beauty” look. But you don’t see that diversity in window displays with mannequins. Where are the Salma Hayek’s, Halle Berry’s or Lucy Liu’s in fiberglass form to remind us when we are shopping that beauty comes in all colors?

mannequins body image

Look at this photo below which was taken in our mannequin warehouse. There is an Asian female in the front and interspersed among the Anglo mannequins are various hues of darker women of color that represent African American, Latina, East Indian and multi-racial women.

There is a redhead (another rarity in a store window) as well as one woman (the one with the platinum colored hair) that looks more mature looking than the average mannequin which looks like a young girl Wouldn’t it be nice to see this diversity in store windows?

mannequins body image

The popularity of using headless or “egghead” style mannequins like in the photo below has been attributed to the fact that they are easier to maintain – no wigs to style, no make up to keep current looking. But many feel (including myself) that retailers choose them because their are devoid of any racial or ethnic identity.

mannequins body image

Other retailers make their ethnic mannequins look comical like the one below. At least they are represented, just not represented as an object of desire.

mannequins body image

What do you think? Am I just making a mountain out of a molehill or do you think the fashion industry needs to embrace a wider spectrum of women to be categorized as beautiful?


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Lisa LaMagna
11 years ago

You make some good points, and not just for women of color, but for all women. The mannequins present an image of perfection. And I notice when I travel, that local cities and retail stores have their own versions of mannequins that target their idealized / aspirational market. I’d love to see some of the retail chains use dress forms made from real women in their windows. The closest anyone has come to that is the marketing campaign by Dove (“real women”), but it turned out that wasn’t very “real” either. Keep fighting the good fight Judy.

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