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Do Skinny Mannequins Need to Be Banned?

31/07/2015 17:36 BST | Updated 31/07/2016 10:59 BST

Another day, another controversy. For an industry that's built on aspiration and 'beauty', fashion has a strange mixture of ideologies. It favours the rich, the slightly strange-looking, and, even in an age where people long to emulate Kim Kardashian's curves, fashion loves thin. From models to mannequins, you'd be hard pressed to find something that represents your body. And it's these faceless figures championed by designer and high street stores alike that have hit headlines this week.

25-year-old Laura Berry wrote a lengthy Facebook post, condemning Topshop for their 'ridiculously shaped' 6ft 1in mannequins. It went viral, reaching the attention of Topshop themselves who said they would not be placing any further orders, adding: "This particular style is used in a small number of our stores and is based on a standard UK size 10. As the mannequins are solid fibreglass, their form needs to be of certain dimensions to allow clothing to be put on and removed easily; this is therefore not meant to be a representation of the average female body."

Topshop's not the only chain to garner mannequin criticism. Both Primark and lingerie brand La Perla have been called out on unrealistic features including concave stomachs and protruding ribs. Mail Online went so far as to measure the waists of mannequins from various stores. The results: Topshop - 25.5 inches, Zara - 24.5 inches and H&M - 23.5 inches. Even plus-size brands housed mannequins smaller than a size 12.

With a UK size 8 generally being 28 inches and the average British woman measuring 33 inches, why are mannequins so skinny? Simple answer: because they're not real. In a 2012 short film, legendary mannequin designer Ralph Pucci describes his creations as "art forms", admitting to their unattainable qualities. Walk around any shopping centre and you'll be met with giant headless dummies contorted into alien-like shapes. Are these ultra-thin things, with their spindly arms and twig-like legs, really being mistaken for an accurate representation of female bodies? Apparently so.

The media bandies around the terms 'eating disorders', 'young people' and 'fashion' almost on a daily basis. Since teenagers are notoriously susceptible to advertising and the like, let's think about what they pay attention - and look up - to. The models adorning ad campaigns and flooding our Instagrams; the poster girls for the next generation; the barely legal girls passed off as 'real women'. The images these girls appear in are the things that can require drastic action. Sometimes, a ban is needed (as in the recent Saint Laurent case) if they're promoting unhealthy ideals.

Do people aspire to look like a mannequin? Is anyone directly influenced by their ethereal frame? No-one can give a straight answer - perhaps because it's a pointless, non-existential question. Granted there'll be a few who stare wistfully at the impossible slenderness. But if you're anything like me, the only encounter you'll have with these plastic giants is muttering an embarrassed apology after mistaking one for a live human being.

Mannequins are an extension of a brand's creative vision; one that may not be to everyone's (or anyone's) taste. Will a piece of plastic ever be seen as the equivalent of a human body? Doubtful. Until then, let's focus on banning the things that matter.