Mannequins for the masses

Spain's health ministry teams up with retailers to make mannequins that look more like real women.

Published March 27, 2007 2:33PM (EDT)

Still reacting to last year's models-dying-of-starvation tragedies, the Spanish health ministry is taking a step beyond just banning ultra-thin models from the catwalk: it's teamed up with four major Spanish retailers to create mannequins that look more like actual women, and plans to set standard sizing for women's clothing so that sizes don't fluctuate between stores. (Check out previous Broadsheet coverage here.)

According to the International Herald Tribune, "The program is aimed at changing the perception that super-skinny women are fashionable -- an image some believe contributes to eating disorders." In order to do so, stores participating in the program will replace their current mannequins with ones that are no smaller than a size 38 (roughly equivalent to an American 6 or 8).

So here's the cool new thing: In order to figure out how to set standardized sizes, the Health Ministry is using laser-equipped booths that can scan 130 body measurements in 30 seconds (apparently when the Spanish Health Ministry wants something done, it gets it done). The booths will be sent around the country to measure the curves of 8,500 women, ages 12 to 70, and their results will be passed on to designers who account for 80 percent of the clothing in the Spanish fashion industry, says the Herald. The study's results will be used to set sizing standards.

I've got to say, I like this idea. Sure, some fashions might look a little weird draped across mannequins that actually look like human bodies -- and it would be naive to think that just changing mannequin sizes will solve the problem of eating disorders. But regardless, I think it'd be pretty refreshing to walk into a store and see pants on a dummy that actually had hips. And what's more, it now looks like Spain's initiative might spread -- Angeles Heras, director of consumer affairs at the Health Ministry, said that other designers have asked to become involved, and Italy even sent a letter asking about the program.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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