What the controversy over a plus-size mannequin says about fatphobia today

Written by Leah Sinclair

The inclusion of a plus-sized mannequin at a London store has been labelled “dangerous” – but it really just highlights the fatphobia that continues today.

How many of us breeze past a shop window and see a plus-size mannequin? Go on… I’ll wait!

Plus-size mannequins are pretty rare to come across, with the dress forms historically represented by a petite frame that society has deemed ideal (specifically a size 8-10 in the UK).

This has left many of us who dare to be outside of the “normal figure” wondering if the outfits placed on these mannequins will look good on us as we venture into stores up and down the country.

It’s something that most of us have become so used to that we barely acknowledge how damaging it is. We look at these mannequins and ask ourselves whether the fabric will cling too tightly to our fupas or whether it will fit well around our breasts. 

We wonder if the way it looks on the mannequin will work well on our bodies and deal with the anxiety of going into a changing room and trying on outfits we hope will look well on those of us who fit outside of that ideal.

To have mannequins that cater to different body types can be a gamechanger and we’re luckily beginning to see a shift, with one London store gaining a whole lot of attention for it.

The Fabletics store in Regent Street has included a plus-size mannequin dressed in a fabulous lime green three-piece in its shop window – and it has been the cause of controversy due to a tweet from journalist Isabel Oakeshott.

Taking to Twitter, Oakeshott said: “This, in a Regent St fitness store, is what obesity looks like. Flabby curves highlighted in hideous lime green velour. The so-called “body positivity” movement is not “inclusive”, it’s dangerous.”

While her decision to deem the outfit “hideous” is definitely her choice, calling the mannequin “dangerous” only highlights how insidious fatphobia is and how the mere sight of someone plus-size can result in such vitriol – and many were keen to call out Oakeshott for just that.

One wrote: “This is… a mannequin of an average-sized person wearing clothes that work with their body. Tons of people have this body shape, and that’s fine. “Obesity” is a body size–a calculation of weight divided by height–not a disease. And not something to be ashamed of.”

Another tweeted: “Let’s get one thing straight. The body represented is not even close to “dangerous” it’s a regular human body. it’s not a new body type either. In reality, the concept that thin represents health and beauty is not only new, it’s entirely unfounded. You’re the one being dangerous.”

A third said: “Larger bodies exist. We deserve to be seen, to wear what we want and see ourselves in all spaces. It’s ridiculous that this still even needs to be said.”

The inclusion of various body types should without a doubt be celebrated. People should be able to see themselves reflected in the stores they shop at and the clothes they want to wear – and one woman even bought the outfit to show just how amazing she looked in it.

“I bought the dangerous outfit,” she said, while sharing a selfie of her dressed in the eye-catching ensemble.

Many took to the comments to share just how great she looked, while stating that it encouraged them, with one writing: “Love, love, love it. I’m going to take my ‘dangerous’ body down there and see what else they have.”

I say the more plus-size mannequins, the better.

Image: Getty 

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