Friday, September 14, 2018
Target puts its customers on a pedestal
My Friday column got bumped to Monday—the combination of an extra-long column and extra-tight space. And since I don't believe in scooping the paper on my blog, I'm running something else here today—this picture of a mannequin at Target.
You'll notice that I didn't attached an adjective to "mannequin." I suppose "hefty" is safe. Target, the nation's sixth largest retailer, calls them "Plus Sized"—they've been rolling them out over the past few years, reflecting their expanded range of sizes.
As a middle-aged male pundit, I guess I'm supposed to grab the drapery and howl—I suppose George F. Will will do that, eventually—I can't imagine the man shopping at Target, but Nordstrom's has them too, so maybe he'll notice them there.
But in truth, I can't say I'm distressed by the mannequins—I mean, I noticed them, and took these pictures. But in a cold, clinical, and-so-the-world-turns fashion. We are an increasingly obese country, and as a person who has battled weight all my life, I know that individuals themselves fluctuate between struggle and surrender. Some days start with a grapefruit and determination, others with a donut and resignation. Why should society be any different? I, myself, err on the side of struggle—being fat sucks. But if you want to dive into morbid obesity with a shrug and smile, by all means, be my guest.
Besides, mannequins are not the hill to die on. At least these have heads—as a child, I always found those slender, headless mannequins to be extremely creepy. My sister and I shared a complicated fantasy where, if you were trapped in May Co. or Higbee's or Halle's when the store closed, the mannequins came to life and murdered you. I'm surprised nobody has used that as a premise for a horror film, but I am not well-schooled in the horror movie genre, so maybe someone already has.
I do wonder about the efficacy of these mannequins. The purpose of showing off clothes, whether on a dummy in a store, or on a model in an ad, is to encourage the consumer to put down their cash and buy a particular outfit. I'm not saying using a curvy model, or a size-22 mannequin, won't work as well as the half-starved waifs and gaunt sticks that have been the general habit for the past half century. Heck, maybe reflecting women as they actually are might work better. (For some reason, men have not been granted this relief. I have yet to see thickset guy dummies at Target, nor beefy models on the cover of GQ. Maybe that's coming).
I could see them succeeding, catching the attention, and the dollars, of the consumer, relieved to see the full wide reflections of themselves. I also could see these stabs at pandering to the World As It Is as failing, by ignoring the aspirational aspect of fashion. Most people are not only heavy, they're plain-looking, but modeling clothes on average looking Joes and Janes, looking schlumpy and down-market—I just can't see that moving the merchandise.
To be honest, I've never seen clothing on a mannequin or in an ad, said, "Oh look!" and then bought it. So whoever these are designed to appeal to, fat or thin, it ain't me. The clothes I want are the clothes I've always worn, just newer, and less threadbare.