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, though I can't imagine the man shopping at Target. 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 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. 


  1. But wait...there was a Twilight Zone episode that follows your suggestion that the mannequins came to life after dark when the store was closed. I am a little fuzzy on the details (it was a long time ago that I saw it), but I remember it. It had the typical Rod Sterling touch of horror and common place.

    1. Yes, I remember it well. The mannequins took turns, for one week, being “alive”. After the week ends they had to go back and become a mannequin again. Creepy, and a metaphor of some kind, I imagine.

    2. There have been a couple of movies about a mannequin coming alive, the first was called "Mannequin" & the second was "Mannequin 2".
      Very original?

  2. I'd like to see Freakonomics explore the frumpy mannequin trend. Seems to me the "aspirational" aspect of selling clothes, beer, houses, hamburgers, and politicians is to make them look better than reality. Could be some marketing major will set us straight on the subject.


  3. It makes sense for retailers to use the more realistic sized mannequins.

  4. This calls to mind Ross's article on inappropriate meme groups in the Claremont Independent. Specifically, Image 5 is portrayed as ridiculing the Holocaust. Shockingly, these are actual models that find employment in the fashion industry. Because of the demand, some young ladies will practice a form of extreme anorexia, to meet the standards required by their modeling agency. It's very dangerous and can result in permanent physiological harm, if not outright death. They are called ultra-thin models, and for the life of me I can't imagine how customers find it appealing. Perhaps the clothing designer thinks it will accentuate some aspect of the design that will make the wearer seem thinner. The meme may be crude and insensitive, but is likely meant more of an indictment of the fashion industry than making fun of the Holocaust.

  5. Pose her on a couch and give her a languid expression and the mannequin (womanquinn?) would be very like, dimension-wise, Titian's Venus of Urbino, the epitome of female pulchritude in olden, Renaissance, days. A long torso, ample hips, voluptuous thighs, small but perky breasts, a hand resting provocatively on the mons veneris. Wander the streets of Florence or the corridors of the Bargello and you will see many such naturally shaped beauties rendered in marble, often in the clutches of idolized,impossibly muscular, male figures. Fashions in bodies do, it seems, change.


  6. I think it is about time these mannequins showed up. Most my grown ass women friends are discouraged even thinking about clothes shopping. (I am tall and thin, having "outgrown" LANKY on also am discouraged.) It is refreshing to see a nice looking outfit on a mannequin larger than a size 4. Bigger women can finally see how they might look in an outfit . The mannequin IS aspirational. We women aspire to purchase clothing that fit AND look nice on us, and be bigger than a size 8 when we do.


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