An unnamed store has found itself in the center of a whirlwind of debate on Reddit after it set up a plus-size mannequin in its store.
User ReddityDoopity started a thread entitled "Anyone else horrified that they make obese mannequins too now?" The statement links to a picture of the mannequin at an unidentified store.
The comments range from thrilled to appalled.
"OMG, it's about time! I've always hated seeing the size I have to get displayed on a much smaller model, then trying it on to see that it looks completely different on me," one supportive comment reads.
However, some commenters sat on the same side of the fence as the original poster of the picture. "I just fear that obese will become the new normal as we try to be politically correct about it. Being obese is not the same as being black/gay/whatever," a commenter lamented.
The debate on Reddit reflects a real-world one as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 70 percent of Americans can be classified as overweight and obese. The average American woman is a size 14. However, despite the growing girth of American waistlines, mannequins have remained about the same size, a svelte size 4 or 6.
Many in the fashion industry claim that theirs is one of aspiration. That is part of the reason why fashion designers and retailers often feel that their clothes look better on smaller frames and why models walking on the runway are generally thin.
"They believe there is an aesthetic appeal that is violated by using larger sizes in their displays," Ed Gribbin, the president of Alvanon, a mannequin manufacturing company, said to ABC News.
Interestingly, Jennifer Thomas, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, says that retailers may have a point in their reluctance to request larger mannequins. She says that, while seeing a mannequin reflect a customer's body size may boost their self-esteem, "people hope they will look like the mannequin if they buy the clothes. In our society, most people would rather be thin than obese."
Regardless, some stores - like the unnamed one in the Reddit post - have taken steps to beef up their mannequins. J.C. Penney introduced larger mannequins in 2009 and television shopping network QVC has been using Alvanon's size 18 and 20 mannequins for clothing for the past six years.
The mannequin is estimated to be a size 24 to 26, which is probably larger than most retailers would be comfortable displaying.
However, it is possible that many more people would be comfortable with the mannequin if it was simply better-proportioned. Many comments joke about the fact that the head and hands seem to be too small for the mannequin's body. The top-ranked comment currently says, "It's like the person who designed this has never seen a fat person before. 'I'll just make everything...bigger.'"