Pasqual Arnella

Inclusive mannequins: Representing diversity in fashion

22 February 2024

Today, it is clear that fashion is much more than a passing style that changes with the seasons. It is a way of expressing one’s own personality and a form of social integration. But this view is nothing new. As early as 1905, the psychologist George Simmel defined fashion as “the tendency of the individual to imitate the mode of dress in order to feel integrated into the group and society”.

Throughout history, we have many examples that support Simmel’s theories. In Ancient Greece, nobles already wore brightly coloured clothes to express their wealth, as dyed clothes were more expensive. The struggle for women’s rights and equality in various fields was reflected in fashion through the use of more “masculine” styles, such as suits, trousers and shorts, which were previously unthinkable. The progressive reaffirmation of women’s independence has also translated into more sober, casual and informal looks, and the abandonment of elements traditionally associated with femininity – in its classic conception – such as corsets, bows and the unavoidable use of skirts.

However, the fashion industry has had an unresolved issue: Reflecting social diversity, including a more general representation of sizes, ages, ethnicities and sexual identities. In this regard, It was not until 2021 that there was a turning point, when significant progress was made to truly reflect social heterogeneity in fashion. According to Tag Walk’s 2021 annual report, as many as 69 fashion collections presented in the last 12 months included curvy models, 30% more than the previous year. Gender boundaries are also blurring, and fashion is increasingly recognized as a universal language.

Taking this into account, mannequins cannot be left behind, and are evolving to adapt and show the diversity and inclusivity of today’s society.

Towards more diverse and inclusive fashion

Historically, mannequins have represented an unattainable ideal of beauty, perpetuating stereotypes and excluding many people who did not fit them. However, as the fashion industry has opened up to greater inclusivity, mannequins now come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, skin colours and physical features, reflecting the diversity of the real world. Where are we seeing these changes?

  • Mannequins are now available in a variety of sizes and body shapes that reflect the diversity of human bodies. This includes plus size mannequins, as well as mannequins representing different body types, such as athletic bodies, curvaceous bodies, etc.
  • We can find mannequins adapted to people with disabilities, such as mannequins in wheelchairs or with prostheses.
  • Mannequins now also reflect a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds to more accurately represent different demographic groups, such as different skin tones and facial features.

Impact on the fashion industry

The inclusion of diverse mannequins has a profound impact on the fashion industry. It not only changes the way clothes are presented, but also influences design and production decisions. Brands that adopt inclusive mannequins are sending a powerful message: Fashion is for everyone.

In this sense, inclusive mannequins break away from traditional stereotypes of beauty by representing different body types, including plus-size, people with disabilities and different ethnicities, and away from conventional beauty standards.

For example, Nike was one of the first brands to introduce plus-size mannequins in its shops. Other brands such as Target and Old Navy have redefined their strategies to include a more diverse audience, including displaying mannequins of different sizes and shapes that mirror the reality of their customers.

This has a significant emotional impact on consumers. Seeing mannequins that look more like them makes customers feel more welcomed and represented, which increases their trust and satisfaction.

The way forward: The future of inclusive fashion

Despite the positive outlook, there are still challenges in the inclusive fashion, and therefore in the widespread adoption of inclusive mannequins. First of all, the production of diverse mannequins can be more costly and complex, so the brand will need to be clear about which segments it wants to target, and what its ability to represent this diversity is.

However, the movement towards inclusivity is unstoppable, and expectations are that more and more brands will embrace this trend. With the increasing demand for representation and diversity, we may see a greater variety of mannequins in all shops. This will not only change the way fashion is represented, but will also influence how society views beauty and inclusion.

Because at the end of the day inclusive mannequins are more than a trend; they are a mirroring of a shift in society towards acceptance and celebration of diversity. By showcasing a variety of bodies, ethnicities and abilities, these mannequins are helping to redefine beauty standards and make fashion accessible and relevant to all.

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Pasqual Arnella
PASQUAL ARNELLA S.L. en el marco del Programa ICEX Next, ha contado con el apoyo de ICEX y con la cofinanciación del fondo europeo FEDER. La finalidad de este apoyo es contribuir al desarrollo internacional de la empresa y de su entorno.

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