Body diversity isn't something we usually associate with the fashion world, but it looks like the industry might finally getting real.
For the month of August, J.C. Penney is using mannequins based on real people in their Manhattan displays. They are showcasing the beauty of Neil Duncan, a former paratrooper in Afghanistan who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device; Ricardo Gil, who has dwarfism; Desiree Harper, a 6'1" college basketball player; Beth Ridgeway, a plus-sized mother; and Dawna Callahan, who uses a wheelchair due to incomplete paralysis.
Similarly, Nordstrom's July catalog features Jillian Mercado, who models shoes from her wheelchair; Alex Minksy, a vet who lost a leg while serving in Afghanistan; Shaholly Ayers, who was born without the lower half of one arm; and Emilia Taguchi, one of the cutest 7-year-olds you will ever see who also happens to have Down syndrome. This is welcome news since the fashion industry typically sticks to models that are tall, white, thin, and able-bodied.
Shoppers have been frustrated for years by unrealistic-looking models. Who hasn't picked up a shirt that looked adorable on the display, only to see it has a totally different shape and style when you try it on? J.C. Penney and Nordstrom have been singled out in the past for body-shaming sins. Two years ago, a customer started a petition against J.C. Penney, writing, "The legs on the mannequins were not just “super-skinny," they were extraordinarily, shockingly thin. So thin, that the mannequin’s leg was the same size as my arm!" And Nordstrom has been called out many times for their aggressive photoshopping to make their already-thin models look inhumanly tiny.
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Now J.C. Penney's spokesperson Debra Berman says, "We love the range of shapes, colors of skin, wallet, the lifestyles, and the occasions that all of our customers shop for; we consider it a challenge and an opportunity to service that." Here's hoping this isn't just lip service and represents a real change. Human beings come in a wide variety of beautiful forms, and we'd love to see more of them represented. For starters, that military vet is seriously hot—more of him, please!
What types of bodies would you like to see as mannequins and models? Tell us below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!