New Look mannequin

// 18 May 2009

Daniella sent us in this photo she took of an er… interestingly proportioned mannequin in New Look:

NewLookmannequin.JPG (JPEG Image, 2048×1536 pixels) - Scaled (41%).jpg

Daniella says:

While shopping today in New Look (guilty pleasure) I came across this truly unbelievable mannequin in the underwear section. The bust and waist are so disproportionate that the bra doesn’t even fit around the chest, it hangs bizarrely off the body.

Comments From You

Francine Hoenderkamp // Posted 18 May 2009 at 7:22 pm


tom hulley // Posted 18 May 2009 at 8:08 pm

The poor mannequin has suffered some extreme amputations – are women’s heads, arms and legs irrelevant to designers?

It is truly frightening as I have heard men discuss women as if they were reducible to ‘tits and bums’. Sadly, you find drawings like this on toilet walls.

The waist is ridiculous but the execution far more sinister and yet another recent example of blatant misogny. (Yes, sexism is getting worse.)

One more shop crossed off my list! Looks like organic veggie boxes for everyone next Xmas.

Rachael // Posted 18 May 2009 at 8:09 pm

Oh. Dear. God.

This really does not surprise me in the slightest, sadly.

For example: Did you know that Next has just got a new women’s t/shirt in that says on it, “I Love The Hoff”? Obviously its about David Hasslehoff.

Wasn’t this man accused of spousal abuse? REALLY nice to know that young women can wear t/shirts who support this guy.

And yes – when I saw it in the shop, I complained about it. Please do if you see it in your local shop.

Hannah // Posted 18 May 2009 at 8:29 pm

Woah, I’ve never seen these in New Look before, but they’re in the front window of Ann Summers in Lancaster and it really annoys me everytime we go past. Apparently a figure in line with intensive corset training is a good all-rounder when it comes to modelling undies o___O

KJB // Posted 18 May 2009 at 8:31 pm

Ew! That is genuinely terrifying.

It reminds me of a story I read once (news story) about a woman who wore a corset her whole life and got that sort of figure… Maybe F-Worders know what I mean? She was called Sophia something, I think.

Victoria Dutchman-Smith // Posted 18 May 2009 at 9:15 pm

In New Look a couple of Christmases ago, I spotted a T-shirt for men with the silhouettes of three naked women in santa hats with the slogan “Ho ho ho!”. For lots of (rubbish) reasons, I never got round to complaining, but I really wish I had. But again, it’s not something I should have been surprised about. By that time, my partner and I had long since given up looking for any clothes for our baby son in their children’s range since, even in a market flooded with horribly gendered clothing, New Look really stand out (my partner sumarises the slogans as “mummy’s little wifebeater / daddy’s little jailbait”, which is about right).

saranga // Posted 18 May 2009 at 10:08 pm

KJB: There are quite a lot of people who go in for corset training like you’ve described. As I understand it’s not usually done as a frivolous fashion thing, it’s done as a serious effort to modify and change your body, similar to extreme body modders who go for implants (not the breast type) ‘extreme’ tattoos, piercings and ear or neck stretchings.

I find corset training a very interesting thing and do not view it as bowing to the patriarchy (because it goes far beyond what the patriarchy condones and encourages) or as damage or mutilation to the body. Instead, I view it as creative and taking ownership of your body, developing and working with what was given you to create a whole new experience, or artwork.

That mannequin however, that’s not art and it’s not subverting or taking ownership of anything. That’s just bloody stupid. It looks like a lot of my (badly drawn) comics.

mimi dev // Posted 18 May 2009 at 10:44 pm

these mannequins were in Topshop’s lingerie department waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before New Look and complaints were made and they are still there.

Kitty // Posted 19 May 2009 at 5:57 pm

This is just…SCARY.

Karen // Posted 19 May 2009 at 6:06 pm

They chopped Barbie’s head and limbs off and put it on display?! If this were in an art gallery, I would say that it’s an excellent work of art, demonstrating the modern struggle to comply with body shape “standards”. However, as its in a clothes shop I say its absolutely pants and the tosser that created it (I’d be very seriously surprised if its a woman) either should have gone to specsavers or should just remove their head from their arse or porn mag (same thing) and come back to the real world.

jason brown // Posted 21 May 2009 at 12:09 am

As a boy, I always felt disturbed seeing models, statues or carvings with arms, legs and often heads missing. No one else seemed to react in the same way, so it was one of the many things I had to assume as being some weird adult thing. As an adult I realise some of it is ‘art’ but it still disturbs me. It’s okay to ban hate speech but showing an apparently dismembered torso is normal ?

Jen // Posted 21 May 2009 at 11:29 am

Well, I don’t know, it’s hideous, but in its context it is a fine achievement in the field of moulding plastic into a weird shape.

If we can admire achievements in the field of bombing Iraq, I think we can admire this as well, can’t we?

Or put differently: don’t you think it’s a little fucked up to react this way to seeing the freaking Venus de Milo in the window of New Look but to still be able to appreciate the achievements of an officer in Iraq “in context”?

Saranga // Posted 21 May 2009 at 1:36 pm

@ Jen: I think the New Look mannequin is quite different from the Venus de Milo. Venus is in proportion for a start.

I also don’t admire the achievements of bombing Iraq, your comparison presupposes that I, (and other people) do.

Mind you, I don’t think there should exist a hierarchy of wrongness, which I think you are implying. Forgive me if I’m interpreting you incorrectly.

Jen // Posted 21 May 2009 at 4:02 pm


Well, it would possibly be in better faith for me to admit that different people are commenting in both threads, so no I don’t really assume anyone here supports bombing Iraq.

I’m just kind of struck by the different reactions though, in another thread I got told we should admire the achievements of a woman officer “in context”, even if that context is “problematic” (which still strikes me as an incredibly mild way of putting it).

Here people are throwing their arms up in horror over a mannequin in a shop window. I don’t think there’s a hierarchy of what’s more of a feminist issue, certainly, but in the scheme of things – if there was a thread about the sweatshops where New Look get their stuff, there’d be a few polite “that’s awful”s, judging by previous threads anymore. I haven’t seen one yet, but if you did a post about the fact that teenagers of low economic means are exploited by this stuff, that poor people actually end up paying more every year for bullshit that falls apart, not to mention the environmental consequences of all those synthetic clothes, from the inception of the fabric until they get dumped in a landfill… I’m not sure you would get that much of a reaction, certainly not the outrage that this has caused.

This mannequin – it’s not directly killing any women, it’s not exploiting them for hardly any wages, it projects a somewhat unhealthy image of the female physique, but in the end it’s just an inanimate symbol of everything they stand for. Really, it should look that sinister.

That just confirms to me that most self-identified feminists are more interested in not being upset by sexism and the condition of women than in remedying these things. A mannequin like this, if you were to gather evidence that something is rotten about women’s lot, it would be pretty useful evidence.

And then, being horrified by it… sure, although I don’t think there should be a requirement for all representations of the female form to be in proportion, that’s absurd. As for threatening to boycott the shop because of it, I think that’s ridiculous, when it’s such a useful indictment of the stuff they stand for.

It might seem odd for me to bring up that other thread. There is a thought process behind this. In both cases, we were looking at a symbol in female form, both of which probably symbolise as much violence and misery and, more interestingly, as much ideological bullshit as each other. Isn’t it interesting that the reactions were so different?

In fact, though there was a lack of questioning of the military as an institution in the other thread, it’s interesting that, even though people find bombing countries, on average, quite a bit less acceptable than selling crap clothes, there’s so much more outrage over this mannequin?

Is it maybe that this symbolises a much more immediate for of oppression for us personally, whereas Lt Moore symbolizes a type of oppression we’re actually a part of (to oversimplify hideously of course)? I also happened to notice, while we’re talking about symbols, that the UK Bloggers group still has a union jack as its logo, so people weren’t all that outraged by that particular symbol, even though, to quote a few examples, women in Kenya were raped with beer bottles in its name, and the ancestors of a few members of the group were probably raped by members of the English nobility in the name of what it represents.

Now I don’t want to suggest people are being insensitive or that they’re okay with torture, I know that in theory they are not (although, call it “colonialism” and it’s less cut and dried). I do think it’s odd, the different ways that people react to these things, that aren’t necessarily all that logical.

If I was to form a theory, I think there is a tendency, tied up with bourgeois femininity, to evaluate how serious something is / how virtuous we are for caring by how upset we are by it. We’ve all seen the cries of “oh no, women are dying in Africa, please make it stop, I’ve been crying so much!”. Which is, in itself, something quite fucked up about bourgeois femininity, since performing upsetness, even being upset, can be quite selfish reactions in certain circumstances.

I’ve felt huge pressure in feminist spaces (online or not) to feel upset and outraged and shocked all the time, and at the same time when I’ve pointed out stuff that I thought was pretty damn serious you just get told “oh please get real”. In some cases I’ve come out with actual feminist theory, only to have people assume I’m anti-feminist and directing me to the “feminism 101” website (LOL) so I can learn why feminists are pissed off by that stuff (assuming I’m not one myself). Now you can disagree with stuff, not a problem, there are all kinds of feminists etc. etc., but the thing is, the times this has happened to me has always been when I wasn’t outraged or upset enough about something.

Almost like it’s unladylike not to be upset by this mannequin – but it’s also unladylike and unreasonable to dislike the British Empire.

Also, slightly related, but I was once at a “body politics” discussion where we were asked to bring in positive and negative images of female bodies. I appreciate what the intention was – but looking at, among other things, this mannequin, wouldn’t it have been better to bring in interesting images, without qualifying one way or the other? I mean, it seems a problem to me, to bring in pictures of women and say “that’s bad!”, especially if it’s photos – and also to feel a rush of empowerment, and especially to feel the need to qualify one way or the other: is this good? or is it bad?

This mannequin – it’s interesting. I’d see it as a key, as a set of signifiers, as part of language – definitely not a reason to boycott a shop (besides the class privilege that the whole boycotting thing drips with, most of the girls in my area wear Primark or New Look clothes cause they can’t really afford anything more “ethical”).

Jen // Posted 21 May 2009 at 4:07 pm

… and I also meant to add Saranga, you’re into comics, given the representations of women in those (I see you have Supergirl as your avatar), you must see representations of the female form in much the same way as I do, right? I mean, in order to read Marvel comics and retain your sanity?

I mean, I love She-Hulk, even though she’s basically a large green muscular Ally McBeal. She never looks the same in two consecutive panels, she seems to be constantly on the rag. I don’t love her because she’s empowering, she’s not one of the many things that inspire me to do weight training, but she is fascinating.

I mean, if you had to go back and forth between Supergirl and Powergirl evaluating the proportions of their breasts and thighs and biceps in terms of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” or “MEEP MEEP BOYCOTT IMMEDIATELY”, well, your thumbs would fall off and your brain would trickle out your nose, correct?

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 May 2009 at 4:23 pm

I love She-Hulk, even though she’s basically a large green muscular Ally McBeal

Hilarious :-)

Personally, I *have* had enough of depiction of women (or lack thereof) in comics and barely read them anymore, not that I was ever into superheros all that much. Not sure I’d call it an official boycott, exactly :-) I do really appreciate When Fangirls Attack and Cheryl Lynn’s blog though.

I wouldn’t boycott New Look because of a mannequin – as Jen outlined, there’s plenty of reasons not to buy clothes from them already, if you’re in the position to make a choice.

I’d suggest complaining in store at New Look, and writing to them if people want to object.

Jen // Posted 21 May 2009 at 4:30 pm

I find it hard to see what, in practical terms, you’d complain about, though. “This promotes an unrealistic standard of beauty”? They’d just point out it’s not meant to be realistic, and they’d be right: it’s not an anatomical model on a medical course, it’s a mannequin in a shop window.

I think there are cases when you need to take action, but I think this is a case where it’s best to take a more analytical approach. Anything else would be just fulfilling a particular set of conditions: you get to feel good about having done something, and they get to confirm that objections to their values are illogical and unfounded (which any direct complaint pretty much would be). You’ll get another of those standard responses to cut and paste in your blog, and everyone’s happy but everything’s still the same.

Alice // Posted 21 May 2009 at 4:58 pm

Actually, New Look has one of the highest ethical scores out of 22 high street shops according to the Ethical Fashion guide on the Ethical Company’s website.

Not saying it’s perfect, but I don’t think it’s terrible, either.

Jen // Posted 21 May 2009 at 8:32 pm

Well, so in the scheme of high street clothing retail it’s not too bad, that’s still probably far from amazing, and until you know the criteria for obtaining that score, you can’t assume the workers earn, like, a living from it.

There’s still a whole lot wrong with high street clothing retail in general though. Don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that, on a feminist site.

JenniferRuth // Posted 22 May 2009 at 9:19 am

@ Jen

You’re right, a lot of the time things are small and on their own it doesn’t much look worth complaining about. You can be sure that the people you are complaining too will feel that way. But the way I see it is that all these little things add up to create the sexist society we live in. One mannequin doesn’t look like much on it’s own – but it isn’t on it’s own. The mannequin is with clothes that barely ever go over a size 14 (16 if you are lucky), adverts of impossibly beautiful photoshopped women, the songs playing into store with heteronormative lyrics or ones that degrade women, shoes that will be difficult to walk in but “look fantastic” (I totally fall for those even though I know it is ridiculous)…and that is just all in one store. Outside there is a whole world constantly telling women in little, seemingly insignificant ways that we are not good enough, we can’t be good enough and that we are *less than*

So yeah…it is just a mannequin, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out how fucked up it is. It is a bolt in the machine of patriarchy we live in.

Saranga // Posted 22 May 2009 at 5:57 pm

@ Jen: I hadn’t made the connection to the other thread and thought you’d pulled that example out of the air, which led me to wonder if you were building a heirarchy. I get now that you’re not.

I see what you mean about the differing reactions between this mannequin and the RAF pilot. I think you may have something when you talk about the mannequin representing immediate oppression vs the oppression the RAF and army doesn’t happen directly to us and we don’t experience it every day. As for it being a symbol of something we’re part of..I personally don’t feel part of the military but I also think I’m not quite getting what you’re saying – sometimes it takes me a while to grasp new ideas!

I have also felt pressure to be outraged and actively take a stance on issues – cos if I don’t I haven’t proved my feminist credentials, so I can empathise with you there. I think there is a pressure to be political all. the. time. and also to be political in the right way. (As for who’s putting the pressure on, I’m not quite sure about that!)

Re your paragraph starting ‘body politics discussion’, sorry I’m a little lost as to what you are saying. Do you think it would be better to be presented with a series of different images and for The F Word to not have written any commentary? If so can I ask why? I didn’t follow your reasoning, apologies for asking you to repeat.

As for boycotting the shop, I agree with you, I don’t think it will achieve anything and it wouldn’t solve any problems – it won’t change the language and the context of which it came about. Plus you know, not everyone can afford to have the choice.

Going onto comics, Lol @ your comments! Yes indeed, if I was judging them based only on the boobage quota and had to decide which was best and worst I would indeed have a meltdown. it can be a difficult thing to reconicle. I do it thusly – is it in context, is it gratituous? Take Power Girl, her large boobs are a part of her, they are referred to regularly and they form part of the stories. It works in context. Starfire’s costume works in context – she’s from an alien race where nudity is a taboo.

On the other hand when Black Canary or Wonder Woman are shown in poses to dispaly their tits and ass at the same time, or when spines mysteriously twist round to resemble a snake, on supposedly human women, that’s where I draw the line. It’s at that point the story is ruined for me. So yeah, it’s all about context. I love superheroes, i wont’ stop reading them, but I will complain if I think something is sexist or there’s not anough variety.

Having said that, there are some brilliant non exploitative artists out there so I tend to mostly read books with godo artists doing the pencils (e.g. Renato Guedes)

And back to the first topic, I think my beef with the New Look mannequin is it doesn’t do it’s job – it’s meant to show us how clothes look when worn. If it’s the wrong proportions it wont’ do that, ergo, stupid.

Anna // Posted 23 May 2009 at 10:18 am

That is just disturbing. But there are others that I find even more disturbing. The window of Karen Millen in my town has manequins with actual ribcages jutting out.

I personally find that more disturbing than this. This just looks like a cartoon, so ridiculously unrealistic that it’s almost not offensive anymore (almost…). You might walk past and feel inadequate, which a shop window shouldn’t make anyone do, but at least you couldn’t replicate this even if you tried. Not without some serious feats of engineering.

But Karen Millen is literally displaying as the ideal what appears to be the headless body of a malnourished woman.

The dresses don’t even fit… I might go in and complain later.

Alison // Posted 17 April 2010 at 3:41 pm

I found this discussion when I was looking for something else. I just felt I had to point out, that although I appreciate that people are seeing this mannequin as promoting unrealistic body-shapes, New Look are (for all their other faults) one of the very few high street stores to stock larger sizes. In a high street where most of their competitors stop at a size 16 it seems churlish to criticise a store for promoting bad body image when they’ve made an overall business decision to not only stock their main range up to an 18, but also to create a larger sized range. They also have petite and tall ranges etc.

It seems rather odd to suggest boycotting a store who are already doing far more than any other high street store in widening the clothing options for customers with non-model shapes for the sake of one mannequin choice!

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