For people with disabilities, mannequins can hurt – not help – the shopping experience


For Abigayle Quigley, models can amplify shopping difficulties, as they often describe what clothes would look like only on an able-bodied person. (Submitted by Abigayle Quigley)

In Canada, the average household spends almost $ 3,500 per year on clothing and accessories, a key part of the shopping experience being linked to stores displaying their clothes on mannequins.

But for people with disabilities, mannequins can be bitter reminders of exclusion.

Sheldon Crocker’s first memory of shopping for clothes is asking his mother why models didn’t look like him. Experiences like this continue to affect his self-esteem, he said.

“I felt excluded [and] feel out of place. It played a big role [in] my growth and even a little today, ”said Crocker, who suffers from arthrogryposis, which is characterized by joint contracture, causing muscle shortening.

As a person living with spina bifida and using a wheelchair, Abigayle Quigley says clothing on mannequins is a practical problem.

“Say if there’s, like, a knee-length skirt or, like, a dress or just a regular skirt. On a mannequin, it could be up to the knees. On me it could be ankle-high, ”Quigley said.

Both Crocker and Quigley have said they want to see representation on mannequins not only for different types of physical disabilities, but also for a variety of genders, colors and body types.

Unrealistic bodily expectations

As a woman, Quigley said, she is aware of the unrealistic beauty standards the industry places on her gender. The tall, skinny mannequins represent an image of what a person should look like as opposed to real life, she said. In the 1960s, the very thin mannequin – inspired by the fashions of the time – began to sweep the curvy silhouettes, often found only in plus size stores.

Several Newfoundland and Labrador stores contacted by CBC declined to comment on the matter, although some store representatives said they are keeping mannequins until they need to be repaired or replaced. “Until they’re broken,” said a store representative.

Quigley said she found it upsetting.

“If a mannequin is broken, keep it. So what if he doesn’t have an arm or a leg? Keep it exposed because it is not broken. They are beautiful in their own way and I think it should be displayed. ”

Crocker said the stores’ attitudes were close to the different ideas of beauty and reality.

“Just because a mannequin has a broken finger – throwing it away is to represent or signify that people with disabilities are thrown to the side and don’t matter. “

Move from performative gestures to action

Diversity is often used by big brands to promote their core values, said Crocker and Quigley, but despite paying the same amount for the same clothes, they still don’t see representation in their shopping experience. .

Brands should move away from performative displays of diversity and involve a range of voices from a plethora of communities in decision-making, Crocker said

His request is simple: “Don’t just start talking, but walking – or rolling the roller on the chair.” ”

Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here