H&M have just released the promotional pictures for their new summer clothing line. The clothes themselves are a little mediocre but I don’t think that they’re intended to be the focus of the ad. The thing that stands out most is the fact that the model has a normal body. What was exceptional for me was that this body didn’t look normal because of where it happened to appear. This says a lot about what we’re used to seeing in advertising and what we’re used to seeing in real life. The real world and the advertising world have become so far removed from each other that when an average body is finally placed in front of us it immediately looks weird. We may give out about the fashion world but it definitely has altered our own expectations of what a model or celebrity should look like. Therefore we are partly to blame for expecting models to maintain unrealistic body types. It’s us versus them and though we hate them for their unrealistic bodies, we do still expect a flawless image of models and celebrities in a way.
A Swedish department store aroused some debate recently about body image when it began to use size 12 mannequins to advertise their clothes. I had the same reaction to looking at these mannequins as I did the H&M model; ‘they look big’. The average person’s perception of size has become warped.
It’s difficult to tell at this stage if H&M are just temporarily using this model to gain some publicity while appearing to care or if this is a permanent and genuine move for H&M. This will probably all depend on the sales that the company experiences during this campaign. Do people actually want to see normal bodies in advertising or do we look to advertising as break from reality, a fantasy version of what we could look like ?
Advertising acts as a social chameleon, reflecting the norms and trends of society at that time. If the fashion industry begins to push out the size zero and embrace normal bodies then advertising will quickly follow suit. This could take some time. Though plus sized models are slowly becoming more common, they are still a bit of a novelty, treated as the token healthy girl amongst other tiny models. They are often placed on the catwalk or in magazines so that the fashion industry can escape scrutiny. They are the pets of the fashion world, meant to either gain attention or to deflect bad publicity.
It was only last year that Robyn Lawley became the first ever plus sized model to be hired as the face of Ralph Lauren. Again, was this a sign of changing attitudes or just a once-off act of faux concern to gain some publicity for the brand? If plus size models are to be accepted as normal then they will need to be hired in droves, not just used for the occasional publicity stunt.