Have you ever seen retail-store mannequins with disabilities? It’s not like people with disabilities have to go to a special store to buy their clothes. And particularly at this time of year, when store windows and department displays are heralding the gift-giving season, why do these displays only reflect a fantasy world where everyone is chic and perfect, and life is ideal?
People with disabilities often feel marginalized by the lack of representation of their unusual and non-commercial body types. The mannequins typically displayed in store windows convey a very specific concept of beauty that not only turns its back on diversity, but presents an ideal difficult for even able-bodied people to achieve.
Check out the mannequins that are turning heads across the big pond! Pro Infirmis, a European advocacy group for people with disabilities, created a way to show the world that the bodies of people with disabilities can and should be celebrated, and to put forth the idea that diversity plays an important role in an image-obsessed planet, where acceptance is often based on superficial qualities. So they crafted mannequins (and, of course, womannequins) to turn that illusion on its ear!
The Pro Infirmis campaign features mannequins modeled after public figures with disabilities, and they fittingly call the project “Because who is perfect? Get closer.” The mannequins mirror people with scoliosis, missing limbs, and other disabilities, and the models are film critic Alex Oberholzer, Miss Handicap 2012 Jasmine Rechsteiner, Paralympic multi-gold-medal winner Urs Kolly, acter Erwin Aljukić, and blogger Nadja Schmid—all highly regarded personalities in Europe.
Many of the models posed for photos with their finished mannequins, which were later displayed in shop windows on Bahnhofstrasse, the main street in Zurich, as part of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Amazingly, once the mannequins had been dressed and posed in the windows, the disabilities seem to almost disappear. In particular, the likeness of Rechsteiner, who has a malformed spine that curves severely, is a pose many fashion models would envy.
The displays have not been met with universal approval—indeed, some have viewed the mannequins as condescending to the people whose body types they represent. That outdated thinking was far from the intent of the project. As Pohl’s Law reminds us, nothing is so good that someone somewhere will not hate it. The real lesson to be learned is that people of all shapes and sizes are beautiful, and that the human form should be celebrated in all its wondrous diversity. Watch the video and let us know what you think.