Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others…

Things happen too slowly for my liking. As one of life’s ‘doers’ I find myself continually frustrated by the painfully reluctant pace of the world. Every decision that requires taking seems to descend into an irritating game of volleyball – chucking responsibility back and forth, terrified in case it drops and someone has to actually DO something with it. No-one wants the responsibility and on a scale of ‘1-seriously inconvenient’ it’s a towering pain in the arse.

I appreciate that the world we live in fosters a fear of fucking up and ultimately taking the flack for it, but we’ve lost a sense of open-minded assessment. Passing the buck and heading for the path of least resistance in place of using a spot of common sense and some problem solving skills is commonplace and seriously fucking detrimental to making Good Things Happen.

There are obviously times when plans require the buy-in of an incredible amount of people. This is always going to take huge amounts of time, negotiation and ultimately, compromise and diametrically opposed parties hammering out the minutiae. Corporations are good at this shit and are masters in the art of dancing the decision-making dance. They understand that it’s part of the process of getting to where they want to be and is built into the plan. They get the job done. Or at least, get A job done.

In short: Making Good Things Happen (AKA Getting Shit Done) requires balls: Do it all or don’t do it at-fucking-all.

In essence, this incredibly convoluted few paragraphs fairly well sums up why I’m monumentally pissed off with Debenhams as they trumpet the blue fuck out of their ‘real woman’ mannequin. Size 16 and statuesque. Shouldn’t we all be over-the-moon and shouting with joy that Debenhams have broken the mould and taken the brave step to show their clothes on mannequins that truly represent their customer base?

Like fuck.

I’m sure it started well. As ‘well’ as any sales and marketing meetings can be (even with my marketing background, I still have Bill Hicks screaming in my ear at this point). I can almost imagine the first meeting:

Our research states that the majority of women in the UK are size 16 and over. However, our clothing sales show a significant undersell in this area. Perhaps by presenting our size assortment in a less ‘aspirational’ and more ‘realistic’ fashion we might see some uplift.

How can we do that? Plus sized models?

Too expensive. The retouching alone costs a fortune. Perhaps we could commission some plus sized mannequins. Much cheaper and no-one else on the High Street has done it. It has great social media potential.

Great! Cost it out and lets see how the board feel.

So far, so cynical.

From this point on, some poor schlep went through thousands of pictures of Size 16 women, painstakingly working out the balance between ‘what’s real’ and ‘what will sell the clothes’. And after hundreds of hours of meetings, research, ego-massaging and compromise we finally get to the crux of the matter. The shape and size of your common or garden size 16 woman just doesn’t cut it in RetailLand. The clothes just don’t look acceptable stretched over wobbly tummies. Pear shapes don’t work with short dresses and apple-shapes don’t flatter low-cut. Thighs don’t correspond with waists and breasts don’t balance with hips.

Real women are not One Size Fits All.

(At this point I can almost hear an exasperated “OH BOLLOCKS. WHY DIDN’T WE JUST GO FOR THE PLUS SIZED MODEL??” as the marketing director rejects another shape and shouts “Marilyn Monroe was a Size 16, dammit!”)

And so it becomes…a Size 16 yes, but not as we know it. Long legs, pneumatic chest, a waist. A mannequin modelled on a stomach untroubled by the ravages of childbirth and breasts that have never lactated. An Amazonian Size 16 where thighs are solid and upper-arms taut. Xenia Warrior Princess? You’re not far off the mark.

Am I alone in thinking that this is an absolute crock of shit? It’s a remarkable example of simple, yet beautifully executed PR, of course. Shared to within an inch of its life on Facebook (“well done Debenhams it’s about time!”) and Twitter (#debenhams #size16mannequins #diversity). It’s intentions were always so and none of us are stupid enough to think otherwise. But in the course of time and the continual scrutiny of corporate-weary and marketing-hardened this opportunity to truly make a Good Thing Happen has been lost.

To trailblaze, to set a new bar, to hold two well-fed fingers up and say with a loud (albeit sales-driven) voice…

“Lets Just Be Ourselves, Shall We?”

Whatever our size, we’d all be the better for it.




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