Women have complained for years about the lack of diversity in the modeling industry, and while we’ve seen some small improvements, models are still overwhelmingly very tall, very thin, very young, and very white. However, a recent study might provide companies with just the motivation they need to change their ways: women spend a lot more money when they see clothes on models and mannequins with body types similar to theirs. Here’s the lowdown…
Modeling agent Ben Barry conducted a study of 2,500 women, and found that “women increased their purchase intentions by more than 200 percent when the models in mock advertisements were their size.” In women larger than a size 6, the results were even more dramatic: “In [that] subgroup , women increased their purchase intentions by a dramatic 300 percent when they saw curvier models,” Barry says.
Another interesting aspect to this study was that size wasn’t the only determining factor: models’ race and age also affected women’s buying decisions. Basically, the more women see themselves reflected in a model, the more they can relate to her, and the more likely they are to want to purchase whatever she’s wearing.
These results may sound obvious, but they’re actually a pretty major development. As Barry puts it, “Contrary to long-held marketing wisdom, fashion ads don’t need to lead women to aspire to an unattainable ideal to sell products.” Hear that, fashion industry? We don’t want to buy a dress because we believe it will turn us into a rich, flawless Michael Kors model. We want to buy a dress because it makes us look amazing. And the best way to prove it will look amazing on us? Use models who look like us.
I do want to add a word of caution that this study shouldn’t be used as ammo for the “real women have curves” movement. As frustrating as it can be to see such a narrow range of body types represented in the modeling world, we must remember that real women come in all shapes and sizes. The goal should not be to delete tall, thin women from the equation; it should be to add more shapes, sizes, races, and ages to the equation. Diversity is always be the goal, and hopefully this study will help prove that diversity is not only good for body image and acceptance–it totally pays off.