Walking down Yonge with my date the other day, we passed a sex store, and there in the window was a skinny little mannequin with huge breasts. “Wow’’, I exclaimed. “Even the mannequins have boob jobs.
My mind slipped into mammary mode. Aren’t these fashion humanoids meant essentially made in our image? If so, our image sure has changed since I was a young girl.
I remember when naked mannequins in store windows lacked sexuality: no nipples or specific genital shapes to get excited about (unlike the male form I saw in a Bloor window recently with a humongous package distracting from his tiny Speedo).
My date offered the usual “Men don’t care what size they are.” But still, this buxom creature was trying to represent a body shape that can only be ours with a bit of starvation, a death-defying dose of anesthetic and alot of dough.
Which came first, I thought, the mannequin or the implant? At the department of surgery at U of T, professor Walter Peters, also a cosmetic surgeon, clearly thinks the breast augmentation craze has something to do with booby-licious models. In the last five years, Peters says, the number of boob jobs in Canada has increased by 500 per cent.
“Everyone wants to be a C cup, some even bigger.” Today’s augmentations, he says, are more “natural”; way back when, “they were hard and stood up like volcanoes.”
Hmm. I’m lucky if mine stand up like knocked-over traffic pylons.
But what exactly is the relationship between private desires and merchandizing ideals? Alison Matthews David, assistant professor in the school of fashion at Ryerson University, says mannequins have “always represented a mathematically abstracted and perfected body.” Present-day measurements for garments are based on stats gathered after World War II, when Western populations were at their thinnest after years of food rationing.
Many countries, like France and the UK, have been updating their data with 4-D body scanning projects to gather more accurate numbers on body proportions. “I believe these stats reveal that breast size has increased over the past half-century. “Have you thought about the effects of growth hormones in meat?” asks David.
I do some deductive reasoning. I’m a full-out carnivore. My breast size has steadily decreased over the past decade. With the amount of steak and chicken I’ve consumed, I should be sporting double Ds!
I get a little reassurance from Mike Xu at Rox Studio, a New York-based display mannequin design and manufacturing company.
Many of the forms used in the West, he says, are made in China, and the proportions haven’t changed much. His firm does manufacture one sexy model of a mannequin with big breasts. Customers, he says, order these for all kinds of businesses – furniture, cars, bakeries. Whoa, whoa. Now I have to think about boobs while I’m buying my buns?
I’m confused. Isn’t a mannequin supposed to be like a good waitress? You know she never flirts with your boyfriend or lets too much cleavage spill? What exactly is the function of a mannequin anyway? I ask Xu. “To show off the garment,” he says, before adding, unruffled, “Some of them are there to catch the eye.”
Steve Kaufman, editor of VMSD, an online merchandising design magazine, tells me that some retailers in the American market realized that the Hispanic population was increasing and needed to be represented. “At the same time,’’ he says, “J.Lo was becoming a visible star, so one company manufactured mannequins with larger butts.”
In general, he says, it’s true that mannequins are becoming curvier. “But I can’t say that across the board the old shapeless ones are being replaced. The one you saw was gimmicky. It was fringe.”
I mull this over. In a decade I imagine myself with larger, more “natural” breasts. I wonder what it would cost to have a couple of 350cc silicone gels implanted. Oookay, that’s where I draw the line. I’ll be grateful for the body I have – even if it is, like, so 10 years ago. Maybe in 10 years my beautiful Bs will be in vogue again. They’ll be originals.