The fashion industry has been criticised for years for using models deemed too thin, but it hasn’t stopped it yet. But the demand for models of all sizes in advertising is being taken more seriously, with more plus size models and fuller figured women on the covers of leading magazines. Scientific research proves average sized models make fashion brands more popular. Could this be the proof needed to get more brands on board size equality? 

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Average sized models better for business and women’s self esteem

A series of studies soon to be published in the European Journal of Marketing, reveal that women’s attitudes towards a fashion brand may be impacted by their self esteem and the models that are used to advertise the products. The research proves that there is a positive perception of a brand whose adverts use models who are on average the same size as the consumer. This might seem obvious if you are one of the women who appreciates seeing women of all shapes and sizes advertising products. The most important thing is that this research proves its good for business which might provide the key to encouraging more companies to change their marketing approach.

The study

The Kent Business School in the UK surveyed women between the ages of 18 – 25 firstly about their self esteem. Then they asked the women to provide feedback on a picture of a model advertising a fashion brand. The study made use of new images from real and fictional clothing brands which had been edited to make the models appear smaller or the same size as the average size of the women of the survey (which was a UK size 10). They were then asked to state which size of model they preferred. The results showed that the women didn’t have a positive attitude towards the images of the smaller than average models for the fictional fashion brands and appeared to trust them less. For the well known fashion brands, there was no preference between the pictures of the thinner model and the average size model. Women’s self esteem was also considered in this study finding that it had an impact on their preference towards average sized model over the smaller model’s pictures.

The bigger picture

Arguments that images of extremely thin models damage self esteem might not have been enough to change advertising in the past but companies should take note that this isn’t good for business. Although thinner models have been the preferred way to advertise clothes in order to show the clothes at their best, if women don’t feel as though they look anything like the size of the model in the picture, they might choose not to buy the item of clothing anyway. As there was little or no difference in the attitude towards a picture with a size zero or average sized model, well known brands shouldn’t be able to excuse lack of diversity in size due to what they believe is better for business. It’s not just the big labels who could learn something from this study as lesser known brands would benefit from using average size models too. A lack of knowledge and therefore trust in smaller labels suggests that women are less tolerant of models that are not representative of the customer.

Let’s hope this scientific research is enough to make more fashion brands treat all sizes equally!

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