Very few actual human bodies are built like mannequins. Hell, actual human clothes don't even fit mannequins, hence the plentiful binding clips that pull and tease clothing they're supposed to model into the proper configuration. But that may be changing.
Time's Laura Stampler has a round up of the different ways recent forays into mannequin innovation (mannequinnovation? I'll show myself out.) are "changing the way we talk about female beauty," pointing out different stores that have used unconventional plastic models — models with pubes, models with thighs, models with the proportions of an average Englishwoman — to model clothes that will be worn by actual human women. Some Stampler highlights have spurred criticism, like the Gap mannequin used to display the skinniness of skinny leggings that had tibias the size of Pick Up Stix and was featured by #thinspo -seeking pro-ana Instagram users, but all got people talking about beauty standards versus reality.
Which brings us to an important point of why mannequins are there in the first place. Are they there to present clothing aspirationally? Sure. But that's hardly helpful when the aspirational image they're presenting is completely unobtainable to the vast majority of female shoppers, who don't need to know how the clothes could look on their bodies or against their skin tones if they only had a different body or a different skin tone, but how they will look on them today, when they take them into a fitting room. Presenting shoppers with a diverse fleet of mannequins would, in theory, serve stores well on two fronts — they'd imply that people of a variety of different body types (or, in the case of American Apparel's pubetastic mannequins, grooming habits) are "normal," which makes people feel good about themselves, which makes people more likely to buy clothing, and they'd display to people who might be on the fence how clothing can be flattering on non-model body types, thus encouraging women who aren't built like flattened paper towel tubes to try the clothing on. When it comes to in-store mannequins, I just want to see how the clothes will fit, and outfitting stores with models of realistic female bodies rather than impossible pipe dreams is a good start.
One possible complication of a more diverse and realistic fleet of mannequins, though: that tendency I have to whirl around to stare at what I think is a creepy solo shopper watching me in my peripheral vision only to discover, to my chagrin, that it's actually a mannequin. Every damn time.