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Phillippa Diedrichs: very thin fashion models do not help advertising
Here is a news item that has gotten some attention in the mainstream media. Australian researcher Phillippa Diedrichs conducted a study that found that using very thin women models does not increase the likelihood of women buying the advertised product compared to using women within a healthy weight range. The study involved making a series of advertisements for underwear, a haircare product and a party dress, modeled by a size-8 woman and a roughly size-12 woman. See an example below.
The heavier woman is on the heavier side of most Westerner’s optimal preferences, but the fashion industry is reluctant to even use women in the lower part of the healthy medical weight range, such as the models within the attractive women section of this site.
400 young adult study participants were no more likely to buy the products advertized with either choice of model, but women ages 18-25 felt better about their own bodies after watching the images of the heavier models than those who watched the thinner models.
So basically, Diedrichs is attacking the notion that thinness sells by showing that it doesn’t compared to using women models with a healthy body weight. No surprise here, especially when necessities are being marketed since this allows advertisers some leeway in their choice of models. As I have said, people who are unable or unwilling to make soap on their own are not going to stop buying soap if all companies selling soap use imagery of butchered animal guts to sell their product. High quality designer wear is highly desirable and the likelihood of people buying clothes should not be affected over a wide range of models’ looks. Whereas haute couture is best marketed using imagery suggesting exclusivity, feminine beauty is a more exclusive look compared to the adolescent-boy look, and if one insists that the adolescent-boy look is the best type of exclusive look for female models, then he had better explain why.
The research does not seem to have been published yet, but links to media coverage of the research can be found at Phillippa Diedrichs’ homepage. When the study is published, I will post it here.
The coverage of this issue in the mainstream media does not address some important issues that have been addressed within this site. Firstly, there is a large body of research showing that women and men overwhelmingly judge women’s attractiveness in a similar manner and most optimally prefer a subset of the medically healthy body weight range in models, this subset lying in the lower part of the healthy body weight range. Secondly, whereas the general find is that using very thin women in advertising makes women feel worse about their bodies, some studies have shown that women feel better after viewing thinner women. The circumstances underlying these different outcomes have been discussed here.
The clear inference is that the typical thinness of fashion models cannot be explained by marketing and sales considerations. There is a large body of evidence in this regard documented within this site.
Here is a quote doing the rounds.
Fashion editors maintain that they must use thin models because clothing companies supply samples in small sizes – the same reason why you only see Chihuahuas in dog fashion parade.
Well, at least this acknowledges that fashion editors are not to blame much as some clowns would have us blame Anna Wintour and her ilk. The blame rests with gentlemen from the lavender crowd.