When you see clothing modeled on beautiful women in glamorous situations, are you compelled to click "buy now"?
Do you relate to the women or buy clothes based on your most glamorous vision of what you could be?
The advertising industry is brilliantly creative, & we don't even expect the images to be realistic. We assume the scene is staged, & the photo of the model may be photoshopped. It seems photoshopping a model's photo would be false advertising, & yet we're not buying the model; we're buying her clothes--or are we?
The ultimate example of the Empress's New Clothes in my opinion is swimwear & lingerie modeling. The garment itself & the amount of cloth are negligible--mostly we're seeing just the model's body & skin--she's nearly naked.
My students point out to me that young women are heavily influenced by the thinness of the models. The models serve as role models of beauty that lead girls & women to see themselves as fat & imperfect. Eating disorders & a desire for plastic surgery have been the result as we strive for an unhealthy body size & flawless features.
Several stores have run campaigns using real people as models. American Eagle Outfitters has received perhaps the most attention for its #AerieReal campaign featuring real, unphotoshopped girls in Aerie lingerie & swimwear. I posted a paper by 19-year-old Erica Aguilar on this topic here.
Many stores like ModCloth, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, & Nordstrom also welcome real shoppers to upload into the reviews photos of themselves wearing the clothes--either from the dressing room or from home. GAP, Boden, & other stores share photos from bloggers wearing their clothes. Title 9 has always used real women to model their clothes.
If you ever browse through the shoes at Zappos or 6 pm.com, you've probably at one point met April & Hannah, the models in the videos for each shoe. The fact that they model every shoe makes you wonder if the whole operation is made up of just April, Hannah, & a couple warehouse guys, but we know better, right?
Anyway, while very nice & pretty, April & Hannah are fairly average girls; they do not appear to me to be professional models. They walk around gracefully in the shoes & tell you the shoes' best assets, but they are not the types that strut down a runway with the wind in their hair like the models in the videos at White House Black Market.
While the videos really do help you to know what the shoes are like before you buy them, sometimes after I click on the video, I no longer want to buy the shoes. Some of the mystique is gone, the image I'd imagined of myself in the shoes.
I've bought clothes online at times based on a glamorous display, based on how they looked on a model, & based on how they looked on a real person. Sometimes these clothes have worked out for me, & sometimes they haven't. Sometimes I've bought something because I've admired how a blogger or a friend looks in it--those clothes are often the least likely to suit me. We bring so much of our personality to how we dress; an outfit might look perfect on someone else, but that doesn't mean it'll look right on me.
When I look at clothes on a dress mannequin, I can still imagine myself wearing them for everyday use or for an event.
Some catalogs like NorthStyle & Sierra Trading Post routinely display their apparel on dress mannequins rather than on people. Some stores like Sahali hang the clothes on a clothes line. When we surf almost any store online, we see flat images of each clothing item, most not shown on a model. When we go out shopping, clothes are hanging on rounders & racks; even in shop windows, they're displayed on dress mannequins. On a walk through the mall today, I noticed the black mini-dress featured in the photo at the beginning of this post displayed on a dress mannequin in the Anthropologie window--with a fuzzy coat over it, I might add :-)
We don't need to be influenced by stick-thin, photoshopped models with airbrushed skin. We don't need a catalog or magazine to create an imaginary scene in which we picture ourselves making a grand entrance. While I enjoy the inspiration of seeing clothes put together in new ways, I don't need to see them on a woman in a castle. For the most part, I can conjure up my own everyday scene where I'll be wearing the style.