The Case of the Shrinking Mannequins, and Other News


On the Shelf

English mannequins ca. 1950.

  • If you’re in New York, you’ve surely noticed them, those well-heeled people bolting down the sidewalk looking pissed off and holding enormous cups of coffee. That frisson of exclusion … that perfume of condescension: it’s Fashion Week! And what better time to remind ourselves that the industry promulgates a whole range of body-image issues, not just in the models it chooses but right down to the mannequins? M. G. Zimeta, at a shop in London, tried to get some answers about those mannequins: “Nearly a year ago I complained about the mannequins at the entrance of the ladies’ department in John Lewis on Oxford Street … Months passed, and I received no response … The ‘Fashion Queen’ mannequin range I’d seen in John Lewis is produced by Bonami in Belgium and has the following dimensions: height 185 cm (6’07”), waist 59 cm (23″), hips 87 cm (34″) and bust 87 cm (34″). A Fashion Queen mannequin is taller than the average British man, but with the waist of a ten-year-old girl in John Lewis sizes. Some of the clothes on the mannequins at John Lewis were discreetly pinned in place because the outfits would otherwise, even in the smallest sizes, be too loose for their frames.”

  • One of the few good things about the bruising election season is that language—especially tortured, ambiguous misuses of it—is often front and center. And so we find ourselves dissecting a phrase like Hillary’s “basket of deplorables,” which, what is that … I have never seen that form of basket. Ben Zimmer has also never encountered this basket, but he’s done his research on deplorables: “The OED defines deplorables as ‘deplorable ills’ and provides a single citation from the journal of Sir Walter Scott: ‘An old fellow, mauld with rheumatism and other deplorables.’ From a few years later, here is an attestation in an 1831 journal entry by Thomas Carlyle, pairing deplorables with despicables: ‘Of all the deplorables and despicables of this city and time the saddest are the “literary men.” ’ ”