Skinny models don't sell clothes: research

SKINNY models could be less effective at selling clothes than "healthy-sized" women, a researcher has found.

Massey University professor Leo Paas said his research showed models who are "neither too thin nor too large" have the most positive reaction from consumers.

Professor Paas said as France considers legislation to ban very thin models, the fashion industry should have nothing to fear.

In his research project, young female participants were shown advertising images featuring either a very thin model or a healthy-sized model. The models wore either a bikini or a skirt and top.


"The healthy-sized model was considered more attractive, the advertisement was viewed more positively and considered ethically acceptable, and the intention to buy the featured product was higher," Professor Paas said.

Participants had the strongest negative reaction to the thin model wearing a bikini, which Professor Paas said was interesting given thinner women are accepted to be the Western ideal of beauty.

However, there was also a negative response to larger models, with the study participants preferring women who were "neither to thin nor too large", he said.

Plus size women can be effective for advertisers - but only within a context of celebrating different body shapes, Professor Paas said.

"Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, which uses women of varying sizes who were not previously professional models, is a good example."

The French government is looking to follow Spain and Israel in legislating against dangerously thin models. Under the law, to be presented in parliament on March 31, models would have to maintain a healthy mass-to-height ratio.

In New Zealand, a public backlash forced chain store Glassons to withdraw skinny mannequins from its stores and apologise for the "unattainable depiction of women".

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