H&M Whittles Down Acceptable Body Types To Exactly One

I hope that years from now we’ll look back and laugh at the time when female clothing models were all expected to conform to a very narrow and specific range of body types. If so, we’ve got our punchline. This week, H&M has pushed this trend to the point of absurdity: Instead of accepting minor variances in body type, the Swedish fashion outlet has decided on a single, specific, computer-generated body. From New York Magazine:

The models fronting H&M’s new holiday lingerie campaign are unreal, literally. Jezebel translated an article from Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in which H&M press officer Håcan Andersson confirms that their new lingerie-clad bodies are “completely virtual.” For H&M’s website or catalogues, much of the store’s clothing is now shot on mannequins, which are then humanized via photo-editing software — which explains the eerily uniform pose now increasingly commonplace online.

H&M also shot real models for the campaign, but only to superimpose their heads on the standard body form. Aptly, H&M calls them “facial models,” who are apparently aware of their abridged role in the finished catalogue shots. The form, which is also the base used at online styling studio Looklet.com, is then edited some more to sync with differing skin tones, and even for the addition of subtle detail, like a spattering of freckles.

An H&M spokesperson insists that they only settled on a single “default” body because they wanted a standard base on which to display the clothing. But that doesn’t make the effect any less unsettling. Check out the images in the Jezebel write-up. How weird is it that they Photoshopped skin tone in order to approximate racial diversity, but insisted on the same stick-limbed body for each model? Regardless of whether or not these images are supposed to show the “perfect body,” as H&M denies, the company still chose it as the default. Do they think their median customer exercises for four hours a day and subsists on a diet of kale and Perrier?

The face-swapping is what truly brings us into the uncanny valley, though. It’s emblematic of a very strange trope in fashion and advertising, in which women are treated as little more than composites of various body parts that can either be isolated and displayed on their own or (as we see here) reassembled into new and alien Frankenmodels. Mere humans need not apply.

Sign here to urge H&M to use real women to model its clothes:



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  1. I feel like there is absolutely no connection between the fashion industry and women. Why would I want to buy clothes that aren’t picture on a human being – and more importantly, this is horrifying! Have we really reached the point where the female body is so much an object that it’s completely expendable? AHH!

  2. I’ve always wanted to buy my clothes from a video game character…

    hopefully the sarcasm is obvious.

  3. it’s simple, designers, if you can only design clothes that look good on women of one body type you’re not a good designer.

  4. The arms don’t look right, and the faces are unsettling. Was this just a way to save on model and photographer fees?

    I hope this doesn’t catch on……

  5. Maybe nowadays clothes are not made to make women look good, and women should make the clothes look good.

    That’s the only explanation I see for forcing models to look like a clothe-hanger. I guess the drapes look better with no female roudness underneath to get in the way.

  6. Malinda Coleman says:

    I am shocked that this is still happening, I remember the battle for accepting women’s bodies in all shapes and sizes beginning in the 1970s…

  7. Michelle Thomas says:

    Images and ideas like this are what are promoting anorexia in teens. The get skinny concept has been taken to extremes by everyone now a days and is damaging our children’s images of themselves and leading to many health problems.

    • Some people are naturally like this too. I can’t help how I look either. .my body is exactly like this one. What’s wrong with that? …..accepting all body types……..what about skinny people.

  8. Well folks, looks like we’ve hit it– the idea of beauty is now no longer humanly possible to the point that we can’t even use real humans to represent it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to live in a cave by myself for the rest of my life.

  9. I understand the outrage when it comes to using virtual models , I get that.

    But a petition titled, “Real women aren’t a size zero”? I wasn’t aware that having a particular body type stripped females of their womanhood. I agree with the push for diversity (it IS necessary), but saying “real women” aren’t a specific size, zero in this case as the petition says, is just as closed-minded as saying women of any other size aren’t “real.”

    Listen, I understand if you have issues with the lack of size diversity in the fashion industry, it is a problem, but don’t attack women of another size and strip them of their womanhood with the words you choose just because you can’t swap clothes with them.

    Women come in all shapes and sizes. That includes rail-thin as well as curvy. We all have different body types by genetics and/or by choice. I realize I chose to pick at the petition and not necessarily the primary focus of the article (virtual “anatomically correct” models), but really, this is an issue no one talks about for fear of being labeled as “unaccepting of a variety of body types.”

    • A-freakin’-men. I’m 103 pounds and have to deal with how “real women have curves,” and “skinny girls just don’t know how to work a little extra fat,” and “they’re called LOVE-handles for a reason,” etc.

      I’m over it. Heavy girls, I want you to feel good about yourselves, but you don’t need to drag us through the mud to do it.

    • I agree that marginalizing skinny women as “unreal” is just as wrong as telling a larger woman her body is unacceptable. But the difference with this petition is that the woman/model depicted isn’t real at all. It’s a computer generated image based on a plastic mannequin figure and digitally altered photo of a woman’s face. This size-0 (and I would argue sub-0) body is not real, yet it is presented as the ideal form for the clothing line, which real women will be wearing.

    • thank you! sentiments like the one in the petition title and “real women have curves” have bothered me for years. i’m a super curvy size 12 and i’m a real woman. one of my sisters is a rounded size 24 and she’s a real woman. my other sister is a straight built size 2 and she’s a real woman also. my daughter is so thin people think she’s sick or anorexic (couldn’t be farther from the truth) and when she grows up, no matter what size or shape she is, she will be a real woman also. this whole “real women” thing is divisive. it’s an us and them mentality that pushes us apart instead of bringing all women together to stand as a united front. we are all real women. it’s about time we stop throwing slurs at each other.

    • I completely agree. This isn’t fair, I’m a size 0 and I’m pretty sure I’m a real woman. How would you feel if someone told you “Real women aren’t a size 10”. It’s not right to make fun of women no matter what their weight. Every woman has a unique body and whether small or big, they don’t deserve to be made fun of!

      • Iliana Echo says:

        I agree too. It’s fine to say “Real Women Aren’t JUST A Size Zero. But I’ve been struggling with body image problems for a long time, and one of the first things I’ve had to learn is to accept my body for all that it is, and that means accepting that size four isn’t too thin as much as that it’s not too big. And yes, it’s “models” like this that make it so hard to accept that size four isn’t big by any standard.

  10. So if you’re a designer and you can only make products look good on a body type that doesn’t exist, does that make you a bad designer?

  11. To be perfectly honest, although I wouldn’t complain too much if I had her body, it’s obvious that there was a lot of photoshopping in that picture. Additionally, it’s not perfect in my eyes. I’d want less square shoulders and wider hips/ass, if we were going for “one” acceptable body type.

  12. while i find the computer generated models odd and a little disturbing, i can understand why a company would choose to go that route. i do think they should have more than one body type represented, that should go without saying. however, from a business perspective, this is probably saving them a lot of money. this type of practice has actually been in use in advertising for years. fitness magazines are notorious for picking and choosing body parts for their cover “models”. personally, i find it more disturbing and insulting for a company to use photographs of real women photoshopped to the point of fantasy. it’s a personal feeling, i really couldn’t define why.

    on this note i would also like to point out that H&M tends to carry a wider size range than many of its direct competitors. while i haven’t seen anything more than about a 14, this is still larger than you see in the majority of youth-oriented trendy stores.

  13. It’s ironic that they sell women clothing that don’t actually fit real women. These models don’t have an ounce of body weight or any amount of curve. They are men with breasts.

    • Some REAL women have “boy/man-ish” figures. That means that biological women (XX, not XY) can naturally be “without curves.” And no, not all of them starve themselves. People are built differently.

      The use of virtual models is unfortunate and does not reflect the majority of the company’s consumers’ body types, but it’s unfair to say these clothes don’t fit anyone.

      Using virtual models is a risky idea for a company because it DOES choose specific proportions to represent, thereby alienating customers who do not fit its mold. However, it’s very similar to hiring models of a specific size or “look,” it’s an incredibly conscious process. You see only what they want you to see. That doesn’t make it “right,” that’s just how it is.

  14. Great article! But I find the petition name to be a little problematic. Women who are size 0’s ARE most definitely “real women”. I believe the real problem is that media representations have created a monopoly on what “real women” are supposed to look like. It would be fine if a size 0 was one of the many representations we were privy to. But it’s increasingly THE ONLY type of body we see on a regular basis – especially half-naked (or fully naked). But these images are designed (literally, by using computers) to create shame, fear and self-loathing in individuals, which fuels materialism.

    A more accurate title might be “H&M, Represent Real Women in a Variety of Body Sizes – Not Only computer generated size 0’s!”

  15. I was a teenager in the 70s. I remember Cheryl Tiegs as being the ‘it’ model at that time. She was large bones and gorgeous. She looked healthy, vibrant and REAL. I am sorry for the young people of today, how they must deal with this nonsense.

  16. Human models are supposed to display how the clothing will naturally drape. On modcloth, which uses models of a variety of sizes, there have been many moments when a item has looked good until I saw how it fit on the model (or in customer-posted photos). If you digitally alter the photos, then that means I can’t trust anything I see.

  17. Well, this should definitely reduce the number of men stealing the catalogs.

  18. Clothes used to be advertised with drawings before photography really took off, and I guess that a CGI model is cheaper than a real model and a photographer. Just another reason why it’s much better to buy from stores than catalogues or the internet, or even better, make your own clothes.

  19. willothwisp says:

    This is disappointing. H&M is one of the few stores that seem to actually design clothes for ladies instead of small children by designing for large hips and butts and small waists- even at the single digits.

    I hope they decide to move to a less freakish model.

  20. skinnykelly says:

    real women don’t have to put others down to make themselves feel better 🙂

  21. I have always been an extremely thin woman! I am not better than any other woman we are all diferent. I am real, I’m a size 0, weight 96 pounds… I have NO Bulimia, No Anorexia or any other eating disorder. On many occasions I have been verbally insulted for being so thin, some accused me of being anorexic etc., Please do not attack women of another size, It’s not right to make fun of women no matter what our weight is. Our beauty is internal, not physical!!! I think that the day that the fashion industry make a change in choosing Models walking runways by women of all sizes and from different cultures, will be the time that all of us feel accepted as a woman with a unique beauty! Meanwhile lest respect each other!

  22. Reading these comments I’ve seen people call this body type (not even the fact that it’s not a real body) “freakish”, “coat hanger”, “unreal”, “anorexic”, “nonsense”, and even someone blatantly stating that it’s unattractive to men. I get that the article is about a non-human model. But the comments have become something else altogether.

    I weigh less than 100 pounds. I have a rectangular body type with essentially the same width hips and chest with a little dip in at the waist. Basically, this computer generated model is pretty much a replica of my body. That being said, I’m a real woman. I’m not freakish. I’m not a clothes hanger, but you’re right about models being used as them. That’s kind of their job. I’m obviously real. I do not suffer from an eating disorder. My body makes perfect sense and I know that I’m attractive to men. Some men may not be attracted to me, but men aren’t required to find every single body type attractive. It’s called preferences and people have different ones. I would also like to point out that the rectangular body shape (rectangle) depicted by the CGI model is the one that around forty percent of woman have. The general shape. Not the size obviously.

    I’m upset that H&M only uses one body type and size and not even a real body at that. It would be wonderful if they used all shapes and sizes of real people since they make clothes for lots of sizes. However, from a business perspective, a CGI model is cheaper. I don’t know of any clothes company that sits down in meetings and thinks “gee, how can we make large women feel like crap today”. Minus Abercrombie and Fitch but they’re going down the toilet for it now. So please, stop acting like the main motivation of every single clothing company’s advertising is to make women compare themselves to the models and then proceed to tear themselves apart inside because they aren’t that companies view of “perfection”. The company never said it was. Last time I checked, private companies can still make their own advertising decisions and you have every single right to not purchase their clothes because of it.

  23. Who cares? It’s a catalog / advertisement for the clothes. You’re supposed to be looking at the outfits, not the model.

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