Shop-window dummies with enlarged breasts, tiny waists and unnaturally sculpted rears are catering for the national obsession with implants and plastic surgery
They do things differently in South America. While women’s clothes stores in Scandinavia are earning widespread praise for using “normal-shaped ” size 12 mannequins to model lingerie, and our very own Debenhams recently put a dozen size 16 dummies on display in its flagship Oxford Street store, the new shop-window favourite in Venezuela is apparently a fibreglass model sporting a dramatically enlarged bust, an unnaturally sculpted rear, a tiny wasp waist and never-ending, super-skinny legs.
According to the New York Times, mannequin manufacturer Eliezer Álvarez has transformed his business by introducing a line of shop-window dummies based on the exaggerated body shape he thinks Venezuelan women would really like – and, increasingly, are giving themselves with implants and plastic surgery. Fuelled by an oil-rich culture of consumerism and instant gratification, cosmetic surgey has become routine for wealthier Venezuelans and commonplace even among poorer women who spend cash they can’t really afford on breast implants, tummy tucks, nose jobs and buttock lifts.
The country’s late, long-serving socialist president, Hugo Chávez, described the interventions as “monstrous”. But the paper argues that Venezuela’s obsession with beauty and physical perfection has been influenced more by its repeated success in 1970s and 1980s beauty pageants, when three Miss Venezuelas – the first sporting a nose job suggested by the competition’s organiser – were crowned Miss Universe. “When there is a defect, I correct it,” Miss Venezuela chairman Osmel Sousa told the paper. “If it can be easily fixed with surgery, then why not do it? I say inner beauty doesn’t exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.”
Such has been the success of the new-model mannequins that Nereida Corro, Álvarez’s wife and business partner, apparently now refers to them as the company’s “normal” range. Until recently, she told the NYT: “mannequins were natural, just like women were natural. The transformation has been both of the woman and of the mannequin.”
Not a view, one feels, that’s very likely to sway UK equalities minister Jo Swinson, who recently urged fashion stores here to stop reinforcing the idea that “there’s only one way of being beautiful” by using only 5ft 10in, size 10 or size 8 mannequins when the average British woman stands 5ft 3in and wears – like the new Debenham’s dummies – a size 16.