Mannequinism: Because we obey the trends


It would appear that the trend we love to hate has made a comeback this season. Yes, bootleg jeans are back. In a moment of genuine bewilderment, I questioned in 140 characters why one of my favourite retail outlets had a full rail of bootleg jeans. I then realised that the next two stores I went to also had the same rail. Just the other day someone tweeted that they pray bootleg jeans don’t make a comeback. The bootleg jean is that kid in class that always got picked on and no one really thought they would ever make it. This is why we are all taken aback by its unannounced return. When the snooty cousin of bootleg jeans surfaced, we thought that was the last we saw of these cover-my-ugly-shoes jeans. Much like skinny jeans now, bootleg jeans were the face of denim for years, but seemingly the current sartorial climate is receiving them with hostility. Yes, we’ve been punching jabs, but who’s to say when these jeans are officially on mannequins and in fashion spreads, people are not going to purchase them regardless of the social media fodder?

Fashion consumers like to receive new trends with a lot of scepticism in theory, but in practice they like to dabble in these trends once they see other people trying them out. All it takes is you seeing one person in the mall wearing those shoes you saw in a magazine and boom, you now want a pair. This is how the ripple effect of homogeneity in fashion starts. We think we have to obey all the trends and own all the latest ‘fashionable’ items.

Stores lay out an outfit for you either in their assortment of clothing on the rails or by the way they style their mannequins. Stores do this to make their clothes easier to sell – for you, the consumer, to visualise how you could wear a particular item if you bought it. The mannequins are a serving suggestion like how there’s an image of strawberries on the packaging of most whipped creams. The image of strawberries is not an absolute prescription of how you should always have your cream, but rather an (obvious) suggestion. This is the trap many have fallen into when shopping for clothes. I have seen fellow shoppers walk into a boutique and ask the assistant to give them exactly what the mannequin is wearing in their size. Granted, not everyone has the style gene, but given this scenario, it can be said that being fashionable is a lazy practice.

Mannequins are not the only fashion traffic directors, as magazine fashion spreads also showcase clothes in a manner that deems them sellable with the exception, of course, of the more editorial shoots featured in magazines. There are people who flip through glossy publications before they go and rummage through store shelves and rails. This is driven by the fear of getting to a boutique/retail outlet and not knowing what to buy. This is I’ve again noticed when shopping – I’ll pull something out that I consider eye-catching and another shopper will come up and say, “I didn’t realise how gorgeous that skirt was…I never know what to pick.” This is the kind of mentality that sets apart the fashionable from the stylish. The former breeds homogeneity or mannequinism, if you will.


Motivational social media accounts preach the “you are unique” adage every other day, yet the we-are-all-wearing-these-sneakers-with-these-skirts phenomenon is still so rife on these streets. It has reached the point where the only difference in the way young people dress is the size. On my personal blog I always vouch for simplicity and individuality. I always say if they are all wearing it one way, you must do it your own different way. Style is an intrinsic characteristic and this is why one cannot hold sermons for people on “how to dress well,” but rather one can merely steer people towards the right direction on how to do trends correctly and appropriately.

Following trends is not something to be frowned upon, but it is the slavish approach to fashion that is rather irksome. It trivialises the art of sartorialism and gives it a fleeting image. I wrote a piece at the beginning of 2014 on trends to leave behind in 2013 for an online fashion campaign, namely; peplum skirts, red denims and colour-blocking. This is not to say these were horrid trends, but rather the mannequinism that characterised these trends aroused a surge of disdain within the blogosphere. I recently read how ELLE magazine’s Malibongwe Tyilo considers trends an opportunity to connect with “temporary communities” and believes that those who follow trends religiously should not feel ashamed.

Speaking of “temporary communities”, there is this game that people on Twitter like to play, whereby you create a photoset of four pictures that characterise a kind of group of individuals and then calling it a [insert subculture/label] starter pack. There was one comprising of a picture of a black leather cap, a military parka jacket, black Nike Roshe Runs and blue skinnies torn at the knees and this was called the “university cool girl” starter pack. This is a game of homogeneity pretty much and you really do not want to identify with three of the four warning signs of being a starter pack because that then makes you a scholar of mannequinism. Even if you own all four of the items featured in a starter pack, it is advisable that you are not clad in them all at once.

Mannequinism is fuelled by a number of factors: the following of Instagram models, celebrity fads, social pressure as well as underdeveloped personal style. We cannot fault people on this, as this is the only way some people know how to approach the fickle industry of fashion. The sooner we have more people realising that putting an outfit together is like telling a story about the reason why you are in a particular mood, the sooner will people know that a homogenous approach to the way one dresses negates your story. We may buy the same items, but it is imperative that we know how to wear them our own way. It is also more important to be your own trend forecaster – if you do not see yourself wearing those bootleg jeans again next year, then perhaps you should leave them to those who have a vision for them or to the celebrities with stylists.

Trends are there to form a template, so always strive to make a fashion statement rather than a fashion statistic.

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