As New York department store Barneys gears up for its annual holiday campaign, they’ve announced something for the kids: A runway display that will feature classic Disney stars like Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
But, to make the mouse duo more “appropriate” for the runway, the characters will be taller and skinnier than their actual size — a decision that has some people outraged because of the message it sends to young children about body image:
Barneys’ creative director, Dennis Freedman, explained the decision to make Minnie Mouse 5″11 and significantly skinnier by saying that Minnie would otherwise not “look so good”:
“When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion,” Freedman recalled. “The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress. There was a real moment of silence, because these characters don’t change. I said, ‘If we’re going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,’ and they agreed. When you see Goofy, Minnie and Mickey, they are runway models.”
Barneys’ move is reminiscent of a similarly problematic marketing tactic from another department store. Last month, JCPenney drastically altered the size of its mannequins, slimming them down to the point where the mannequins’ legs were actually skinnier than a human arm.
Eighty percent of 10 year-old girls in the United States say they have been on a diet. And Disney, who often uses the imagery and language associated with magic, might know that “the number one magic wish for young girls age 11–17 is to be thinner.” Such a fashion campaign associated around children’s play figures, then, might have further negative repercussions for these young girls.