ART 302: Reading #9: Living Dolls

The female doll or cyborg in particular can also be linked to the search for the perfect body in Western culture, often played out in the idealized images of women in fashion, as well as the ubiquitous Barbie doll. The desire for the right image… alienates womenfrom themselves, turning them into automatons.

What exactly is considered the “perfect” body? Society engulfs this idea of having the perfect body, in relation to the proportions of the Barbie doll. Her market is mainly for young children, ages 3+, and with that in mind, she is what girls will want to look like as they get older, perceiving this as the ideal body all throughout their lives. Women go through extreme lengths to fulfill their desires of becoming “Barbie” like. From non-evasive procedures such as Botox or Filler injections to extreme plastic surgery.

Designers use of dummies or other inanimate forms of display gestured towards experimentation but also fixed their work firmly in the field of fashion- with its links to industry and commerce- rather than art. For the dummies only made sense in the context of the tradition in fashion of using living women to display clothes, a tradition which draws attention to the commodification of the body through fashionable consumption in nineteenth-century Paris.

The models on runways are required to be a “blank canvas” to designers. They are to be free of any “unique” traits that can interfere with their designs and fashion shows. Designers take this into consideration when hiring models because like that they can mold the models how they desire. They want their designs to be exactly how it looks like on a dress form or mannequin. Designer Maison Martin Margiela showcases his models often (picture above) wearing pantyhose to cover the models faces and give the illusion of a walking mannequin. What kind of example is this giving to women? The fact that we have to look like a mannequin to even be able to consider wearing one of these pieces. Its definitely a problem to have to put models into a pantyhose to cover their faces rather than having them walk and be able for women to relate to them.


The same visual shock tactic is often deployed at the end of the contemporary fashion show when all the models parade down the runway: fashion, supposedly about individuality, is actually about uniformity. The body which is produced is a disciplined, streamlined and modernist body, in which the outer discipline of the corset has given way to the inner disciplines of diet and exercise.

We’ve all seen the models walk after a fashion show is over. They all walk down in such an organized manner and as if they were in the military. They give the illusion of a cloned “ideal” woman. Tall, thin, and with a uniformed walk. The models go through different obstacles just to stay that thin. Unfortunately, not all women look like these models. The average woman takes into consideration her curves and when she sees these models, she thinks why she can’t be that thin? Then, the mental image of the “ideal” body cannot be shut down and the dieting begins. Getting slimmed down is never a bad thing but if its in an extreme manner, women become blindsided and see nothing but “fat” in their body and become traumatized, then that leads to anorexia, bulimia, etc. Models follow their diet regime because they have to form into the model body. Its no coincidence that all the models at the end of the runway look exactly the same. Some may be taller than other but the “ideal” frame is enforced here.



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