I had never worked in sales before.

Before this year, my only work experience was limited to babysitting and teaching. But I wanted a job — a real job where I would at last be a working woman.

I walked down M Street, searching for “help wanted” signs and some source of inspiration. I weaved in and out of stores, evaluating the atmosphere, observing the dynamic between the associates and trying to visualize myself working in each store.

Then I came across Lululemon Athletica — the shapeless mannequins stood tall in the windows, donning Barbie-proportioned yoga tights on their skinny legs. I walked in, slightly intimidated and very aware of the exclusivity of the brand. Lululemon is not just a company, it is a way of life.

I continued walking, still searching for a store where I would fit in, and that’s when I came across Athleta. I had never heard of the company before, but as I looked in the display windows, I noticed something was different. I wasn’t as intimidated by the image of the store, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what drew me in.

Months later, I was helping my manager dress one of the mannequins when she said, “God, I wish I had her body.”
I responded, a little put off, discouraging her from comparing herself to a plastic figure that serves as an unrealistic representation of a woman’s body. “No one looks like that,” I said, not really looking at the mannequin.

My manager looked surprised: “Yes, they do,” she replied.

I was confused.

“These mannequins are modeled after real women,” she explained, astonished that I didn’t already know this. My manager proceeded to name off all the mannequins, describing how the women’s movements were captured and digitized in a professional studio, and then used to build what Athleta refers to as “Daniquins” — named after the original model, Danielle Halverson.

I took a closer look at the mannequins, and thought back to the unidentifiable quality of the Athleta store that initially drew me in — the display windows and realistically shaped mannequins.

Until that moment, I never realized how conditioned I was to accept that the shapeless size zero served as the normal representation of how a woman’s body should look.

Most retails stores from Lululemon to Nordstrom to J.Crew present their newest and most popular pieces on hip-less, boob-less mannequins with a two-inch thigh gap and clothespins cinching the loose ends of the pieces, so they’ll fit perfectly.

At some point, I stopped comparing my own figure to that of the mannequins in most display windows because I knew that doing so would only chip away at my self-confidence and feed a self-deprecating mentality; however, this decision was not a choice — it was a necessity.

So when I learned that Athleta’s mannequins were designed to represent real women’s bodies, I was pleasantly surprised by this unconventional approach and felt moved to challenge the stereotypes I had come to accept over the years.

Personally, I have always been too quick to fall into the trap of how my body is supposed to look, what my BMI is supposed to be and how many pounds I am supposed to weigh, based on Jillian Michael’s “How big is your weight loss?” advertisements and suggested posts for miracle fat burner pills on Facebook. Every time I walk down the street or even open up my laptop, I, like many other women, am bombarded with the message that I am not good enough — that my figure, my weight and my dress size can all be improved upon.

Maybe the Daniquin brought me to my senses, or maybe I just got fed up, but I have come to refuse to continue living by a one-size-fits-all mentality. I will no longer apologize or feel inadequate for not being able to measure the circumference of my thighs with my fingers. Now, it really is about time we started to remind each other that wearing a size zero dress should not be a goal for anyone.

Daria Etezadi is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. Made from Scratch appears every other Monday at thehoya.com.

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