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'Real women' mannequins go viral

March 15, 2013 at 12:51 PM ET

Video: Since a blogger posted a photo of plus-size mannequins at a Swedish department store on her Facebook page, the picture has been shared and liked more than a million times, leading many to wonder when similar mannequins will be available in the U.S. NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo reports.

Updated 10:28 a.m. March 27, 2013

A photograph of two mannequins with softer, more realistic body proportions than the average display dummy has re-ignited the debate over body image.

The lingerie-clad mannequins, displayed in one of the stores in Sweden's Ahlens department store chain, have fleshier stomachs and fuller thighs than are typically seen in stores. Both are far from overweight, as many people have noted in comments about the widely circulated photo.

“Those aren’t mannequins, they are real women, and they are gorgeous,” wrote one of more than 3,350 commenters on the Facebook photo posted March 11 by Women’s Rights News.

The organization, which suggested in its caption that "the U.S. should invest in some of these," received more than 63,400 likes on the photo, which has been shared nearly 20,000 times.

Ahlens claims to be the only store in Sweden to feature the larger mannequins.

“If you want to buy something and you look a different way, you want to see it, how it fits you in this way, and this is the perfect way to look at it,” store manager Ann Almkvist told NBC News in a segment that aired on TODAY Wednesday.

The photo originally appeared in October 2011 when Rebecka Silvekroon, a Swedish project manager for a communicationsagency, took the picture and posted it to her personal blog, noting how “real” and healthy the mannequins looked.

Silverkoon has since created a new site, swedishmannequins.com, to host an online conversation about body image.

The Swedish mannequins featured in the photo are size 8 and 12. The average American woman is a size 12 or 14, which is more than double the size of typical mannequins used in retail clothing stores.

The photo has also drawn concern from some fans who said the mannequins still aren’t real enough.

“Can’t they make them a little chunkier?” said one woman.

Some argue that small models actually may turn off shoppers.

“You go into stores and you see mannequins that are less than half your size, it’s really discouraging, it’s disheartening and it’s alienating,” said Lori Bergamotto, contributing style editor for Lucky magazine.

In recent years, more realistic-looking mannequins have also raised criticism that the models reflect the nation's obesity problem, or even add to it.

This story wasoriginally published March 15, 2013.

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