Mannequins are strange objects. They are ‘pretend people’ wearing clothes that would be either difficult or impossible for real models to wear throughout the day in a shop front. Inorganic as they are, their resemblance to the human form — sometimes a bit too eerily — can be bothersome in some cultures. While lingerie shops think that draping one of those lace things will make the potential customer focus on the product on sale, there is that unsaid matter of some eyes, at least, beholding the ‘wrong’ object. The United Arab Emirates is not leaving things to chance. Authorities have just announced that mannequins in the city of Sharjah will not only have to wear ‘decent clothes’, but they will have also to be headless.
Officials of the Sharjah municipality are not being underhand when they say that to “uphold the traditional and religious values of the emirate”, (decapitated) mannequins will not be allowed to don underwear. The ban had actually been officially sanctioned five years ago following a fatwa issued by the Islamic Affairs Department. But retail shops will be retail shops — and they lapsed into displaying ‘bold’ mannequins again.
Those of us who may think that the UAE is taking this ‘mannequin etiquette’ business a bit too seriously are probably in a state of denial. In any case, do mannequins really serve the purpose of helping us to choose a piece of clothing — risqué or otherwise — for our loved ones? Well, only some of us, lonely and with mannequins at home will even dare to answer that.