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Sam Langley-Swain, Strategy Director

British retailer Debenhams launched a new, improved Personal Stylist service at its London flagship as part of a £25-million refurbishment programme.

But it’s not just the personal shopping service that’s getting a make-over.

The fashion retailer has devised a new body shape guide to help shoppers pick the perfect outfit for their body shape, and improve the in-store customer experience. Debenhams found that 86% of customers felt ‘confused’ about dressing for their figure, and looks set to factor in our changing waistlines.

But it’s not just women whose figures are being likened to fruit and vegetables in this new guide; men now have to answer the question: “Am I an Aubergine or a Beetroot?”

The Guides Under the Microscope

According to the new guides, women are no longer restricted to being apple or pear-shaped.

Debenhams believes that modern-day females have evolved into a fruit cocktail of silhouettes. From the Kim Kardashian-esque ‘Double Cherry’ (curvy chest and hips with a defined waist) and the Cara Delevingne ‘Rubarb’ (small chest, long body and slim hips and legs).

Debenhams body shape guide women

Men, on the other hand, can compare their body shapes to a range of vegetables.

The new guides see men fall into four categories: Aubergine, Leek, Beetroot or Parsnip.

Debenhams body shape guide men

These revamped body shape guides are hoped to help the 43% of people who feel they’re in a ‘fashion rut’.

How Debenhams is Celebrating ‘Real Beauty’

This isn’t the first time the British retailer has worked to dispel the myths of what is considered ‘normal’ and ‘beautiful’ in the fashion world.

In 2013, they were one of the first UK retailers to introduce plus-sized mannequins into their stores. This was met by a positive reaction and was just one-way brands and retailers explored the trend for real mannequins last year.

“We launched size 16 mannequins in our Oxford Street store at the end of last year and we’re continuing our commitment to promoting body confidence with more shapes and sizes for both men and women in our body shape guide. Our service is not about being too prescriptive, but instead helping to inspire people to try new things and identify when something isn’t quite right.”

Gaynor Davey Personal Stylist Manager at Debenhams Oxford Street

Debenhams is just one retailer looking to break the mould when it comes to promoting real customers. Only last month, Moss Bros installed a window display celebrating same-sex marriage across their UK stores.

This move by Debenhams to improve customer experience, love it or loathe it – is certainly a smart one and is part of a much wider debate surrounding how retailers and brand reinforce certain stereotypes and aspirations among shoppers.

Should more brands follow this lead and look towards celebrating real customers and real beauty in their stores? Or is the whole point of retail to reinforce this aspirational lifestyle that we see plastered all over magazines?

Image credit: Tom Gowanlock /