Equalities minister Jo Swinson has called on fashion retailers to follow Debenhams’ lead in using plus-size and petite mannequins.

Swinson believes the use of mannequins with different body shapes will help promote healthier attitudes to bodies among women, The Sunday Times reported.

Debenhams’ Oxford Street store is preparing to display a range of size 16 mannequins. Its summer catalogue included two models over 40, one over 60, an amputee and a Paralympic athlete.

Swinson said: “I would really like to see more retailers doing the same. Many customers want to see more realistic images in magazines, TV and on the high street, and having mannequins that reflect and celebrate our diverse society is a really positive way of helping to achieve this.”

Swinson believes the average dummies in shop windows do not represent normal women’s sizings. “The images we see in the world of fashion are all pretty much the same — it’s as if there’s only one way of being beautiful,” she said.

The dress size of the average woman in the UK has risen from a 12 to a 16 in just over a decade, but stores still typically use size 10 mannequins.

The BRC said retailers already work hard to promote body confidence. “This can involve using a diverse range of mannequins and models, but also covers practical examples such as ensuring clothing is available in a wide range of sizes and offering advice in-store and online on figure-flattering clothes for customers that request it,” the BRC said.

“Ultimately, individual retailers decide what approach to take based on their customers’ feedback and preferences.”