Hey Barney’s, Leave Minnie Mouse Alone

Disney is collaborating with Barney’s to create this year’s holiday window display.  But, says Barney’s Creative Director David Freed “When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion. The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress.”

So they gave Minnie a makeover.  David Freed says that they made her 5’11.  What he doesn’t say is that they made her very, very thin.  To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with very, very thin bodies.  I do think that there is something wrong with changing a beloved children’s character’s body so that it looks good in a dress that barely looks good on anyone.  I think this went wrong when they decided that Minnie didn’t look good in the dress rather than realizing the actually problem which is that the dress doesn’t look good on Minnie. The problem isn’t with Minnie’s body, it’s with a dress that only looks good on a woman who is 5’11 and a size zero.

That little girl who is going to become a 5’4, size 12 woman can’t just become 5’11, size 0 woman when she wants to fit into a dress that was designed by someone who chose to make a dress that only looks good on a very rare body type. Meanwhile, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006 according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics.

According to sources sited on the non-profit National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders website:

•47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.

• 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.

• 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

• 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

Girls don’t have enough pressure to be thin, now the beloved Disney mouse of their childhood has to add to the message that they will never be thin enough?  Enough already.  Let’s give girls a chance to celebrate the actual bodies they have instead hating them for not fitting into a Lanvin dress.  Then maybe enough girls will get together and demand dresses that look good on their actual, non-digitally altered bodies and designers will just have to become talented enough to design a dress that looks good on lots of bodies, and wouldn’t that be refreshing.

If you agree you can sign the petition asking Barney’s and Walt Disney World to Leave Minnie Mouse Alone!


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28 thoughts on “Hey Barney’s, Leave Minnie Mouse Alone

  1. You can’t just change a well known/loved cartoon character. It changes the whole essence of who they are. The images are copywrited or trademarked for a reason. It just won’t BE Minnie Mouse anymore if they do that. And the stupidest reason of all is just to make her look good in a ridiculous dress? Give me a break.
    I love reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

  2. There’s another thing they changed- they have made her look more “white.” I know that Minnie Mouse is a mouse, but still. Whitewashing and skinnyizing? This is not a good thing.

  3. Where is the most effectove place to write to protest this? When will so called brilliant designers desgn clothing that looks good on the rest of us? Anyone can make a dress for a hipless, curveless figure.

  4. As I noted somewhere else, big-name fashion designers have designed clothes for Miss Piggy, and she looks fabulous in them. If they can fit a pig as she is, they can fit a mouse as she is.

  5. I’ve got a book in my collection that came out in the late eighties or so in which famous designers made haute couture clothes to fit plush dolls of Snoopy’s sister, Belle.

    Funny thing, not one of them changed the shape of Belle. They just designed outfits to fit her height and shape. You know… like actual talented, creative people do when faced with a challenge outside their comfort zone.

    It saddens me every season of Project Runway when they do the ‘everyday’ or ‘real’ woman challenge and the designers are forced to work with more random body shapes. I’m not saddened by the fact that they have to dress women who aren’t models. What saddens and honks me off is that every single time there’s at least one designer (and often more) who cannot wrap their tiny brain around the fact that the human body is an integral part of fashion design and so the design needs to work with an actual body in it.

    And then you get the designers who are oh so sensitive to the needs of a size 10 client because mommy struggles with her weight. Humph.

    Oh, and the designer who makes the client cry because of the way she was treated? Is never, ever, EVER the one sent home.

    Design schools no longer prepare students for the fact that real bodies come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. They’re pretty much taught that the point of fashion is to make 5’11” size 0 bodies and ONLY 5’11” size 0 bodies look good… or actually that only 5’11” size 0 bodies will not interfere with the clothes looking good, which may actually be an even worse message. At least the other way around there’s still a thought for the body in question, even if it is very nearly as rare naturally as unicorn tears.

    Any designer worth their salt ought to be able to see different bodies and come up with ideas to make the most of them. Just as not every woman looks her best in pink or black or teal, not every woman has a body that fits the increasingly narrow definition of ‘beautiful’ in our society. I’m short. I’m fat. I’m shaped like a beer keg and my waist would reside in my armpits if I didn’t have breasts. And you know what else? I’m a damn good looking woman with style for miles. Make clothes that fit me and I’ll make a designer look good walking down the street.

    It’s the job of designers to make human (and sometimes cartoon) bodies look great. It’s not my body’s job to make the designer’s clothes look like they’re still on a hanger when I wear them.

  6. The idea of redesigning the character to fit the clothing is sad and scary. I remember the clothes on Miss Piggy, and on Belle, for that matter! They worked just fine because the designers worked with the character shape. Everyone knows that an animated (or muppet) character isn’t built like a fashion model. And shouldn’t be. Nor should ALL people!

    It’s a sad state of the fashion industry that actually started in the 60s, specifically with Twiggy, though there are earlier comments from couturiers like Charles Worth at the turn of the 19th-20th century that foreshadow it. There’s an episode of Bewitched that has stuck in my head since I was a child, where she makes copies of designer clothes for the real women in her area… the designer sees them and flips out… but then has a realization that he needs to design clothing for ALL shapes. It’s something I’ve had in my head for over 30 years now, and something that I remember every time I sit down to design a sweater pattern now that I’m thinking of selling them (the patterns, not the finished sweaters, sorry!)…

    The title’s “Samantha the Dressmaker,” and it’s available in a couple places on YouTube.

  7. The first image shows Minnie Mouse. The second image shows a character that is a perfectly valid character, but is not Minnie Mouse. I cannot even accept that as Minnie Mouse. It doesn’t look anything like Minnie and isn’t her. I mean I could be inspired by an image of imaginary movie star Bret Famously, and decide to take out a pencil and get creative and be like “okay well I love Bret’s coloring and jawline and fabulous hair. But let’s see, ooh, what if he was a lady, and let’s give lady-Bret a robot cyber arm! Bret usually dresses very goth but I’m going to give lady-Bret a really punk look that suits the aesthetic I’m imagining for this image, and put a streak of blue in the middle of her hair. Fierce!” Okay so the image I just came out with is cool. But it’d be pretty silly and honestly kind of insulting if I posted it and said “look at this picture I drew of Bret Famously!” The correct language to use there is “look at this picture I drew inspired by Bret Famously!” And I would be outright insulting Bret if I expected to be able to use the image and call her by his name to promote my art professionally.

    This would still be a perfect example of how out of touch so much of the fashion world is with what clothes are about (decorating and celebrating the human form, NOT creating clothes as objects d’art and lamenting bodies that don’t show off the clothes well rather than the other way around) if they had called it something like “inspired by Minnie” or “Minnie re-imagined,” but at least it would have been more honest. No amount of diet and exercise would change the basic shape of Minnie’s body and head and no amount of anything would suddenly make her grow to 5’11”. Character two is very modern and kicky, but she is emphatically NOT Minnie Mouse. So basically, what they’re saying here is that while they like Minnie Mouse, they don’t like her enough to design clothes for her, but they’re happy to send along a “proper model-looking” Minnie stand-in to wear their clothes they way they feel they “should” be worn.

    What they’ve done here is reject Minnie outright for being too short and fat for their tastes. My punk cyber-arm lady-Bret Famously is not better at being Bret Famously than Bret Famously. If you’re going to work with a celebrity to promote your product, find a celebrity who fits your aesthetic, don’t expect them to change their image to conform to you. Clarabelle Cow is tall and thin already, put HER in the dress, I’m sure she’d rock it.

  8. The Barney’s Minnie’s facial expression is also concerning to me. She’s clearly looking down her nose, as if she’s better than everyone else. Here we find elements of classism as well as sizism. She’s so snooty! I agree, I can’t accept her as Minnie. She’s an imposter.

  9. I blogged about this at Fierce, Freethinking Fatties. They also changed Daisy Duck and Goofy as well. In making them thinner and changing their facial features, they’ve lost the essence of their characters.

    This is nothing new. The Care Bears’ bellies were made smaller and Strawberry Shortcake doesn’t even look like the same cute and chubby girl when they got modernized. There was a lot of backlash.

    It’s funny that people will accept fatter fictional characters but they don’t want to see real-life big bodies.

  10. That stick-figure drawing looks like Zombie Minnie – it’s ugly, and not because it’s thin. And the dress is uglier. It wouldn’t look good on anyone.

  11. If a designer lacks the ability or imagination to design for a multitude of body types, they should either put down their pencil or stop calling themselves a fashion designer and start using the more accurate descriptor ‘fine artist’.

    Clothing is meant to be practical, fine art is not. Designing clothing that only works for a tiny percentage of the population is as close to impractical as you can get whilst still designing clothes, so I think that the problem here might be that the designer isn’t being bold *enough* to design clothes that don’t fit anyone. Things that are beautiful and delicate and all the rest, but are completely outside the range of human physicality. That’s the direction fashion’s headed in anyway; it just needs to take that last step before people see it for what it is: art that belongs in a gallery, not on a body.

  12. Signed the petition. What a bunch of rubbish. Why don’t they just design androids that will look good forever and replace all us messy people who have the audacity to have varying physical appearances.

    1. Did you ever see Surrogates with Bruce Willis? That’s more or less the idea. The real people stayed home, plugged in to their surrogates which were all beautiful and perfect AI beings. They even made Bruce Willis look younger for his surrogate (he also played the not as young or good looking real person). Watching it was kind of creepy. I mean, we have the game the Sims, take that concept and make it so that the so-called sims were actually out in the real world while you were at home directing him/her.

    1. They’re cute! But gee, you wouldn’t want to mislead people by implying that the dresses would fit a larger size, or that the footwear would fit a wide foot. Can’t have that, can we?

  13. I’ve stopped buying women’s magazines. I don’t feel they reflect my life or aspirations at all. I don’t need to change my clothes three times a year, wear ridiculous make up and hair styles, tell me I’m not having enough sex, and because I’m not working in interior design or as a fashion buyer my job isn’t something to have aspired to.

  14. Why don’t they just use Clarabelle (the skinny cow from Mickey mouse Clubhouse)? She’s already tall and thin and they don’t have to make Minnie look creepy. Put Minnie in something she would look cute in. There are alot of different body types. None are perfect. Please don’t make Minnie look creepy!

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