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Matchstick legs? No thanks Topshop

High-fashion retailer Topshop is facing a Twitter storm after a photo of a stick-thin mannequin in one of its U.K. stores went viral.

The picture was posted to Twitter on Monday and had been retweeted 8,715 times by Friday afternoon, with Twitters users largely condemning Topshop's use of the mannequin.

Posted by Twitter user Becky Leigh Hopper, the photograph shows Hopper's slender size 8/10 (U.S. size 4/6) friend standing next to the twig-like mannequin. Hopper took the picture in a Topshop store in Hull in North-East England.

Hopper panned the use of the model as #irresponsible' in a hashtag in her Tweet, and also used the hashtags #Topshop #poorbodyimage #fashion #highstreet.

Hopper's tweet has gone viral on Twitter, with multiple social media users criticizing Topshop for promoting an unrealistic and unhealthy body shape.

Another Twitter user, Gemma Oaten posted: "I'm sorry @Topshop but how is this size zero mannequin sending a remotely safe & responsible image? Remove. Simple."

The Twitter storm has been noted by the British media, with newspapers themselves tweeting about the mannequin:

Topshop, which is owned by multinational Arcadia Group, responded to the criticism on Thursday in a statement that was posted to website Buzzfeed.

The statement said: "Topshop has long made it a priority to showcase a healthy size image to its customer," adding "Mannequins are made from solid fibreglass, so in order for clothing to fit, the form of the mannequins needs to be of certain dimensions to allow clothing to be put on and removed; this is therefore not meant to be a representation of the average female body."

The use of unrealistically thin mannequins was last in focus in the U.K. last November, when one of the country's large department store chains, Debenhams, introduced a selection of "plus-sized" mannequins. It said the move was aimed at combating poor body image among women.

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The move was a canny one, according to Isabel Cavill, an apparel and luxury analyst at Planet Retail. She told CNBC last November that "recognizing that women's average size has increased is a clever move. Shops that still use size 10 mannequins – such as Marks and Spencer – are not reflecting the real market."