Responsible Fashion: Body Image and the Impact of the Fashion Industry; Part 1

Once a week in the fall, and then again in the spring, fashions most sought after looks are paraded down the runways.

It sounds quite glamorous, yet the reality of it is often very precarious.

The A-listers, industry professionals, and even you and I watch with baited breath to see what the next hottest trends will be.  It sounds quite glamorous, yet the reality of it is often very precarious.  It has become common knowledge that today’s fashion models are terribly underweight and reinforce a completely skewed idea of what it means to be beautiful.

Everyday natural women are subjected to this idea of a 5’10” “glamazon” that weighs no more than 115 pounds and wears the most stylish clothes.  Her images are plastered all over the cover of magazines, inserted in the weight loss ads and showcased in Victoria’s Secret commercials. In reality the average woman is somewhere between 5’4” – 5’7”, weighs 140-160 pounds, and wears a size 12-14. Thus supporting the claim that fashion models present an unrealistic and unhealthy body image to real women.

In fact, the thing that makes them standout is that they are NOT average.

Now, please don’t get offended by my use of the term “real”… fashion models are real women too… they just aren’t the “norm”… not average.  In fact, the thing that makes them standout is that they are NOT average.  If you spoke to these women, most would tell you that they were picked on as youth for their “odd” size; too tall…. too thin… frail features…  It is for sure what makes them stunning on the runway. However, it is the industries standardization of that body type that is the source of my chagrin.

Impacts of Youth

Looking back on my childhood, I enjoyed playing with dolls like most young girls.  I was innocent and naïve to the “beauty conditioning” already underway.  The doll’s name: Barbie.  She has beautiful long hair, a perfectly oval face, perfectly straight shoulders, large breasts, a small waist, wider hips-but not too wide, and long sculpted legs. She is like that of the “10-Head Fashion Model”, a figure drawn typically ten inches long that dictates where the shoulders, waist and hips are to hit on a fantasy figure. Yet if she were actually made to scale, she would stand 5’10” and weigh only 110 pounds, which is a mere 76% of what is considered to be a healthy weight.

From a very young age, girls are motivated to dress and look like Barbie, constantly reiterating that she is the model of perfection.

Emily Prager puts it perfectly in Our Barbies, Ourselves, that Barbie looks like someone who got her start at the Playboy Mansion… yet another example of females augmenting and tucking to attain a “perfect body”.  From a very young age, girls are motivated to dress and look like Barbie, constantly reiterating that she is the model of perfection.  They are not told that this image is unrealistic, unattainable and that Barbie herself could not support her own upper body if she were life size.

Impacts of Social Media

Social Media is another catalyst for this detrimental ideal.  Magazines that have been around for decades, depict models who’s faces are gaunt, hip bones and collar bones are protruding, but the beautiful clothes, make up, and marketer’s best friend-airbrushing, seem to reinforce the unhealthy message and keep us all sold on the delusion that this is what we should look like to “be beautiful”.  One can even trace these twisted ideals all the way back to the Victorian era where women constrained their bodies in corsets and wore hoops skirts to shrink the waist and exaggerate the breasts and hips.

These contraptions often caused deformation of the torso and some extremists went as far as to remove a rib to look and fit a specific size.  “But that was then” you say…. Yet how many of you have vowed to buy yourself a waist trainer with your next paycheck?

Check back on December 28th for Part 2 to find out how we can move forward and embrace a more positive body image in our society.

Phoenyx Reign

Phoenyx Reign

Executive Editor

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