Covid-19 has brought about a lot of changes for us as a nation. Amongst them, we’ve seen a decline in sales for physical stores and we’ve had to say goodbye to some household shops (Topshop I’m looking at you). Shopping has become a virtual activity, meaning business is booming for those in the modelling industry. Clothes on racks have now been replaced with edited pictures of slender women in the hopes you’ll give in and purchase that top that you know won’t suit you, yet you cannot help ordering. Unfortunately, that’s an all too familiar feeling, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
In the last few years, inclusivity has become a popular trend, one that brands have been keen to jump on. So why is it that there’s still little diversity when it comes to body types modelling clothes?
Sorry love, your body isn’t trendy enough
Women’s bodies have been commodified and sexualized since advertising became a thing. From the Warner ads shaming women with pear-shaped bodies to the rise of being slim-thick, it’s safe to say we’ve been through a lot.
Arguably, women’s bodies have become an ever-changing fashion trend, and we’re expected to keep up. This image of what is feminine is constantly sold to us and, despite consciously knowing these women do not look the way they’re perceived online, it’s difficult to digest. Seeing how women are perceived on TV, social media, and advertising – so just about everywhere - reinforces this unconscious ideology towards our bodies. This can bring on a low sense of self-worth when our self-image does not add up to the ones we are constantly surrounded by. The toxicity of the modelling industry has seeped into social media, something that we consume daily. Instagram has been infiltrated by influencer culture; once a platform where people could snap pics of one’s life carefree, this has been replaced by carefully edited pictures, false realities and crafting the ‘perfect’ picture.
Whilst the modelling industry may appear to be glamorous, there has been concerns with how it has perpetuated the rise of unhealthy habits and eating disorders. Sara Ziff, an advocate to the modelling industry, conducted a study consisting of 85 models at New York Fashion Week. Published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, her findings consisted of 62 models being asked to lose weight or change their shape, despite them being considered underweight. Furthermore, eight of these models were told they needed plastic surgery in order to continue with their modelling careers. She described these findings as ‘incredibly troubling.’
The lack of diversity in bodies within the modelling industry has imposed a one size fits all standard of beauty on women. This has been proven to have detrimental effects on the younger generation. The Doll Test is one study that investigated the effects of Eurocentric beauty standards on children. Young girls were asked to pick the prettiest doll out of two; one was light skin with Eurocentric features and the other African with African features. The majority picked the white doll as the prettiest. The study showed that this reinforcement could lead children to a higher risk of self-hate, eating disorders and racism. Other studies have also shown that playing with thin dolls could make girls aged 5 display signs of anti-fatness, concern over their appearance and internalize thin ideals.
The Tumblr body trends of the 2000’s consisting of a thigh gap and being skinny have now morphed into the Kardashian body trend, and more people are undertaking the high risk BBL surgery to achieve this unobtainable body shape. In fact, people have literally died attempting to achieve this body. One user took to twitter to express her frustration:
@vpungs: I’m sick and tired of the Kardashian/BBL led fashion trends. Both high street and independent retailers are increasingly creating clothes for this body type. What about the rest of us? … In the end it just makes you as a consumer feel rubbish about yourself because the clothes are always ill fitting. You’re telling me all of a sudden everyone has big boobs, a 21-inch waist and wide hips?’ https://twitter.com/vpungs/status/1422539073072386053?s=20
The overwhelming pressure that women face to fit into trending clothes is huge; we’re meant to dress so our clothes fit us, not for us to fit into our clothes. Having a constant visual affirmation of what is deemed physically desirable for a woman is a toxic cycle that only those at the top of the modelling and fashion industries have the power to change. Until then, we remain victims of this pressure.
Despite being sold a particular image on fashion sites, the image we see almost always does not tell the truth. In 2019, ASOS found themselves in hot water after a user noted they forgot to edit off clips pinning back a dress the model was wearing. People were furious, quite rightly, as it was false advertising to the customer, who would buy it believing it fit as the image depicted, only to be rendered disappointed and in turn possibly blaming their own body for the way it didn’t fit. After this editing mistake was brought to light, the clips were quickly edited out, however people have definitely not forgotten about their mistake. In fact, ASOS have been in the limelight a few times over the last few years for different controversies, one being their cultural appropriation towards the Indian Maang Tikka, which they rebranded as a ‘chandelier clip’.
Regular Women Are the Real Superheroes
It seems that the most logical way to combat the issue of body diversity within modelling is to give women with regular bodies a chance in the limelight. The modelling industry perpetuates unhealthy eating habits and body image for those internal, and women consuming these images outside of the industry also suffer as they’re constantly comparing themselves to something that is unattainable. It appears to be a lose-lose situation for everyone involved (minus the men-what a shocker!). That is exactly why the work at Bamae is so important when it comes to changing the game. The women featured in the product images are our customers, they’re women just like me and you, ones that want to free themselves from the hold this industry has on us. Seeing a variety of female body types is not only more representative of women everywhere, but it’s also empowering.
This empowerment is exactly what the modelling industry lacks as they’re too focused achieving perfection. We need to stop chasing perfection in a one size fits all society and embrace our differences, as it is exactly these differences that make us beautiful.