Is it fashion’s fault?

Today, I was reading an obligatory article on anorexia, and the influence of fashion industry on it. While reading it, I got more and more angry at the writers, for their obvious eye patches and lack of nuance. Their point: anorexia has everything to do with today’s fashion, above all today’s obsession with a skinny body. Whatever they said, it all led to this conclusion, and I started to be annoyed.

Very annoyed, in fact.

Because in no way, I am able to see why today’s fashion is so responsable for anorexia, or any eating disorder for that matter. Who can even prove me that anorexia is way more common today? It might be like that, but I’ve got plenty of explanations for that – if you have to work your ass off to buy food, you’ll never get anorexia, I think. You will cherish food. So I do believe that it is possible that eating disorders are way common now. But why do you point at the fashion industry? Don’t you just need a scapegoat? I do not agree on this matter.
First of all: fashion, and its ideals, have always been present. We claim that everybody has to be so skinny nowadays. Pray tell, what did corsets serve for? I’ve seen corsets from around 1800, and they made your waist the size of a fist (approximately). They were equally unhealthy, they even screwed up your ribs. That was fashion too. Wouldn’t you like to be as skinny as possible to fit in that thing of torture? Oh yes, you would! Who knows how many women have starved just to have a waist like a wasp? There are no ciphers around – anorexia wasn’t known yet (if I’m right). Will you tell me that today’s fashion is so much more guilty then?

And another thing: fashion is always something different. The clothes change every season (three times every season), because people have a biological tendency to long for change. In fact, fashion is in our genes, we want it. Do we want to starve for that matter? No, we don’t. But we do want a different look every now and then, a new aim to get, and I’m not only talking about clothes. In 1950, women wanted a small waist and curvy hips. Now we want skinniness. The newer tendency is even a more curvy figure anyway. Though the models are still mostly as thick as a finger. It’s also a form of fashion, and it has always been that way: fashion gives us a new idea, is a new idea of what is beautiful, and it’s in our nature to try to be beautiful.
We can see fashion from a different angle too: it’s a form of art, and art is never reality. It may look as if it’s so close to what is real, but it never is. Art is not daily life. The models are like sculptures: they show us something that seems very realistic, but in fact isn’t all true. The same for fashion photography: pictures of models would make people insecure, even though we know how those pictures have been touched up. I repeat: art is never reality. It might come close, but it never is. Most people will agree on the fact that photography is a sort of art, and that implies that every magazine includes art, which isn’t real, so we should not look at it as if it’s real! Just like you shouldn’t watch Titanic, believing that those people have existed!

V Magazine has done a photo shoot with an ‘average’ model and a ‘full size’ model.

How is all of this linked to eating disorders?
Well, I named reasons why you should not identify with models. It are mainly reasons why the entire fashion industry should not be banished. It aren’t really reasons why you wouldn’t get an eating disorder due to it. But look: ask any girl with an eating disorder why she got one, and I don’t think you’ll find one girl (or boy!) who claims to have gotten it due to fashion. There are always background troubles: insecurity, being bullied, a bad situation at home, abuse,… Maybe the society that asks too much of us today. But just the pictures of models in a magazine? I don’t think they can ba the only reason for feeling bad. Or at least you will not starve yourself because you think you don’t look like a model. An eating disorder is such a complex thing that can’t be explained by one thing only. And yes, today, we’d consider the Venus of Milo rather curvy, or even chubby. But at that time too, there must have been women who did not look like her, and who tried to be lookalikes. Maybe they ate much fat to get the same curves. Healthy?

We should also not consider 44 to be the best size. It isn’t a bad size, but so is 36. Being too skinny isn’t healthy, but so is being too fat. Of course there are models who starve themselves, but I believe that that has more to do with the focus on their body, and maybe they’re even told they should lose weight to be successful. If becoming a model is your dream, it is normal that such verdict turns you sad. And it’s normal that pressure and loneliness and the aim for perfection make you sick. But it’s not okay that people judge on your looks only (if you’re a model, actually it is normal), or rather: it’s not normal that people are able to judge on something like looks in such a hard way.

But when I’m looking at the pictures of models, I never get insecure. I know how Photoshop has changed them. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m one of the blessed people who are naturally skinny. I do have friends (a lot of them) who tell me they want to lose weight. Maybe they even try to do it. That is the real consequence of this weight hysteria: people will be thinking about their weight and food. My friends start to eat healthier (or do nothing at all), and that is never a bad thing.

This picture has been criticised: it would provoke eating disorders.

It might be much related to each other, but the tendency of every fashion magazine to tell women which are the new diets, are way more harmful than models on a catwalk. Those magazines are always ambivalent: they tell us how we should feel great of ourselves, and a few pages further on, they’ll reveal us the secrets of Gwyneth Paltrow to lose weight by eating soup only for three weeks. Yes, you’ll tell me, but they do so because fashion tells us we should all be so skinny.
Is that so? Models are skinny, yes, but clothes are available in a lot of sizes. Maybe 52 is harder to find, but 52 isn’t healthy, so I don’t feel really sorry for that.

I won’t disagree that there is an obsession with thinness, but do NOT just point at the fashion industry to blame them.

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18 Comments

  1. You put up an excellent argument here!

    I think your last line sums it up. It isn’t just the fashion industry. But every time a larger person has success in film or television, it is noticed with a bit of surprise.
    You’re right that thin wasn’t always the style. Look at renaissance paintings, and fuller figured people were much more in vogue.
    One effect of the fashion industry is to create and then constantly push an “ideal” image that for many, can’t be achieved without radical behavior (the phrase “heroin chic” ). those images are pushed by society and really do have an effect on peoples minds and attitudes.

    While the fashion industry may not be wholly responsible, I think it’s fair to say there is some responsibility there, if only for the pervasiveness of it, and frequent announcements that supermodels are the ideal.

    You’re absolutely right that no one would say they developed an eating disorder solely because of a fashion mag, but if that’s the publicized standard of “perfection”, than that’s what someone would shoot for to better their imperfect life.
    (Wow, I’m awfully wordy today)

    Reply
    • No no, I’m happy you share your thoughts on this matter!
      I do agree on the fact that fashion industry is partially responsible. But ideals, we don’t get them from fashion only. WHen i look around at my school, I get a totally different image of what a girl should be like, and I think most people look around at their school rather than searching ideals in fashion.
      Maybe not, but even then we should not just blame one thing when there are so many causes staring us in the eye. We should face them too.

      Reply
      • I don’t disagree with anything you say.
        I wonder if fashion is just an easier target…
        In your high school, did the most popular people match the fashion ideals, or were they popular because of who they were as people?

      • They are popular because… because they know a lot of people. I really can’t tell how they managed to know everyone, actually. And most of them are just regular girls, as in ‘not very tall, not very small, not very clever, not very dumb, but with kickass hair anyway’.

        It’s quite hard to tell why someone’s popular :).

  2. I agree with you; it’s not the fashion’s fault. It’s the fault of society. To tell you the truth I’m a bit (insert adjective here) myself. I always want to be skinnier, but that’s only because I’m not, I guess. In the same time, opposing to my first thought, I know, I like to see curves in women. I think a woman with curves looks more like a real woman than those skinny ones. Of course, there’s healthy skinny and there’s sickly skinny.And so it is with fat.
    In the end, I like to believe that (let’s look at the picture you have in this post, with those 2 women, who in my opinion, both look good) it doesn’t matter how skinny or fat she is, that a woman with confidence will always win in front of the better looking one.

    Reply
    • Exactly! As long as you know how to dress yourself (picking clothes that fit your figure, not clothes that fit other figures you don’t have), and you have an interesting personality, you can and will look great.
      There’s a giant obsession with diets going on, I’m aware of that. But as you say, I’d rather blame society in the first place.

      And I’m pretty sure you don’t need to lose weight, Audrey, why denying yourself the few things that make life taste sweet? You are such a nice and intelligent girl. Don’t let it be ruined by a scale!

      Reply
  3. People, especially women, have sacrificed their health in the name of fashion for centuries. People do it now with suntans, yet during the Elizabethan times women put a poisonous mixture of vinegar and white lead on their faces. The Chinese used to bind baby girl’s feet.

    It’s hard to pin the blame, but currently it seems to be the men at the top of the fashion industry encouraging some of these looks, and then women competing with each other to look the best.

    Reply
    • You name there some intruiging examples! I didn’t know about the poisonous mixture women once used…
      Fashion is such a demanding something, but still, if it would be only those men, it wouldn’t be such a great issue I think. They do give birth to a certain atmosphere in which eating disorders get the chance to grow, but it’s not just that.

      Reply
  4. Great topic. I have some additional thoughts to throw in the mix. I think “society” puts out all sorts of unrealistic and impossible to reach standards. The need to achieve this perfection fuels the engine. The message is, if you achieve the “perfect” body you’re loved and adored and envied.
    This is interesting… I once heard someone say that male designers (mostly Gay, let’s be honest) are threatened or turned off by the female curvy form and so they create looks that glorify more of a stick figure – when you’re rail thin you lose much of what makes you look female – let’s face it. Some of these tooth pick models could be 12 year old boys. It’s a very androgynous look and almost impossible to achieve — so much deprivation. Anyway, I realize this theory is a little far out but I do think that there’s way more psychology to society’s obsession with being rail thin.
    In today’s society our worth as a human being has an external focus which is really so unfortunate not to mention un-evolved.
    If you’re over weight the tabloids comment and if you’re underweight they comment – I think they make a lot of money on weight related topics. Nutrition, diets and exercise is a billion dollar industry. Many are fanning those flames and making money, you can be sure.

    And I agree with all of the above comments.

    Reply
    • That’s an interesting theory for sure!
      I forgot some other theories I read and heard about. Miuccia Prada for example claims that today’s youth just doesn’t have any ideals anymore, politically she meant. We do not have to fight for our rights or anything. All we have to do is be glamorous. The focus is all on looks. That’s what she points out as the reason for the growing eating disorder troubles.

      It’s so complex that we can’t just take one scapegoat. Watching everyone’s comments here shows that too I believe.

      Reply
  5. I think it is a vicious circle in which the current fashion trend setters and the media are mainly responsible. Let’s face it: you are lucky, you have a sensible head on your shoulders. Reality is: most people haven’t. They are run by their insecurities and their fears. That’s why they are unable to see the fact that those picture presented are photo-shopped in every way possible. And everybody who can make money from that will try to exploit it. Whether it is to sell you a magazine with hysteric articles about anorexia or diets.
    Here in GB runs a wonderful show with a guy who has been a stylist/fashion guru for many many years. His main goal in the past, I guess roughly, 5 years was to show women of all types how to look great and love their bodies no matter what.
    Recently he made a show around teenagers, wondering himself how much he might have contributed for them to believe they have to be slender/skinny. He talked to one girl who was constantly starving herself and editing her own pictures to what she thinks is her ideal weight. He looked at them sat down with her and told her that what she is trying to achieve is physically impossible no matter how thin she gets.
    After that I took her to a photo shoot. Showed her the girl that was modelling how she would look normally, then through the whole styling process, the photos shoot – explaining how they already with lighting tried to make her look different, and then how much the picture was changed on top of it. The girl broke down in tears because she didn’t know. Also in relief, realizing she doesn’t have to punish herself the way she does.
    People need to constantly be educated.
    In the hysterical way you were discribing – absolutely no. In general yes.
    As a little addition: I too have a healthy attitude towards my body. So I am lucky there too. I know if I don’t fit in a 38 – I don’t buy the piece of clothes. Because 38 is what should fit. 🙂

    Reply
    • Maybe we need more shows like that, even when reading I felt sad for the girl… And I’m happy that the guy succeeded in showing her reality! Unfortunately, as you say, not everyone realises how those things go…

      Great attitude :). And thanks for sharing your thoughts on this matter!

      Reply
  6. Very good read! I like this little pieces of you which show your aggressive side.

    I’m bothered by the blame because it seems like an excuse. People tell themselves they shouldn’t have to look that way, but in the meanwhile go in the complete opposite direction and balloon up in weight at times. Think about though. Do guys really fawn over models all that much? Most highly desired women have some meat on them. And if you’re one of those people who is obsessed with being perfect and looking a way you don’t agree a person should look like then you have more problems. How about you become interesting. People won’t be able to help but adore you no matter how 5 lbs overweight you are. Shut up. Diet if you want to be skinny so badly.

    But yes, I agree completely. I also heard AGL’s theory before. I think there was something added in it about trying to make straight guys go gay. Maybe that part takes it too far into a world of magic bullets and Sasquatches.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Moose!
      I totally agree on what you say – I don’t know a single guy who’s so badly into models. I guess they like some of them, when they see one… But hey, most straight guys don’t read fashion magazines at all.

      The theory of making straight men gay is rather funny though :). Maybe this matter’s too serious, but still, imagine how funny it would be if they succeeded all along!

      Reply

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