While many of the writers, editors, stylists, designers and photographers in the fashion industry are far from ‘perfect’, they choose to project the image of ‘the ideal body’ on impressionable minds. Why is fashion ‘thin’ and what is its effect?
The definition of fashion is as follows; style in clothes, cosmetics, behaviour etc. esp. the latest or most admired style. ‘Admiration’ in the world of fashion lies far from the notion of coveting a particular item of clothing. Rather, when we admire fashion, we admire the images that fashion projects. Fashion is all about controlling how we are looked at; it is assumed that you can control or alter people’s first impressions of you by the clothing that you wear.
Fashion designers dress their muses in their creations and send the racehorses strutting down the catwalk in a flurry of cheekbones, hipbones and gleaming, pale skin. If there is any doubt that designers use models to tap into the desires of the target market, you need only compare the curvier models of American underwear monopolists Victoria’s Secret with the waifs of the trend led catwalks. Fashion models are walking coat hangers whose figures do not distract from the garments, whereas the lingerie models are chosen to embody ‘sexiness’ in order to sell provocative underwear.
This example shows the two images of perfection that we are inundated with. A: the sexy, toned and beautiful Barbie-doll aesthetic that has been around since our current hegemonic ideology has been upheld, or B: the bony waif depicted first in 1990’s grunge culture, perhaps sparked with photographer, Corinne Day’s penchant for heroin chic. An antithesis to the overdone glamour of previous editorials, Day portrayed candid documentation of drug abusers and more famously, heroin chic poster girl Kate Moss, infamously quoted for stating that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Far from conventionally pretty, Moss was just edgy, young and skinny. Nowadays, the criteria that distinguished Day and Moss from the rest are the status quo.
Models aren’t slender, they are skinny. The appeal of ‘A’ diminished as concave stomachs, visible ribcages and bony legs surpassed what was previously considered a ‘perfect body.’ Fashion editorials, runway coverage and the media as a whole turned to this stripped back aesthetic. A scrubbed-up heroin-chic that required dramatically thin measurements saw fully grown women in the public eye plummet to the weight of a twelve year old. 100 pounds, seemed like the golden goal.
Kelly Brownell, a US expert in eating disorders says that “the media contribute to a toxic environment in which eating disorders may be more likely to occur. This is because of the ‘Damaging Paradox’ of modern society.” The media promotes a low-weight, toned body and our current environment “provides an increasing array of foods high in fat and calories with compelling pressures to consume.” Consequently “the gap between the ideal and the normal body weight is giving rise to anxiety. We seek to reduce this anxiety by reducing our weight.”
In the online article The Media And Eating Disorders, Deanne Jade writes that “There is no doubt that the media provides significant content on body related issues to young women, over fifty per cent of whom read fashion and beauty related magazines. The exposure to ideal images coincides with a period in their lives where self-regard// is at its most fragile. Girls thus find themselves in a subculture of dieting, reflecting messages//from parents, peers, members of the opposite sex as well as the media.”
Today it is harder for women and men alike, to become satisfied with their body image as we aren’t living actively. It is tougher to maintain one’s figure in a modern society where we live online, eat out of packets and constantly compare ourselves with everybody else. It is not much of a surprise then that in this digital age, many young women have taken to the internet to encourage weight loss and engage competitively in the quest for ‘the perfect figure’. Whereas adults turn to Weight Watchers and the like for moral support; teens have a far more secretive and dangerous way of ‘tracking their progress’.
Online site, Tumblr has unwillingly bred a corner of cyber-space dedicated to ‘#proana’; where people swap ‘thinspiration’, diet tips and images of their ‘progress’. Typing ‘proana’ (which stands for pro-anorexia, which is unfathomable in itself) into the search box throws up thousands of images of models, fruit and ‘encouraging messages’. The blog titles range from ‘hip-bones-wanted’ and ‘only-fat-people-eat-bread’ to ‘reaching-double-digits’. The latter posted this message “Re-post if you’re an eating disorder blog so I can follow you.” Grids of the ABC diet (anorexia-boot-camp) encourage a 500 calorie-and-under diet plan that condones a fast every few days. Here, young people actively encourage each other to develop eating disorders. Even girls that do not partake in this kind of competitive dieting, feel the pressure. One girl that I spoke with says that online, it is virtually impossible to avoid pictures of ‘thinspiration’ even though she doesn’t actively search for them. She admitted that while she would like to look like the women in those images; it isn’t worth starving herself.