Size still matters in the fashion industry
In the last few years, the discussion about the body positivity movement has spiked the attention of the general public and the media. In particular, the debate is strictly connected to the fashion industry and the impact that it has on the perception that people have of their bodies. On the one hand, there are people who believe that this movement can promote a more inclusive society. On the other hand, there are people who believe that it is just a pretext not to focus on other more important matters. Some people even believe it encourages unhealthy lifestyles.
But what is the body positivity movement and what does it entail?
According to the BBC, the term body positivity means the general acceptance that all human beings deserve to have a positive body image of themselves, regardless of how society and popular culture view ideal shape, size, appearance, skin tone, and physical abilities. This movement has its historic origins at the beginning of the late 19th century, when women decided to proclaim their freedom with regard to what to wear, more specifically by refusing to modify their bodies through the use of corsets and tightlacing. However, it started to be the focus of the general public around 10 years ago. In 2012 the discussion started to be publicized even more due to social media culture. This movement as we know it today started as a form of protest against unachievable beauty standards.
One of the main propagators of such beauty standards, I believe, is the fashion industry.
A really simple example could be the process of hiring models for a runway. One of the most famous and well-known is the process of hiring models for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show. This show started in 1995 and since then promoted unrealistic and really specific beauty standards. The models in question were all thin, with an average height of 1.70, and mainly Caucasian. Nevertheless, in the past few years, Victoria’s Secret claims to be more inclusive.
Even if a lot of companies and brands state they are taking big steps towards inclusion and diversity in terms of different types of bodies, can we say that at this moment in time the fashion industry is 100% inclusive?
We need to remember that the fashion industry does not just consist of runways and fashion shows for haute couture and famous designers. The industry also entails the designing and manufacturing of the clothes that we all wear every day.
I am going to give you some practical examples from both the high-end and everyday fashion industry to illustrate whether, at least in these instances, the industry is taking these ‘big steps’ to become more inclusive.
CASE 1: Kim Kardashian and the MET gala
Kim Kardashian is an internationally known celebrity, business woman and content creator based in Los Angeles,. This year she was invited to attend the MET gala, an annual fundraising gala in New York, known to be one of the most prestigious fashion events in the world. She decided to show up wearing a beautiful dress that belonged to icon and actress Marilyn Monroe. But, the dress was actually too small for Kim, so she decided to follow a rigid liquid diet for a few weeks in order for it to fit. After Kim shared how she lost weight in an interview, people began to be outraged on account of her behavior. The community that stands with the body positivity movement believed that this episode was really problematic due to the ambiguous message it was sending out into the world and more specifically, to Kim’s followers.
I decided to ask a friend what she thought about this occurrence. ''People should not go on a diet because they do not fit in a dress, they should just change the dress’’, she said. I believe this is a clear example of how this episode could be proof that the fashion industry is not completely accepting of every type of body yet and even Kim Kardashian a well-respected public figure needs to fit in with these unattainable beauty standards.
CASE 2: Abercrombie & Fitch and discriminatory behavior
A few months ago, the new series White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch came out on Netflix. The series explained how this particular brand was targeting a specific type of customer and even future employees. The brand is also known for its preparatory looks aimed to attract white and fairly skinny individuals, even during the hiring process.
Multiple ex-employees claimed that they felt discriminated against by the company due to their appearance while working there. Despite the accusations raised by numerous individuals, the company to this day claims to be an inclusive brand both in terms of clothing sizes and their hiring process.
You are probably wondering: what can we do about these perpetuating physical stereotypes as individuals?
The most important thing you can do is to be informed on the topic. More precisely, I would suggest people educate themselves on the matter and try to be more aware of where they purchase their clothes and whom they look to as inspiration for their fashion choices.
You could also check out these body positivity influencers to stay up to date on the latest: Joann van de Herik, Danielle van Grondel, Ashley Graham, and Denise Mercedes and Maria Castellanos.
Would you like to share your story or your opinion about this topic? Just drop a comment down below.
By Lisa Scanu