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Do We Underestimate How Much Fashion Affects Our Mental Health?

CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.

Fashion definitely plays a part to our self-esteem. From one outfit to the next, your mood changes. But sometimes, it comes at a valuable price – your mental health. And how often do people consider the link between fashion and mental health?

Fashion contributing to fatphobia

For as long as fashion has been an influence on people all over the world, up until the past few years, the industry has always been targeted towards skinny women. The word choice of ‘skinny’ is deliberate because if this was the early 2000s and you considered yourself as a slim woman, but you were a size twelve and you did not have the flattest stomach, you would be deemed fat by those in the fashion industry.

The media also played a heavy part in this. Many film or series that was released in the 1990s or the early 2000s, share a common scene where a woman would put on a pair of jeans and worriedly ask her husband if they made her bum look big.

If you were a plus sized young girl, seeing that on your TV screen would be your first inkling to knowing that the fashion industry looks down on people of your size. And seeing those kinds of attitudes in the media over several years is obviously going to take a toll on a young, impressionable person who does not have the socially accepted body type.

As much as a parent can tell their child that there is nothing wrong with being plus sized, if the media is repeatedly brandishing something else, the child is going to feel the pressure and that is when mental health issues can begin to unravel.

Impact on own clothes days

One fortunate thing to come from the Department of Education is their implementation of school uniforms. With school uniforms, there is less chance of bullying, and there is an unlikelihood for students to be discriminated on their social class, culture, or religion and succumb to peer pressure.

However, all that changes when it comes to non-uniform days. Non-uniform days are the most stressful occasions, not only for the students, but for the parents too.

Parents would be pressured to spend a large amount of money on an outfit only for them to wear once in the year. They give in to this, because they do not want to be responsible if their child gets bullied because they could not afford the latest fashion trend.

For a lot of teenagers, one of the main concerns when it comes to fashion is shoes. A teenager can shop at Primark, and it won't be a problem. The story changes if the teenager shops for shoes at Primark. Branded shoes such as Nike, adidas and Air Jordans do not come cheap. However, to avoid being picked on by your fellow classmates, those are the brands that must be worn on your feet to showcase your fashion sense.

Unfortunately, for the teenagers that are not fans of these brands or fans of the current popular shoes, they might still give in to the peer pressure just to avoid bullying. In other cases, there will be students that will turn up in their uniform and students who will not go to school to avoid the risk of being judged altogether.

Non-uniform days are meant to be fun, casual, and enjoyable occasions but sadly, that is not always the case for some, which results in them preferring to not wanting to take part to preserve their mental health.

Fast fashion and BBL culture

Recently, there has been a surge in BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift) culture, and it is being echoed through fast fashion.

For those that are not aware, a BBL is a surgical procedure that women undergo to achieve an hourglass figure. It usually consists of transferring fat from one area of the body to another.

A lot of the clothes that are now being produced by these fast fashion businesses, for example, PrettyLittleThing and Fashionnova, are all particular types of clothing. They are cut-outs, revealing or figure-hugging. A nice dress will have a cut-out underneath the breast area, or a dress will look simple from the front but then you see there is a large cut-out on the back. If the tops are not baggy, then they are extremely tight on the skin. And on top of that, the models that wear these clothes on the websites have the 'BBL type' of figure.

For these businesses to cater towards women who have that body type and are into clothes that are figure-hugging, they are not considering to how much their encouragement towards that compromises the mental health of women who do not have that body type. They also make shopping difficult for women who are not into that.

It is normal for a person to see something they like on a website, purchase it, try it on and discover that it does not suit them. However, it then becomes concerning when they begin to wonder whether the item doesn't suit them because they do not have the same body type as the model. Consequently, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and other issues could arise.

A lot of young women purchase from these fast fashion businesses because of how relatively affordable they are. Therefore, it is dangerous of these businesses to encourage BBL culture as they could influence women to risk their health to attain that type of body, just so they could look good in the clothes that they buy from them.

Should the fashion industry be more considerate?

The people closest to us suffer from the pressures of fashion much more than we realise. Even though it is not the responsibility of the fashion industry to become ambassadors of mental health. However, they should understand the depth of their influence that they have.

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