We are used to seeing one type of body and aesthetic on the runway and this is tall, thin and conventionally attractive. Growing up this was always the aesthetic young girls would aim for. It is all we are seeing in high-street windows and on the cover of magazines. This can be extremely damaging to adolescents as their bodies are changing out of their control. They are seeing unattainable body types displayed as the 'ideal'. Let's discuss why the fashion industry needs to become more inclusive, providing positive role models for young girls especially.
"People often think about fashion as if it's just about the surface of things. But there's often a very dark side to the life of a designer. The reason the clothes are influential is because of what they are covering up." Justine Picardie, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life
The exclusivity of the fashion industry begins within. Their is extreme pressure in this industry as it is fast-paced with only three weeks between collections as fast-fashion takes over. This high pressure environment takes a strain on your mental health, with many people in the industry turning to drug use and alcohol consumption as a way to cope with the pressure.
People within creative industries such as the fashion industry are 25% more likely to develop mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. This is a shocking statistic that could be prevented through management, inclusivity and support within the industry.
Feeling like you are disposable
The fashion industry is very competitive and a field that is very hard to get into. This can create a lot of pressure as people start to feel disposable in the industry and insecure in their job. The modelling world is an example of this competitiveness. The fashion industry have been known to promote unhealthy standards with the idealistic body type being a promotion of extreme thinness. The International Journal of Eating Disorders found that Over 62% of models polled were asked to lose weight or change their body type by their agency or someone in the industry. This is an overwhelmingly high number, especially considering that most of these women are already considered underweight by World Health Organisation standards. This is highly damaging as this is these women's lively hoods, they will go to extreme lengths to find jobs. This would have a huge toll on your mental well-being with no energy to do the long shifts that they are expected to do, these women become strained and disposable.
Sara Ziff, an American model, founded Model Alliance in 2012. An organisation that advocates for equal opportunity and fair practices in the fashion industry. Ziff recognises that it is not just the fashion industry itself this has an impact on, but it also affects everyday, working people. Models are very visible from social media to shop windows. They influence the beauty ideal and can create unrealistic standards through the facade of the glitz and glamour of the fashion world.
How can the fashion industry support mental well-being?
To tackle the mental health of the public affected by the fashion industry, they needs to become a safer, responsible environment. An environment that advocates for body positivity, inclusivity and mental well-being. As while we see the glamour of the fashion industry plastered over social media, it does not feel like a welcoming, safe environment to be part of.
We are seeing some change in how inclusive some brands and companies are being with a 'trend' to show imperfections and the reality of bodies on social media. This is a great step as people are seeing behind the facade of the glamour of social media, disconnecting it from real life. This provides a catalyst for change as people become less insecure of imperfections as they see their favourite model or influencer embracing them. This normalises different bodies, dismissing the 'idealistic, perfect body type'.
How are brands promoting inclusive fashion?
The online retailer ASOS promotes diversity and inclusivity by using diverse body types to model their clothing. Even using customers own photos on their website. This is really refreshing to see, especially from an online retailer where the clothes aren't always the same in person as they appear online. By using 'homemade' photos to advertise their clothes it gets the consumer involved. We are given a more realistic vision of what clothes are supposed to look like. This prevents the extreme standards that we may strive towards in order to look like the models on our screen.
Is this all for show?
While it is great to see brands like ASOS being body positive and inclusive, I wonder if this is enough? Being inclusive in the fashion industry almost feels like a trend. When scrolling through ASOS now, it may be a while before you find diverse people modelling their clothes. Instead the 'idealistic' body type seems to be back in style. This raises the question, is the industry doing enough? Or is it a vicious cycle?
The 'trendiness' of different body types can be just as damaging for your mental health as just seeing one body type portrayed in the media. This can create a feeling of being disposable; a particular body type is celebrated for a short term while others are shamed. This cycle is toxic and can cause pressure to confirm to the current ideal.
To see a positive change we need to see a change of ideology within the fashion world. Supporting different body types is great! But not when it is used as a short-term marketing ploy. While it is the fashion industry that needs to change its deep rooted attitude towards women's bodies, we as the public can offer a positive mindset. To see this shift in ideology we have to be unapologetically proud and confident in our own skin. Every body is unique and amazing in their own way even if it is not the one being represented. By promoting inclusivity in the fashion world, we can tackle unrealistic conventions that can take a toll on our mental well being. Be the change you wish to see!