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The level of body image diversity in fashion

Naivety is a prominent mentality in modern society and media when it comes to the impact of body image. As the media bombard the public with advertisements or articles that convey the perfect figure – a body image that the majority of people do not see when they look in the mirror each day.

The size discrimination of fashion shows

Petite, tall and plus-size are titles of how modern society categorises a person’s physical size.

But does the size of a person restrict their opportunities?

There is a level of exclusivity and judgement when it comes to evaluating body image. An exclusivity which controversially transfers to the modelling sector. As 89% of women who participated in a Simply Be study claimed that their body type does not get represented in catwalks.

London Fashion Week has given women the chance to call out this lack of diversity, seeing a group of ‘plus-sized’ models protest phrases such as “fashion should empower us”, and “our beauty is immeasurable”. With the intent shown to stand up for the average women and average UK dress size.

For years catwalks have favouritised a slimmer figure, coming to the expense of plus-sized demographic who may self-doubt their appearance. Yet still, designers are missing out on the plus-sized sector which has a predicted 7.1% demand increase by 2022. So to neglect the plus-sized trend and models is a real negative strategy.

At 10 fashion shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan, it is clear why protests are becoming a regularity as only 14 plus-sized models were represented in castings. The minimalistic figure shows a disregard to the plus-sized models, thinking they are not good enough or suitable for positions.

Although, spring 2019 had seen that representation increased ten-fold, with 54 plus-size model castings in total. Still, with that improvement those plus-sized models only equal 0.73% in the total model castings. Which unfortunately shows the drastic improvements to be made to provide equal opportunities for all models. With such a limited representation of results, plus-sized women will feel discriminated for who they are and seemingly not good enough for a modelling career.

The colour discrimination of fashion shows

For many years, designers have favoured a certain demographic of model to represent their brand at catwalks. Which has shown a level of bias ignorance and disregard to models of different ethnicities. As at the 2016 spring fashion shows, 78.2% of all models were white with only 21.8% non-white. With that damning statistic, it clearly outlines unequal opportunities and unfair treatment for the non-white community for modelling positions.

However in spring 2019, worldwide fashion shows began to make positive efforts to change the lack of diversity within model castings. As across 229 catwalks and 7,431 runway castings found that 36.1% of all models represented at New York, London, Paris and Milan were non-white. This showed a clear intent to challenge the wrong doings of previous years, giving greater chances to all models. The industry still needs a lot of major work to become fully diverse, as only until the moment when the colour of a person is given an equal opportunity as another, the industry can truly thrive.

The transgender and non-binary community

Everyone in the modern day should be able to express themselves for who they are and what they are. Regardless of whether a person is transgender or non-binary, they should be accepted. The fashion industry is no different, everyone should express themselves and not feel judged or restricted.

It can be argued that the transgender and non-binary community have been wrongly overlooked for modelling castings. In spring 2016, across 10 fashion shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan, only 6 transgender and non-binary models were represented.

That statistic shows the disregard for this community, by not giving them a fair or equal opportunity to succeed. Though in spring 2019, the number of transgender and non- binary models increased to 91. Which shows a greater level of acceptance in the modelling industry by not limiting someone for their beliefs or background.

As a result, the greater volume of transgender or non-binary models, the greater belief in the minds of the public to feel comfortable in themselves. The transgender or non-binary models can act as an inspiration or role model to many of how to love yourself for who you are.

The social media age

Over 500 million people mindlessly scroll down their Instagram feed each day. More often than not, users will follow some of the 500,000 Instagram influencers to act as a role model. With the prime audience of these influencers being teens, were 72% of whom use the application and can be easily influenced.

Could social media be the biggest negative for how people view their own body image?

Instagram influencers are a big part of life today as we know it. Their body image, appearance and actions are constantly under the spotlight each day. Though, negativity can become prominent in the minds of people when looking at these influencers. Comparing their own body image and style, believing it is not good enough and a change needs to be made. Taking measures such as fitness, cosmetics, and starvation to attempt to look like their idols. Although influencers appearance can be romanticized with unrealistic beauty or fit through Photoshop that fans fall for.

Boohoo partner with influencers to capitalise on the power they have over their followers. By influencers promoting the brand or release of new products, interest in Boohoo will raise. As the minds of followers will think, if they want to look like their idol, they must invest in the brands they promote.

But do influencers believe in the brand they are promoting or are they just doing it for the pay cheque?

The purchase of fashion

Purchasing items online can cause controversy in the minds of consumers. As the modelling of items usually comes from a model of a certain size or figure which the majority of consumers are not. A strategy that glamorises the item, showing the perfect fit and representation. Convincing consumers to think if the item suits the model, it will suit me which results in a purchase.

Though once when items are delivered, they can show the opposite reflection to the representation of the model. The item may instead not fit or suit the consumer the way it does on the model, causing self-doubt about body image. Instead clothing brands should change how they advertise each item.

Adopting numerous models of different body types to wear the same item. This would allow ease of comparability for the consumer to themselves and the model. By knowing exactly what the item looks like on someone of similar build, understanding whether it is suitable for purchase.

The consumer shopping habits reflect browsing at different brands to find items of personal style satisfaction. An aspect of certainty should be the consumers size of clothing. But that is not the case. The female sizing of 8, 10 and so on is where similarities end, as clothing designers have differing adaptations to the sizing of items. That level of size unpredictability brings the subconscious thought in consumers of body deterioration if they are a larger size. But that is not the case, each brand has differing outlooks of item sizing which causes more harm than good.

The ease of shopping for fashion

Shopping is getting easier regardless of a person’s size of figure. With the clothing categories of petite, tall and plus-sized it reduces size complications whilst giving an opportunity to find clothes to fit certain body types. Whereas ASOS and Boohoo provide great variety in styles for male, female or unisex providing a level of diversity and choice to allow for clothing to express identity. Also, the use of online shopping gives consumers accessibility to any brand or clothes they want. Providing a great incentive to get fashion to their door in a matter of days or no extra cost.

It is not about the consumers adapting their appearance, it should be the fashion industry adapting for the consumers.


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