I don't think I have ever seen a visibly disabled person on any television or youtube advert for clothing. And while racial representation is still behind, disability representation is almost non-existent in comparison. Millions of people have to watch fashion shows or look at magazines and see no one that they can relate to or look up to. I find this almost unbelievable in a society that thrives to come across as more 'woke' than they are.
A Vogue article I have been reading touches on desirability. It seems blatantly obvious; with the practically impossible expectations and standards presented in the beauty/fashion world. A place that has always been incredibly narrowminded and has a twisted and unnatural view of 'perfection that the average person cannot achieve. This involves scrutiny of every aspect of the human body. Whether it's the size of your waist, the shape of your face, the tone of your skin, or even the length of your limbs. Unfortunately, a large number of models and celebrities claim that their bodies and faces can be obtained through natural hard work and dedication. Not even mentioning those who can afford the best products, dermatologists and, plastic surgeries.
So what happens to those who don't have a choice, who are born not looking like what society classes as normal? Or those who have lived their lives being societies 'normal' and something happened to them that was completely out of their control. Similar to race disability isn't a choice, and it's not a separate entity, it is a part of a human being. So lack of representation similar to other representations is also discriminatory and isolating.
The article in Vogue discusses children's perceptions of beauty, as well as body acceptance. Children are by far the most impressionable demographic, so it is critical to normalise the fact that everyone is different and that no one is superior to anyone in terms of being a human being. That everyone, regardless of shape, size, or skin tone, can be fashionable and beautiful. This will help change the narrative of people with disabilities and tackle stereotypes for future generations.
The Vogue article is from the perspective of someone who has a disability - Madison Lawson, who has progressive muscle loss. She discusses how people with disabilities form the largest minority group - 15 per cent of the planet. However, as she points out when it comes to telling their stories for such a large group their inclusion in telling them is non-existent. She then discusses authenticity and its lack, as well as the misconception that people with disabilities cannot live full, fulfilling lives like everyone else. She also talks about the misuse of the word 'bravery'. Which instead of coming across as a compliment, it can be seen a degrading and exposes a narrowminded preconceived thought of said 'brave person not being 'normal'.
The question I wanted to answer and the bigger picture I wanted to see was, "Who is fashion for?" Who are the 'perfect' smaller-sized models who wear mainstream designer clothing at fashion shows representing? What is the purpose of it? When fashion is meant to be a tool and a form of self-expression for all. In addition, the mainstream fashion industry is actively excluding a large number of consumers and markets. It is not only about the diversity of people in the industry, but also about how the clothes fit and are worn. Everyone should have the same opportunity to feel as if a garment is flattering on them and was designed specifically for their body type. Over the last few years, there has been a metaphorical opening of the eyes, with people and big names being held accountable. The industry still has a long way to go in terms of breaking out of its egotistical bubble and closing the gap between itself and the rest of the world in order to become more relatable.
Sade Tonga Majek