The Fashion Industry Only Pretends It Cares About Us
“For the first time ever” a plus-size clothing line appeared at New York’s recent Fashion Week. Fashion blogs and a number of media sites quickly dubbed the debut of an independent clothing line, Cabiria, as a sign that the industry is moving beyond its size-zero fixation and use of extremely thin, young models.
It is commendable to know that a new and up-and-coming designer, Eden Miller, was able to showcase her work in a very high-profile venue. But other signs suggest that the inclusion of Cabiria was only a token gesture. The fashion industry is not really changing its ways and becoming more accepting of different body types.
Cabiria was featured as one of six designers at the showcase for the Fashion Law Institute, a nonprofit based at Fordham University Law School that provides legal assistance to designers, models and others in the business. Several U.S. and international publications wrote about Caribia but, as Kurt Soller of New York Magazine’s The Cut says to The Atlantic Wire, ”Truthfully the fashion schedule is so busy . . . I think it’s really hard for a small brand to break through at something like New York Fashion Week.”
Soller also noted that “he hadn’t heard other fashion editors talking about the show, but to be fair, he hadn’t asked.” Given that the average American woman is a size 14, Soller’s comments hint at a deep-running inertia and indifference about body diversity in the fashion industry. Most models are still a size zero.
British Vogue Wants to Educate Us About How Fake Its Photos Are
At Fashion Week, showing clothes that actual women could actually wear isn’t the point. An “educational” campaign put together by British Vogue magazine to show teens that fashion shoots aren’t real reinforces the industry’s hypocrisy.
Just before the event, British Vogue sent a video and information — a “lesson plan” — to secondary schools in the U.K. to show that many steps and some 20 professionals (makeup artists, photographers, stylists, models and creative directors) are involved in making just one image. The message to 13-year-olds seems to be that it takes a lot of effort and personnel to make one glossy fashion photo.
This “lesson” is supposed to (according to British Vogue) ”reassure young people worried about their appearance that nobody looks that good in real life.” “Skill and artifice” are necessary to produce the images in a fashion magazine, Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, intones. After all (as she details in her lesson plan) “only a very small percentage of the population have the natural build and appearance of a model.”
In other words, sorry, girls, not only are you are not among the select elect with the “natural build and appearance” of Vogue’s models, but even those who do meet industry standards still don’t look “that good” until the makeup artists, creative directors, airbrush artists, etc. do their work.
As Holly Baxter writes in The Guardian, most teenagers are quite adept at manipulating images and equally aware that so much of what they see is digitally altered. The “lesson” that British Vogue seems intent on teaching is that, “since they know these images aren’t real, they should know better than to try to look like the women in them.” But the reality is that the fashion industry and the media have a huge effect on how women, young and old, perceive and judge their bodies. Plenty of studies have shown that young women are dissatisfied with their weight and appearance. Baxter cites research from the Girl Guides, which “reveals that half of 14- to 16-year-old girls says that ‘media influence’ was their reason for dieting.”
Baxter detects “something sinister” in British Vogue’s effort to “re-educate young people,” all so that it can still push a “damaging agenda”:
These magazines exist purely to dictate to their young audience, for a fee, what is beautiful, fashionable, desirable – and largely unattainable. Trying to tell us that their content shouldn’t change, but the attitudes of their disillusioned and apparently uneducated readership should, is depressing doublethink.
Teenagers know that the images they see are digitally enhanced, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to imitate them, too often with dangerous effects on their health.
It is hardly surprising to see the fashion industry airbrushing its image, by appearing to include plus-size clothing and “educating” teenagers about its admittedly deceptive ways. There are plenty of independent designers out there who make clothes for actual women, some of whom run one-women operations out of their homes. You probably haven’t heard of them as they’re not showing their work at high-profile industry events that give only lip service to making clothes that we can actually wear.
Photo from Thinkstock