This blog has touched diversity (physically and racially) in the fashion industry. In that post, I merely skimmed the surface of two issues still plaguing the industry today, societal perceptions on what is deemed beautiful and fashionable. Let’s revisit the stigma surrounding body image.
When did it all begin? When did society stop accepting full-bodied women as acceptable images of beauty in the fashion industry? Back in the glory days of old kings and queens ruled the classes, full figured women were viewed more favourably than the skinny “heroin chic” accepted by society as the fashion norm back in the 90s. A full-bodied woman portrayed the image of prosperity and wealth as they could afford to actually eat…and eat well. Their much skinnier counterparts were deemed sickly, potential victims of disease and most definitely of a lower class. Of course today, such a system no longer exists; the poor can be full-bodied or skinny and the rich can be skinny or full-bodied. But when did society’s perception change? It could be during the Roaring 20s, when flapper fashion was all the rage, magazines began using actual photographs instead of drawings, showing the body image ideal as pre-pubescent (read: thin arms, no hips). Women strived to be like the women in Vogue, thin and luxurious. But later eras, like the 50s and 60s, where of full-figured female icons showed great prominence; Bettie Page, Jane Mansfield, and Sophia Loren.
Where did it all go wrong? I’ll tell you. Kate Moss and heroin chic. Don’t get me wrong I love, love, love Ms. Moss (or should I say Mrs. Jamie Hince?) and it’s not her fault. It’s the media — who pushed and pushed for this look, unattainable by most women, to be accepted as a societal norm within the industry. Young girls began to try and attain an image that they could possibly never become, yet it was something that they strived for because the images they looked to told them to. So that was then. What’s happening now?
Just recently, boundary pushing editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, lured the fashion world’s attention to Vogue Italia’s June cover. The fashion bible’s June issue featured three plus-sized models in sultry, black lace lingerie casually lounging at a restaurant table photographed by the great Steven Meisel. The cover speaks volumes –the way Sozzani intended it to. Sozzani and Vogue Italia has been a global pioneer in pushing the use of plus-size models in the industry with the promotion of V Curvy, a page dedicated to the promotion of full-figured influential women in today’s culture. Sozzani has also created a petition to shut down websites that promote anorexia and for young girls “to be competitive with their body image”.
On a national front Ben Barry Agency is the first modelling agency in the world to represent models of all sizes, ages, ethnic backgrounds and abilities. Barry is truly paving way for the “real” women to portray fashions bought by today’s real women. In addition to his forward thinking modelling agency, Barry has supported creation and launch of the first charter in North America to promote healthy and diverse representations of women in the media. With the help of Canadian plus-size top model, Liis Windischmann, the Ben Barry Agency looks to change society’s perception of body image, diversity and the representation of women within the fashion industry.
More organizations around the world are putting in great efforts to fight the issue of body image and how women are perceived in the fashion industry. For example, just recently, the federal government in Australia has put their support behind a voluntary code of conduct on body image in the fashion and advertising industries. The code urges designers to not use models with a dangerously low body mass index; Madrid and Milan introduced the body mass index specification many years ago, when distorted perceptions of body image first began. And few years back, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) created a Health Initiative to raise awareness of eating disorders in the fashion industry and change the perceptions of body image in America. This initiative was recently strengthened with the support of American Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, fashion designer Michael Kors and a few models willing to speak of their experiences; Natalia Vodianova, Kim Noorda and Coco Rocha. In addition, international and national brands are also taking steps to promote positive body image to its customers; I’m sure everyone has seen Dove Beauty Campaign viral video, which really put into perspective what real women were dealing with, and clothing brand JACOB’s No Retouching Policy on their website.
Despite the pioneers and current initiative for change to promote a healthier body image in the fashion industry, there’s still a long way to go. I await the day when any woman, no matter what body type, can look at a magazine and say, “my peep-toes would look great with that dress”, because a real woman would really pull it off.
So what’s the word? How do you feel about body image and its portrayal in the fashion industry? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below; we’d love to hear from you!
photo and video credits: all images hyperlinked
^AMSocial tagging: American Vogue > beauty > body image > CFDA > Dove > fashion > fashion industry > plus size models > vogue italia