The ‘F’ Word

Fashion, we see it everywhere! In magazines, on TV, on billboards, in shop windows and even walking down our local high-street. Yes clothes, shoes and accessories are pretty to look at and even better to own but the world of fashion does not come without its highly controversial issues.

Before we start! Yes, there are models who work incredibly hard through blood, sweat and tears to attain a super model worthy figure rather than starving themselves on thin air. In comparison to malnourished, skinny models the Victoria Secret models promote a healthy lifestyle through gruelling gym sessions and lean eating, setting a good example for us amateur gym buffs. In return for their dedication and determination they have lean  never ending legs and tight, toned tums, and we can do nothing but admire they’re goddess like beauty! Also, yes there has been the introduction of plus size models into the fashion world. They have been filtered into mainstream adverts and campaigns giving consumers a choice of the ideal body type. The exhibition of curvaceous, plus sized models increases ‘awareness of differing body shapes, which helps people see that there, is not one idealised form’. But is it just me or are the majority of models still tall, slender and slight? Is this still the idealised body type?

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The beautiful diversity of women. Victoria Secret Models in the background and the Dove girls in the foreground.

The fashion industry epitomises a world filled with perfection and it is ‘heavy in its immediate impact on the public’ (Ironside, 1962, 14).However, this is also a critique on how perceptible and vulnerable we are as the public, we are happy to tag on to all the popular phads and phases of juice detox’s to heavy gym sessions in aim of building what we see as the perfect figure. We see those models parading the catwalk and covering pages of magazines and lets not kid ourselves we all wish we had their slender legs or toned tums. Consumers of fashion not only want the clothes but they want the look, the figure, they want to buy into the whole vision. For fashion designers beauty sells, beauty promotes their lines and collections and ultimately this has created an unattainable image worldwide.

Although for models there are peaks to the high life such as pay cheques and VIP access to lavish parties, there is also a not so glamorous side to the industry. The constant pressure to maintain the ideal image and make the cut ‘can lead to eating disorders, mental health issues, body mutilation, and even suicide’. It has been known that models have been under such intense pressure to remain abnormally thin that they have starved themselves for days or even eaten tissue paper. Former editor of Vogue Kristie Clement informs us that this is not unusual behaviour for models and they often end up in hospital on a drip due to malnourishment. However, matters can become much more severe if models persist with this behaviour, one deeply saddening example of this is 22 year old, Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos who died of anorexia related heart failure just minutes after stepping off the runway. Six months after her death her sister Eliana Ramos was also reported dead due to a heart attack, reportedly eating nothing days before her tragic death.

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As most of you have probably noticed, body envy isn’t just for women anymore! Men are ‘bombarded by the sport they watch, the advertisements they see in magazines, and actors in television on the big screen‘. Society’s ideal built, muscular figure is everywhere they look from Beckham’s briefs campaign to the ‘ABulous’ Abercrombie ads! There is constant pressure for them to have that beach ready figure, even if it is -5° outside.

As it is less of a gossip subject for the media we are less aware of men facing these problems. Statistics tell us that it is in fact statistically shown that boys suffer from body anxiety more than women as 38% of men would sacrifice at least a year of their life in exchange for a perfect body (a higher percentage than women). A victim of ‘Manorexia’ was Jeremy Gillizter, a male model. He was said to be sculpted by the gods with a ‘stunning good look and a six pack’. However, things took a drastic turn in his late thirties when he was weighed in at a mere 66lbs, the tragedy of his death ensued as he was ‘ravaged by anorexia’ at just 38. The image below shows the shocking deterioration in his physique due the pressures from the fashion industry.

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Yes we are aware it is up to designers who they chose to model there clothes dependent upon who they think will best sell their line. Remember models are made to fit clothes, clothes are not made to fit models and ‘have often been called ‘hangers’ for this precise reason’. This reinforces the idea that models are valued as objects within the industry, as if they do not fit a particular garment then they are quickly replaced by something new and shinier. This highlights the intense pressure upon models in this industry and implies that it is in fact the designers who are to blame, not the models. Models merely try to live up to the demand of the industry, tarnishing them with the title of bad role models.26

Due to the public’s admiration for models physiques this attitude can unfortunately rub off onto consumers, illustrating how people feel the need to live up to the unrealistic standard as ‘the gaunt youthful model supplanted the happy housewife as the arbiter of successful womanhood’ (Wolf,1991, 11). Worryingly, the idea that the pressure of the ideal image is rubbing off onto the public is reinforced by 33 thousand American women telling researches ‘that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal’ (Wolf, 1991, p10). There is too much focus on fixing our flaws, girls are either too fat and should trim and tighten, or are too skinny resembling an ironing board due to their lack of curves. Whereas for boys its all about bulking and building to get that those ripped abs.

We see a models perfect physique and want to know where we can get one! Don’t get me wrong, aiming for self improvement is nothing but admirable but be careful, don’t set your sights on the unrealistic, unhealthy and unattainable! Remember there is no ideal!

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The Facet of Celebrity Role Models

We are all guilty of having those celebrities that we’ve looked up to since we were kneerole-models high; wanting to look like, dress like and act like them. Yes, we all claim that we wouldn’t mind looking like the Jennifer Anniston’s and David Beckham’s of the world, but how much do we actually mean it? Maybe we’d consider a few more squats towards our J-Lo like figure at the age of 40, or apply a few more face masks trying to prevent those ever impending wrinkles. But when does admiration cross over into obsession? In extreme cases certain people admire celebrities so much so that they epitomise their whole appearance as perfect. Not only do they aspire to live the lavish lifestyle of the celebs but they also go to the extremes to look like them. During my research for this blog I was truly shocked by the amount of people who had gone under the knife with the hope of waking up looking like their favourite celeb. I was aware of these ‘big fangirl’ obsessions that people had with celebrities and public figures but I was unaware of how extensive some of these obsessions could be! People have gone to such lengths and spent great amounts of money with the hope of looking like Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt and even non- human characters such as Jessica Rabbit and the action man, Ken. This reinforces a point made by Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth as she states that ‘The ‘ideal’ has become at last fully inhuman'(Wolf, 1991, 234). This point suggests that peoples ideal appearances are becoming so unnatural that they are inhuman as they can only be achieved through plastic surgery.

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Jordan James Parke before surgery

Jordan James Parke (to the left), aged 23, from Manchester, spent a whopping $150,000 on plastic surgery just to look like his icon from the states, the infamous Kim Kardashian. His surgeries consisted of botox, eyebrow tattoos, laser hair removal and also lip fillers. However, it did not stop there! Jordan would not allow Kim K to outshine him in the fashion department therefore resulting in him spending thousands more dollars in order to impersonate her fabulous designer wardrobe. Contemplating the possibility of a nose job, Jordan claims that a few more surgeries will entail before his final look is Kardashian enough. Jordan told the The Sun  “I love everything about Kim. She’s the most gorgeous woman ever. Her skin is perfect, her hair, everything about her”. He continues stating how he is all about the ‘shock factor’, he welcomes the hate thinking of it as nothing more other than further attention, spurring him on to continue with the cosmetic surgery. He laughs off insults regarding his plastic look, asking ‘Do they think I’m going for the natural look? If I was, I’d ask for my money back.’

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Below is a short clip of Jordan James Parke on ‘Itv this morning’. He discusses his procedures, the reasons behind them and also why he wishes to look like Kim Kardashian. Jordan also very recently appeared on Katie Pipers channel 4 show Bodyshockers: Nips, Tucks and Tatoos (find the link to the show in the article section of my site).

‘I finally look like Justin Bieber’, rejoices 33 year old Toby Sheldon. Aspiring singer-songwriter Toby Sheldon from Los Angeles has spent $100,000 since 2012 to look like pop idol Justin Bieber. He has had several surgeries including hair transplants, chin reduction, eyelid surgery and face fillers, all with the intentions of looking like Justin Bieber as he claims that Bieber ‘had this baby face that I just really liked,’. His obsession with cosmetic surgery began at the age of 23 when his hair began thinning but his fixation intensified greatly when baby faced Bieber hit the stage.

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Toby’s before and after surgery shots.

Interestingly, Sheldon wasn’t Justin Biebers ultimate fan. He wasn’t one amongst hysterical fans screaming and shouting ‘WE LOVE YOU JUSTIN’. Bieber hitting the big time ensured his face was everywhere! Every time Toby saw Justin’s picture all he could think was ‘I want to look like him’. He may not have been the biggest fan of Justin’s whole brand but he definitely wins the no.1 spot for Bieber’s biggest look alike wannabe. Toby Sheldon appeared on the TV programme ‘My Strange Addiction’ (the below link) discussing his addiction, the process of achieving his fresh baby faced look and the reasons behind the changes he has made.

Overall, it is clear that the majority of people look up to and admire celebrities and public figures, wishing that we could be as photogenic as Kate Moss or as sculpted as Bradley Cooper. Peoples admiration is generally expressed through copying a celebrities dress sense or hair style, playing their music or buying their calender at Christmas, but it seems that some people take their admiration/obsessions in a different direction! As we have seen in this blog, it is evident that people can admire individuals to such an extent that not only do they wish to live their lavish lifestyle, they also want to have the matching face to go along with it! They view their celebrity idol as perfection, so much so that they themselves also want to achieve such perfection by looking as much like them as medically/scientifically possible. anigif_enhanced-5524-1412292196-1 Regarding any other examples mentioned in this blog post, I will post links to articles and videos on the Article section of my blog. Look out for the next post on 18th March, looking at controversy surrounding the ideal image in the fashion industry! Keep updated and follow me on twitter @Jones94L.

Maybe she’s born with it? Maybe it’s photo shopped?

anigif_enhanced-27281-1392321961-12Maybe she’s born with it? Yeah right! Has it ever crossed your mind- why the people covering the pages of glossy magazines or why those on the big screen look much leaner, longer and lavish than us average folk? Do you wonder why their cheekbones are much more defined? Why their hair is much sleeker and shinier?  Or how they have fewer than four wrinkles? There is one simple answer to these questions, the art of Photo-shopping; The master of manipulative technology!

Magazines can be heavily criticised as realistically they “Fail to reflect our lives” and “Fail to reflect what we actually look like”. Models are beautiful in their own natural right, so why should we alter them? Why should we make them look a few pounds lighter? Why should we elongate their legs and frame?

Today in our present society magazines are presenting and advertising a certain type of body image which is far from natural. Don’t get me wrong, the final shots printed in a magazine mostly always appear flawless, but they are not portraying what was really in front of that camera lens. The finished article from a photo shoot is technically art; It is the editor’s perception of beauty, the editor’s view of the perfect appearance. Although in the public we are well aware that photo shopping does occur everywhere, I am not convinced that we know just how far the process of photo shopping can actually go. Yes, models are made to look as light as a feather and yes they have perfect, blemish free skin but photo shopping can go much further than that. This is perfectly illustrated in this video, showing the process of photo shopping, illustrating just how unrealistic our views on body image can be!

Body Evolution- Model before and after

Photo shopping doesn’t just occur in fashion magazines, it’s on videos, the TV and even your favourite brands on-line site! This shot clearly shows the ‘digital slim-down’ Britney’s body underwent via CGI (computer generated imagery). This illustrates how the media is reinforcing and also normalising “a distorted idea of “average”. This introduces the idea of the photo shopped ‘thinspiration’, as the media is representing the average woman as much thinner than the vast majority of the population. However, the real truth of the matter is that “not everyone realises exactly how much these images are changed to fit some seriously un-human and unrealistic ideals that we view over and over”. In these before and after shots it is perfectly illustrated that the “feminine ideal is tanned, healthy slenderness, with no unsightly bumps, bulges or cellulite, and bodily and facial perfection that results from hours of labor: exercise, makeup and hair care” (Coward, 1985).

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Before and after shot from Britney Spears 2013 music video ‘Work B****’.

The idea of the ‘thinspiration’ is when members of the public drool and fixate over models or celebs. They long to have that slender frame with a flat toned stomach, those long defined pins or even the increasingly popular thigh gap.  Although the problem arises when they spot there so called ‘thinspiration’ in the latest edition of Vogue or Elle, as the beauty they see and desire is achieved via photo shopping. Therefore, it is a highly unrealistic goal. As both women and men are digitally altered, consequently so are our perceptions of “normal, healthy, beautiful and attainable” .

5b85e2d3f33ae3a33324e34b76547d51People have recently caught on to the worrying idea that celebs might now be editing and photo shopping there own photos for their own social media sites. I’m not sure what is more concerning… The fact that celebrities such as Kim K (shown above) feels the need to edit her daily selfie? Or the idea that younger generations and fandoms who obsess over such celebs may be influenced by these misleading shots? In the photo above – the right photo is a photo posted online by Kim Kardashian, in this photo she appears to look thinner, more slight and also have a smaller waist in comparison to the photo on the left which shows her out and about that same day. Do these celebs ever think of the example they are setting for younger generations eager to follow there footsteps? Or is their biggest concern looking their best? Even if that does mean digitally shedding a few pounds.

The worrying thought is that it seems that the trend of editing your own selfies has rubbed off onto young teens, who also feel the need to photo shop as they do not meet the media’s representation of ‘average’. Target-Photoshopping It is saddening to see that the pressure of looking good and achieving that ideal image leads to the photo shopping of day to day photos. But how can the younger generations be blamed for falling for the media’s manipulation and brainwashing when it even occurs in something as basic as Target’s (American retailing company) swimwear line? The changes the editors made such as the ‘thigh gap’ and removal of the so called ‘bingo wing’ stand out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately, “this case study is pretty representative of thousands more that appear in magazines, on billboards, in advertisements, in stores and everywhere else you can think of every single day”.

This clip below shows four women taking part in a photo shoot experiment. They had their hair and make up professionally done to star in a professional photo shoot. The shots from the shoot were then retouched by an expert with the aim of making the women look like ‘Cover girls’. I feel that their comments speak volumes as they’re voicing the opinions that thousands of others shares- “It can be hard when you see models and celebrities and you just don’t look the same”. In their words, it is important to remember that “the ideal just doesn’t exist”.

Four women’s reaction to being photo shopped

To end on a happy note, lets all take a leaf out of Kara Zeschbach and Janet Sahm’s book, as Ashley Crouch tells us the founders of Verily magazine want us to remember that “the unique features of women, whether crows feet, freckles, or a less-than-rock-hard body, are aspects that contribute to women’s beauty and should be cleberated- not shamed, change or removed” (Crouch, Huffington Post, 2013). anigif_enhanced-28107-1392324889-5 In my next post I will be looking at how people see perfection in their celebrity role models and how in some cases the idea of ‘copy cat’ fashion can be taken to the extreme. In the mean time, don’t forget to follow me on twitter @Jones94L  Thanks for reading, until next time!

Is there such a thing as ‘perfect’?

It seems that there is no sole decider of the ingredients for the ‘perfect image’. The majority of society merely seems to idolise a particular image as the ‘ideal image’ . But, why does the ideal image fluctuate? It seems that as a whole, the public is very easily influenced by new popular fads and phases which ensue throughout history.

Looking back through history it is apparent to see that both men’s and women’s ideal appearance have significantly varied between periods and social cultures. This is evident by looking at the differences between popular icons at certain points throughout history. Popular celebrities acted as so called ‘image inspiration’ to the public- once one person copied, the majority followed. It is interesting to see just how quickly these trends came into fashion and how quickly they became outdated, replaced by a new shinier image flaunted by the next ‘it’ celeb. In the space of just ten years, between 1950 and 1960, women’s image reformed from the Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly inspired busty, voluptuous hourglass figure to the thin and androgynous look sported by Twiggy.  (Below- Marilyn Monroe & Twiggy).


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                                                                                     Marilyn Monroe

twiggy            Twiggy


The contrast between the 50’s and 60’s idealised images shows a big jump, from full figured women to the more slight and slender frame. The new 60’s iconic image was essentially a complete reversal of the 50’s, voluptuous figures had effectively been replaced by a small framed, small chested, short haired, boyish looking style. It is interesting to see that there is such a big contrast between the style icons appearances within the space of just ten years. This highlights the fickleness of the public, media, and also the modelling world, as all aspects possess the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ attitude.

Within our present society, the ideal body image centres around the whole ‘is it healthy debate?’. Therefore people of who are deemed to be at a normal, healthy weight and size are left well alone. Recently it has been more evident that the more curvy, voluptuous figures have also been accepted by society, as long as the ‘plus size’ is seen as healthy. The acceptance of the plus size lady is illustrated through the creation of a “normal sized” Barbie. The new realistically proportioned Barbie has been created due to the thought that the tall, slender Barbie of the past may negatively influence young girls into thinking that this is a realistic goal of appearance. After all, if we are criticising skinny models for negatively influencing younger generations, how can we risk the toys that they play with growing up having the same effect. (The picture below shows both the old and newly created Barbie.)



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Interestingly, the evolution of the male body can also be portrayed through action figures. The evolution of the GI Joe figures (displayed in the below picture) shows how the perceptions of how the males ideal body has changed over time. Also, both Action figures and Barbies show how we are influencing the younger generations to view themselves, as these figures display societies view of the ideal image.


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Interestingly, it is not only different time periods that have idealised certain images and fashions, it is apparent that different countries also have different preferences when it comes to the perfect image. This is illustrated in a fantastic post on Buzzfeed in which a photograph of a woman was photo shopped in over 25 countries in order to examine Global Research Standards. It is fascinating to see what different nationalities idealise as perfect and also to see how much certain countries changed in comparison to others.


original-1280-1403719608-3http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleyperez/global-beauty-standards#.sp5lmbXdj


Despite many comments arguing that the poor quality of the photo shopping takes away from the concept of the project, I feel that this is still a great representation of how different cultures have different perceptions of the perfect image. To achieve beauty countries such as Ukraine, Romania and Vietnam found the more natural look most appealing. Whereas it seems, the more developed the nation the more they changed the woman’s appearance, for example, the USA- as both of the two photo shops are drastically different from the original.

Overall, there are different perceptions of the perfect image throughout history and across the world. This is portrayed in numerous aspects of life including popular models throughout history, different tastes across the world and also the portrayal of objects as simple as children’s action figures. This post clearly demonstrates how very different peoples visions of perfection can actually be and that realistically there is ultimately no single definition of perfection.