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?
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.
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.
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.
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!