It’s my favourite time of year! Fashion Weeks all over the globe. Lovely. Inspiration and fun everywhere. Autumn issues of proper fashion magazines are heavy with beauty and ideas. The press is full of glorious and mind-blowing takes on how to clothe bodies.
And the inevitable whining about “aspirational” body images, the potential for exacerbating eating disorders and models who are “too skinny.”
As Hadley Freeman points out in this Guardian article, it’s a bit simple to point to Vogue as the cause of a mental illness but seriously, why all the hate for designers using models who make their clothing ideas look good? The creations that go down those catwalks aren’t bought by – or even manufactured for – the high street. They are inspiration, and couture; key elements of what is shown there filter down to the mainstream over the coming weeks, months and seasons. Take away the aspiration, inspiration and the beauty, and you’ve pretty much buggered up the clothing industry. Let’s all shop at Evans* and camping stores and feel no joy in the garments with which we choose to clothes our bodies.
The protestations that the unattainable standards are adversely affecting women’s views and care of their bodies don’t really hold water when the majority of people in the UK (and let’s not start on America) are overweight, with a frightening proportion actually being obese and morbidly obese. No, it isn’t pretty and no, it shouldn’t be comfortable to look at – or the norm.
As a clothing designer and maker and one-time owner of a shop that sold other people’s designs as well as my own, I learned the hard way that larger size models don’t sell the clothing. Those images won’t appeal to the customers who would otherwise be in the market for the clothing and because larger size people don’t actually want to see an image showing what they’ll look like in the garments; everybody wants the inspiration and aspiration. Ask other designers and they’ll tell you the same. Many “vintage style” designers have explored the “plus size” market, after being badgered and badgered to enter it. We have pretty much all lost money and ended up with garments we couldn’t sell and promotional photography that didn’t help our business in any way. Sad but true.
Teach children that all bodies are different but equally wonderful and that a healthy body is the thing to strive for rather than a certain size or shape but please stop demonising the slim and the “coathangers” who promote the fashion industry’s wares. They show off clothing better and are therefore appropriate for the job they do. Take the ideas and inspiration and put your own twist on it. Make it your own, for your own style, image and body shape.
We all have a duty of care to children – hell, to other people of every age! – whether our own or in general, to teach that diversity is right and proper and health is the thing to aim for. As such, we are better placed to do that by example, ie taking care of our own bodies, eating properly, not overeating, getting exercise, mental stimulation and taking an interest and care in the world and everything that makes it. Less time spent running down others and more time promoting real positivity would be a good start. As would be boycotting the reprehensible media like the Daily Mail and other similar “institutions”, with their clickbait “sidebars of shame”, who love to promote unpleasantness and hate in so many forms and set us against each other.
*And don’t for one minute think that Evans aren’t guilty of playing with sizes to mess up your head and make you shop there rather than elsewhere. They just do it in the opposite way to other retailers, ie their sizing is smaller than average, to convince the larger people who shop there that there’s no point even trying elsewhere if they have to squeeze into the clothing in Evans. Unpleasantly manipulative and high time it stopped.