AUTHOR

Nandini Tripathi

DATE

12/03/2021

TAGS

fashion

Should Fashion Dictate Self Perception?

AUTHOR

Nandini Tripathi

DATE

12/03/2021

TAGS

fashion

Fashion has long been the centre of creativity and innovation. It is both a reflection of the ever-changing socio-cultural landscape of the world we inhabit as well as a prominent influence on that very world and our ideas and perceptions of it. Fashion is more than a simple style statement or a personal choice made without much thought and its far-reaching impact on the ways in which we respond to our surroundings and lead our lives is hard to contest. While fashion trends have evolved and transformed over the years, what appears to have remained constant, in some form or the other, is an underlying obsession with an idealised notion of ‘beauty’; a beauty that stems from a certain size demographic, a specific image of what the human body should look like.

The contribution of social media to body dysmorphia
The contribution of social media to body dysmorphia (Source: https://www.crux.pk/2020/11/05/the-contribution-of-social-media-to-body-dysmorphia/)

Fashion has long been the centre of creativity and innovation. It is both a reflection of the ever-changing socio-cultural landscape of the world we inhabit as well as a prominent influence on that very world and our ideas and perceptions of it. Fashion is more than a simple style statement or a personal choice made without much thought and its far-reaching impact on the ways in which we respond to our surroundings and lead our lives is hard to contest. While fashion trends have evolved and transformed over the years, what appears to have remained constant, in some form or the other, is an underlying obsession with an idealised notion of ‘beauty’; a beauty that stems from a certain size demographic, a specific image of what the human body should look like.

The fashion industry has been quick to adapt and modify with changing times. However, there is a visible lack of diversity when it comes to the kind of body images the fashion industry promotes. Trending fashion that we are constantly exposed to on our social media handles, the television screen, magazines and billboards – all fail to accommodate the differences that characterise the human race. Most noticeably, varying body types, physical (dis)abilities and genders rarely find a space within popular fashion trends and their depiction in media. The direct ramifications of this is palpable in retail stores and online shopping sites that offer a rather limited range of designs and options as the apparel sizes increase. At one level, the commercial and economic aspect highlights a striking lack of logic and reasoning for not diversifying the sizes available. It seems to imply a conscious decision to not cater to a larger group of customers and thereby forsake a greater revenue that this could generate. At another more subconscious, level the social, cultural and psychological issues this engenders start to emerge.

Body Inclusivity in Fashion Ads
Body Inclusivity in Fashion Ads (Source: https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/lane-bryant-this-body)

Although researchers and fashion forecasters have predicted an increase of 7.1% in the plus-size sector by 2022, (as per https://mindlessmag.com) designers, media and the fashion industry at large seem to be overlooking this entire untapped market. At the expense of all other shapes and sizes, the fashion industry and media blatantly appear to favour a slimmer demographic. The visuals that appear on the glossy pages of a fashion magazine or on social media platforms is far from what most of us see when we look at ourselves in the mirror.  It would  be unfair, however, to claim that there are no efforts being made to address this issue.Fifty-four plus sized models were a part of the 2019 Spring Fashion Show in New York in a conscious bid to promote body positivity. However, despite the fact that this was a ten-fold increase compared to previous years, these models still only accounted for about 0.73% of the total castings (Fashion Plus -https://mindlessmag.com). This dismal number is much more than a simple reflection of a society that is obsessed with appearances and more so with a certain type of appearance. It brings to light the striking co-dependency between rising body image issues and the rapid growth of the fashion industry. It is our clouded perception of our own bodies which propels the media to throw targeted ads, weight loss programmes and youtubers and instagram influencers masked as lifestyle gurus at us. This overflow of negative information encourages a distorted view of an ideal body, and so, the cycle of self-doubt and marketing continues in an endless loop. As a result of the focus the media places on a narrowly crafted ideal of beauty, it is not surprising that fashion designers and the fashion industry in general cater more closely to this specific market.

How social media affects your self-confidence
How social media affects your self-confidence (Source:https://tiltedcrownblog.tumblr.com/post/184200241007/how-does-social-media-affect-your-self-concept)

>Often we see fashion through the lens of media and popular culture. They play an enormous role in how the youth of today view themselves. The importance placed is not on healthy living but a certain body type. This has far reaching consequences on the mental health, confidence and overall psychological wellness of young men and women across the globe. Layers of makeup, filters and photoshop imply that the visuals we are looking at are distorted versions of reality. Whether these influencers, film stars and models truly believe all that they are portraying or whether most of it is a promotional endeavour and a marketing gimmick at the end of the day is hard to say. However, what does seem to come across though is the fact that they too are victims of a society that seems unable to free itself from convoluted ideas of beauty. In trying to replicate such fashion trends within our own lives, we find that more often than not we don’t live up to our own expectations.

Fashion design is a lot about understanding movement and flexibility, the ways in which folds and drapes complement the structure of the human body. It is, therefore, essential that budding fashion designers who are taking their first steps into the trillion dollar industry are introduced to and made familiar with the importance of body and diversity when creating garments. Modules at the University level itself that encourage an active engagement with varying shapes and sizes while designing clothes will result in breaking this vicious thought process that pervades our society today.  The uniform body sizes we see in popular culture are not realistic. They set unachievable standards of beauty. To recognise this is not only imperative but also the first step to addressing the problem.

While we may have come a long way with individuals, institutions and companies gradually addressing and actively working to change the biases that surround body images in the fashion industry and in the media, the journey is far from over. The path to self-acceptance and body positivity is an arduous one and the first step to this formidable task lies in changing the way fashion and popular culture perceive the body. Being open to differences, accepting others and learning to see ourselves as unique individuals is vital. While fashion designers need to be conscious of the kind of garments they are creating and promoting, the influence of mass media cannot be overlooked. It is imperative that these platforms are utilised to advocate a more balanced and realistic vision of beauty.  Perhaps the solution is shrouded in the problem itself through which we can work towards designing a more inclusive society.

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