The Psychological EffectThe psychological consequences of being overweight caninclude effects such as low self-esteem, anxiety and more serious conditionssuch as depression and eating disorders. The modern culture of today is obviousin the way that it worships the young, slim and toned bodies, apart from therare exception, only thin and proportioned bodies are deemed sexy andattractive. Therefore, overweight people are often looked down upon, especiallyin the fashion industry. It is easy to feel self-conscious or depressed whentodays culture makes it clear that there is not a market for overweight women. Notall women are born with model-like bodies, most women are continuously strugglingwith their weight and their acceptance into society.
“Having a ‘smaller’ frameisn’t for everyone. That’s what pisses me off with society. We feel that youhave to be below a size 6 to be ‘accepted’ in the world.
That’s what’s beenbrain washed into our heads for years. Many times producers and industry peopletell entertainers that they ‘must’ lose weight or be a certain size in orderfor records to sell. Ummm, I think last night Adele proved them wrong.” (Styles 2012) While the obesity and overweight rates of people throughoutthe UK are continuing to increase year after year, the demand for plus-sizefashion ranges is also set to soar. Nearly a quarter of UK women have purchasedplus-size clothing over the past year and UK shoppers are set to spend 5.4billion pounds on plus-size clothing this year (Hendriks 2015).
More than 4 out of 10 women in the United Kingdomare buying clothing a size 18 and upwards, more so there are over 100 billionplus-size women in America alone, and both are increasing each year. In the1980’s an average woman wore a size 8, however today she wears a size 16. Butas being a plus sized woman is generally still frowned upon, designers arestill refusing to make clothes that are readily available for every size.Luxury fashion is particularly sensitive, with many designers onlymanufacturing their garments in small sizes. This could create a less thanpleasurable experience while shopping for the large majority of plus sizewomen. All women deserve to look and feel good in clothing that fits andflatters them, but they must be given the choices.
Plus-size sections are oftena small range of clothing hidden away at the back of the shop with limited stylesand less adventurous choices and more often aimed at the older woman. Plus-sizefashion also very rarely appears in advertisements or shop windows howeverstraight size models and fashion is everywhere you turn. Why is the fashionindustry ignoring the plus-size market?Occasionally, some plus-size activists and campaigners receivea bad reputation and are accused of hating on people who are not fat, but thatis not what fat activism is about. In a TED talk titled “Enough with theFear of Fat” at TEDxSydney festival in May, artist and fat activist KelliJean Drinkwater scrutinised the sensitivities of bigger bodies by calling out anumber of truths about fatness.
In a society that is infatuated with theperfect body image and manifested by a fear of fat, Kelli Jean Drinkwaterengages in profound body politics throughout her art. She confronts the publicperception of bigger bodies by bringing them into the spaces that were once offlimits – from fashion runways to the Sydney festival – and invites everyone tolook again and rethink the biases, saying “unapologetic fat bodies can blow people’sminds”. A misconception of plus size women is that all larger women probablyhate themselves or wish that they were thin. Why can a fat woman not be happywith who she is? Why does the media feel the need to put words into women’smouths for them? Everyone is fixed to think one way about weight and size.
Fatequals bad and thin equals good. Therefore, fat people are not treated as wellas thin people are. “We may even blame fat people themselves for thediscrimination they face because, after all, if we don’t like it, weshould just lose weight,” Drinkwater says. Plus size women do not ask tobe bullied or discriminated against and no one deserves it no matter what theylook like. Plus-size women are the subject to many different struggles that thinnerpeople do not have to deal with, just because of their size. Plus-size womenhave a harder time with dating, finding the right clothes in the right size,landing that dream job and having to deal with the judgement of being the sizethey are.
“I’ve been openly laughed at, abused from passing cars, andbeen told that I’m delusional,” Drinkwater said. “But Ialso receive smiles from strangers who recognize what it takes to walkdown the street with a spring in your step and your head held high.” Drinkwater’splan with her TED talk was to try to normalise all of the different body typesthat are in society and to tell them to do all of the things that they havebeen told they cannot do. Negativity from the MediaWith the ever-increasing influence of the media in people’sdaily lives, more and more individuals suffer from the negative effects ofbeing exposed to the medias impression of an ‘ideal’ body. This can cause a harmfuleffect on women and their body image, maybe even funding to several eatingdisorders such as depression and anxiety. The focus needs to be more on increasingthe efficient ways that will decrease the negative effects that the media cancause.
There have been numerous studies that display how the media can lead tothe negative perceptions of a woman’s body image (Ashikali & Dittmar, 2012; Thompson & Small, 2013; Hausenblaset al, 2013). Although the media can have a very negative effect on awoman’s body image and her standards of beauty and the ideal body, it isbelieved to be slowly improving. The images of perfection that we see in themedia are an unrealistic version of the reality that women are continuouslytold is attainable. The media is one big powerful tool that emphasises thebeliefs of bodies and beauty and makes it nearly impossible to escape thebombardment of the images and attitudes of ‘perfection’. This is the core ofwhat is holding back the plus-size fashion industry, a set of firmly imposedrules and ideas of normal. As the desired size of models has been recentlychallenged in the media over the last few years, some models who do not fitinto the industry’s ideal standards still come face to face with challenges intheir attempts to break into the fashion industry.
More recently there has beena ‘trend’ of using what the media refers to as ‘plus-sized’ models. Initiallythis seems to be a positive step up for the modelling industry but the factthat this small amount of ‘plus-sized’ models get their work overly emphasisedby the media, it just goes to show how much more needs to be done to make a’plus-sized’ model just another model in a magazine or on the runway. Recentlythe BPM (body positive movement) has taken the fashion world by storm with moremagazines and stores starting to feature models of all sizes and shapes. Socialmedia is also a factor that plays a huge role in the reinforcement of women lovingtheir bodies no matter what size they are, producing a generation of women thatare building positivity for all body types.
However, there are still concernsand struggles to keep the body positive movement an optimistic one. A focalpoint of the BPM is that all women are beautiful, no matter what their weightor size, many different body types can be just as healthy. Typically, thebodies shown in the media are very thin but unfortunately this gets taken as a’perfect’ body, letting women assume that this is the most beautiful body butalso the healthiest. This is simply not true.
“Girlstoday are swamped by ultra-thin ideals not only in the form of dolls but alsoin comics, cartoons, TV and advertising along with all the associatedmerchandising.” (Dittmar 2006) The feminine beauty ideal that is portrayed by the media canhave a negative effect on young girls as the use of social media is rising and Diversity Within the Fashion IndustryThe fashion industry is slowly starting to include morediverse body types, somewhat to reflect the idea that health, not thinness, isthe new body ‘ideal’. The fashion industry has been criticised for a long timefor destabilisation the confidence and health of women by showing anunobtainable ideal of what beauty is and that it an idea based on thinness andPhotoshop is normal. Recently, it has been proposed that by representing theplus-size consumer that the fashion world is standardising obesity, a conditionthat can be as harmful and unhealthy as being ‘model thin’. The fashionindustry is beginning to embrace the idea of non-traditional beauty bysupporting a wider range of sizes.
By promoting diversity in the ‘ideal’beauty, the fashion world and the media are making big strides to show howevery woman can be beautiful if she takes proper care of herself. Research hastypically shown that giving women exposure to thin models can elevate theirbody dissatisfaction. In one study (Rodgersand Chabrol 2009) it explains that women who have already experienced somelevel of body dissatisfaction after viewing certain advertisements with thinrather than average sized models. Another study (Bell, Lawton and Dittmar 2007) found similar results for exposureto thin models in popular music videos.
Adolescent girls who watched musicvideos featuring ‘ultra-thin’ models demonstrated significantly elevated scoreson a measure of body dissatisfaction. It’s no secret that the fashion businesshas a severe diversity problem but despite many celebrities and social mediacampaigners that have been challenging the idea that you should be a size six,young, white woman to become a model. Latest figures show that things are notchanging as fast as they should be. The Fashion Spot 11 hasreleased a study analysing the diversity of models that have been featured inthe AW16 advertising campaigns, and the breakdown of casting is still rather’straight’. Just 1.4% of those models were plus-size.
Out of 422 models, onlysix plus-sized women made an appearance. This figure could be even moreshocking when you factor in the fact that these were campaigns specifically formass market plus-size brands. No one that was over a size twelve appeared in acampaign. However, there has been some slight improvements as this year at SS17New York fashion week, the most plus-sized models were featured this September.Brands like Christian Siriano, Tome and Tracy Reese cast curvy women in theirshows. Nevertheless, only 16 out of the nearly three thousand models wereplus-size.