Could the Tide Be Turning?
First there was the image of Lizzie Miller, sitting naked, belly resting on her lap, and looking confident in the pages of Glamour magazine. After a huge response with women crying for more “Lizzie Millers”, Glamour responded with a commitment to feature more of a variety of body shapes and sizes within the pages of their magazines. Then there was designer Mark Fast’s move to feature plus-sized models on the runway during London’s Fashion Week. Not long after that, we heard that France is debating a law requiring magazines to display health warning labels on altered images in an attempt to dispel the beauty myths propagated by magazines. And now this week, one of Germany’s most popular women’s fashion magazines, Birgitte, announced it would no longer use models in photo spreads, instead planning on using readers and staff members, recognizing that “attractiveness has many faces”.
I am hesitant to hold my breath, wondering if all of these moves are nothing more than the fashion industry paying lip service to the rising movement against the narrow representation of beauty produced in glossy pages, runways, and red carpets. Will the storm that has been brewing lately clear with the winds of complacency, allowing designers and fashion editors to slip back into doing what they know best: creating looks and styles meant for one percent of the population creating an elitist standard the rest of us struggle — but always fail — to live up to?
But then I realized ultimately, it is in our control as to what happens next. In fact, it has always been in our control. Just like any other industry, the fashion industry manufacturers what they can sell, whether it’s designer clothing or fashion bibles like Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and Glamour. If we don’t buy it, they won’t sell it. Sure it might take a while for it to sink in, but ultimately, if they think they can sell more of their products by doing something different, then that’s what they’ll do. It’s not about being socially conscious, it’s about business. Just like Mark Fast realized he could sell even more clothing if he made it to fit real women with real curves, the fashion magazines might just be realizing they could sell even more magazines by featuring pictures of women that look like the rest of us, if that’s indeed what we really want. And to be honest, I think it’s taken us a long time to figure out that we really do want to see images of women like us.
For so long, we have been convinced that the “ideal” splayed out before us was one that we had to live up to. We didn’t consider an alternative — that we could possibly already be beautiful even though we looked nothing like what we saw before us, that we could be beautiful with protruding stomachs, cellulite, and stretch marks, that we could be beautiful with streaks of gray in our hair and wrinkles on our face. And yet, that IS the alternative. Every one of us has the right to feel beautiful and we shouldn’t have to kill ourselves through starvation or go broke buying beauty products to achieve that feeling. Bit by bit, we are waking up to the idea that beauty doesn’t have to be a size 2. It doesn’t have to be collar bones jutting out of the skin. It doesn’t have to be be achieved by photo editing tools that wipe away “flaws” to reveal a “perfect” image. By coming to this realization, and then demanding a new standard by putting our beauty-consumer dollars into the products that reflect that standard is sure to bring about the change we now so strongly desire, especially after having a little taste of what can be.
In the past, this doctored image of Filippa Hamilton, making her look even more emaciated than what has been the industry standard would have gone relatively unnoticed as far as ads go, except for the collective sigh at the newest standard of thinness we were supposed to live up to. But instead, there has been a huge backlash, and Ralph Lauren who has yet to apologize for the grotesque alteration, does admit it is a distorted image that does not reflect the integrity of the brand. Ok, so no culpability here, but if you read between the lines, I think they realize this something they can’t get away with anymore.
As I wrote in the post Giving Glamour Another Chance after they announced their commitment to body diversity, I have renewed my subscription to show my support and wrote them a letter saying so. And I will put my money where I see others making similar commitments, and ultimately it is our money that may speak louder than words when it comes to changing the tides.
What do you think? Is the tide actually turning?