Are you familiar with the term “beauty standards”? More than likely, you’ve had to contend with these elusive and often punishing guidelines throughout your life. For many years, the fashion industry has been a significant player in setting these standards, and its impact on our self-perception can’t be underestimated. But before we dive into the influence of fashion on beauty standards, let’s take a moment to explore what beauty standards really are and why they’re so influential.
Beauty standards are societal norms dictating what is considered attractive in a particular culture at a specific time. They have the power to shape attitudes, behaviors, and self-perception, impacting us on individual, societal, and global levels. Sadly, these standards have often fostered unrealistic expectations and have been linked to body dissatisfaction, self-esteem issues, and even eating disorders among both men and women.
Recently, however, there’s been a noticeable shift. As we become more aware of the harmful effects of unrealistic beauty standards, movements promoting body positivity and inclusivity are gaining momentum. These efforts are gradually shaping a more balanced narrative in the fashion industry, striving for a healthier understanding of beauty and body image. Let’s explore how the fashion industry is redefining beauty standards and promoting a healthier body image.
The Changing Landscape of Beauty Standards in Fashion
Traditionally, the fashion industry has been known to propagate a narrow set of beauty ideals, often promoting the ultra-thin, young, Caucasian, and able-bodied image as the pinnacle of beauty. But times are changing. According to a report by the Fashion Spot, out of the 679 model appearances in Spring 2020’s major fashion campaigns, 40% were women of color, 34% were over size 10, and 21% were over 50 years old. This marks an important turning point, as it indicates a shift towards embracing diversity and inclusivity.
The Power of Representation
The rising wave of body positivity is forcing the fashion industry to confront its habitually narrow portrayal of beauty. Representation of various body sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and abilities in fashion campaigns is more than just a passing trend. It’s a movement that acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of human bodies. Brands like Savage x Fenty, Aerie, and Dove are leading the charge by showcasing models of all sizes and backgrounds in their campaigns, proving that beauty comes in all forms.
The Rise of ‘Size-Inclusive’ Fashion
Size-inclusive fashion is another trend reshaping the industry. Gone are the days when stylish clothes were reserved for those fitting into a size 2. A 2018 study by Coresight Research found that the US plus-size women’s clothing market was worth $24 billion. This staggering figure highlights the economic impact of catering to a diverse customer base. Today, more brands are embracing the size-inclusive model, and the catwalks are gradually becoming more representative of the average woman.
Media Influence and Social Media Activism
Social media has become a powerful tool in advocating for healthier beauty standards. Online movements like #BodyPositivity and #EffYourBeautyStandards have amassed millions of posts, urging brands to represent diverse bodies. This digital activism is driving change in the fashion industry, pushing brands to acknowledge their role in shaping perceptions of beauty.
The Challenge Ahead
While progress is being made, the fashion industry still has a long way to go. It’s essential for brands to move beyond tokenistic inclusivity and commit to meaningful, long-term changes. This includes representing diversity in all facets of the business – from the design process to marketing strategies, from hiring practices to corporate culture.
The Positive Impact of a Healthy Body Image
Encouragingly, promoting a healthy body image is not just socially beneficial but also proven to be good for business. Brands embracing diversity are earning the loyalty of consumers who feel seen and represented. A study by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education found that the average American woman is between sizes 16-18. By reflecting this reality, the fashion industry can connect more authentically with its audience, leading to increased sales and brand loyalty.
While beauty standards have caused harm in the past, the fashion industry’s role in setting these norms means it has the power to change them for the better. Through promoting diversity, championing body positivity, and representing all types of beauty, the fashion industry can redefine beauty standards in a way that celebrates the full spectrum of human bodies.
Let’s remember, it’s not just the industry’s responsibility to promote a healthy body image. It’s also up to us, as consumers, to support brands that prioritize inclusivity and to challenge our own perceptions of beauty. After all, the true essence of beauty is diversity, and it’s time for our fashion and beauty standards to reflect that.