Fashion and Mental Health: How does the Fashion Industry impact how we feel about our bodies?
Social media is made for comparison. There’s a subconscious competition for likes and followers, the need for social approval is overwhelming, and why even buy a designer bag if you can’t get it in every #OOTD?
Platforms such as Instagram are used to present the best version of ourselves to the world, and I challenge you to find anyone who hasn’t sucked their bloated stomach in for a night out photo or used some form of beauty app to edit out a few rogue spots or slim their thighs down just a little bit. But this begs the question, why is the ‘best version’ of ourselves typically thin?
A couple of weeks ago I found myself surprisingly upset as I discovered to my disgust at the time that I’d gone up a trouser size. I’d purchased a beautiful navy boiler suit and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pull the rigid fabric over my hips. This incident caused me to frantically try on every pair of trousers in my possession, and there were at least 4 pairs that no longer fitted me, when they had done this time last year.
After I’d finished moping and accepted that my body had changed a bit, it got me wondering, clothing sizes are made so we can find which items will fit us best, so why does a bigger size feel like an insult?
We have been conditioned to think that ‘thin’ means pretty, and brands promote this perfect size 6 ideal to us all via social media, as they think that’s what we all aspire to look like. There is a serious lack of plus sized influencers, and those that are considered ‘plus size’ are often no bigger than a 12!
I want to feel good in my clothes, but how can I when I’m constantly taking in messages that for clothes to look amazing I need to be a certain size or shape?
Brands promote their clothing using thin models, which means many people, myself included, feel the pressure to look that same way. I feel as though I couldn’t pull off that tight skirt because of my lack of toned stomach muscles, there’s no way it would look as good on me as it does on the model … and there we have it. More comparison!
Completely unaware, we are constantly comparing ourselves to the models who show up on our feeds, wondering how the outfits would look on us, and subsequently feeling a little bit shit.
The same goes for men, unless specifically looking at plus-sized men’s clothing, the majority of male models are very slim and have more muscle definition than you can shake a stick at, a completely unrealistic ideal for young men. Just as not every woman can be a size 6, not every man can maintain a muscular physique.
It’s not surprising that all of this pressure can be detrimental to one’s mental health, clothing can be the enemy when you feel as though someone of a different body type could wear any outfit better than you could.
This is something that needs to change, and the first step is for brands to show normal bodies in their outfits, by all means show some size 6 models, but also show some size 10s, 14s, 18s, variety is beautiful!
All body types should be celebrated, not shunned, and the way to do this is through representation and normalisation of a spectrum of different shapes and sizes.
Written by Shona Radcliffe