Fashion + Mental Health 2020

Fashion Runways & Body Dysmorphic Disorders

Runways have been the centre of focus when showcasing fashion, each detail serves a purpose for the designer and the observer – professionally and personally. Runways are the mechanism to encourage sales; to demonstrate the fit of a garment on beings and to provide a perception of how they look to the viewer. But should they be influencing how one interprets their own body? With the lack of diversity within the body types exhibited, how is one supposed to mirror a representation that withholds no resemblance to theirs? 

Therefore I ask. For you personally, do you believe fashion runways are an active catalyst for self criticism and hatred or do they achieve the desired means of self expression and uniqueness?

Runway stereotypes

Through consecutive years, the typical female model on the runway is slim, tall, with structured facial features and the majority of them are white. From Kendall Jenner, to Bella Hadid, to Kaia Gerber – all of them represent the same body type. Even more so, the runway models that are labelled iconic represent this body type too, from Kate Moss, to Naomi Campbell, to Tyra Banks.

But I query, how has fashion become so set minded on one particular body type? Why is an industry whose means is to channel beauty, individuality and confidence not wholly highlighting its own true identity? Why does it encourage the belief that beauty on the runway and in general has a criteria? Because, actually, I did not know that to be beautiful you have to attain certain standards.

In effect the lack of representation in the current fashion industry is distinctly affecting the mental health of beings. Thus negative self analysis and the desire to attain the features of those on the runway prevails; in order to view ones self as fashion worthy.

What is body dysmorphic disorder?

Body dysmorphia is a mental health disorder in which a being cannot stop thinking about one or more self perceived ‘flaws’ or ‘imperfections’ in their appearance. A flaw that appears slight or can not be seen by others but the being may feel so ashamed, anxious and embarrassed they may avoid social situations. 

“You’re trapped in your head every second”

Louise Donovan

It is important to specifically note the difference between self-esteem and body dysmorphia; as often the two go hand in hand. Firstly, low self esteem can occur due to the perceptions of others. Whereas body dysmorphia is an internal issue that is rarely impacted by the views of others and the outside world.

Therefore based on this, are the runways truly influencing body dysmorphic disorders?

1 in 50 people suffer from BDD.

The Guardian

Though it is stated the outside world is not a dominant factor – consistently acknowledging your body does not look like those considered the ‘norm’ on fashion runways; I believe, will most definitely heighten a being’s insecurities.

Social media

Additional pressure exists in the presiding presence of social media and the easy access to runway models’ profiles. This further pollutes the viewer of unrealistic ideologies of fashion; fundamentally discouraging a being’s self growth, well-being and acceptance.

Moreover, it is more than likely the images portrayed on this platform are edited, which as a consequence creates an enhanced false reality. Therefore again providing outsiders with a perception that is beyond attainable, increasing pressure and self analysis whilst simultaneously comparing to a creation that is not real.

We know deep down it can’t all be realistic but we aspire to achieve it anyway.

Jennifer Knowles

Overall, the impacts of social media are vigorous. This extra catalyst is contributing to the depth of mental health that consists in society today. Rather than empowering, it is pressurising beings to fulfil a doctrine that is simply unfeasible. It is wrong. It is conniving. And it is detrimental.

Will a change in fashion runways be the motivation to an all inclusive industry?

At this present time, the fashion runways ultimately do not display an ideology that is achievable. The importance of deconstructing the current and designing the new and true is needed now more than ever. As fashion runways are the prime focus for buyers, especially in relation to high end brands such as Prada, Jaquemus and Dior. Thus due to their immense success these labels consist of, the power they withhold to the perception of fashion is tremendous. Therefore it is vital that these designers begin to pave the way for executing the true identity of fashion.

Though I must state, change is beginning to take place. For instance, brands such as Fenty are exquisitely showcasing the true comprehension of fashion. Through the use of race, ethnicity, body type, even using pregnant models to allude all dynamics of beauty and so much more.

Merely, the most powerful source of change is within the designers and their runways. They are the power in aiding in the mental health of beings and decreasing the severity of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. They are required to encourage self acceptance. To assist in showing beauty comes in a variety of ways. And to help embed courage, confidence and self-love in all.

Be the change.

‘I struggle, but – and it sounds cliché – I realised I needed to do something different. Life isn’t supposed to be like this, there’s more important things to focus on. 

Louise Donovan

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