Are you a sizeist?
Have you ever caught yourself looking at someone’s body and thinking, ‘that just won’t do?’ Have your eyes been so conditioned by what you are told is beautiful and acceptable that you only appreciate what you recognize? Have you ever noticed that after having spent even just a few minutes flipping through a fashion magazine your eyes are more judgmental and critical when they next glance upon a mirror?
Let’s face it, there’s a new form of discrimination around, ‘SIZEISM’ and the majority of us have got it…BAD.
Of late, we’ve developed a limited view of what beautiful bodies are and should look like. A mix of factors: consumerism, health, the fashion industry, diet industries and visual culture combine to create this exclusionary aesthetic. We seem to have found ourselves in a venus fly trap; hideously dangerous vicious cycle of self acceptance and self loathing.
As we struggle to resemble the stick thin air-brushed, digitally manipulated figurines staring back at us from the pages of our glossies we can forget how unreal these unattainable ideals of such kind of manufactured beauty are.
And unfortunately, so has the fashion industry.
As our struggle for thinness grows more aggressive and violent; as we lie under the knife or with our heads down the toilet bowls, as we are hospitalized from starvation, more and more of us will reach – for a time - that size 8 or 10. And as a result, the fashion industry in turn gains even more confidence in selling us sizeism.
Students in fashion schools are taught to cut patterns for only up to a size 10; designers cultivate a taste for celebrating a female body devoid of curves, stripped of fat.
While fashion brands that do venture the task of designing for a more inclusive range of body shapes and sizes can be tainted with the mark of being ‘fat brands’. Curves become for this era NOT sexy. We have developed a strictly defined visual vocabulary that permits us to judge whether someone should feel good about the way they look or not. We have come to assume that someone who is larger than size 10 or 12 is overweight (over whose weight?) or even slightly curvaceous SHOULD be ashamed and should be on a constant diet or at the gym.
Fashion is more than style, it is more than simply protecting the body.
Fashion and clothing permit us to create a relationship between our intimate selves and the rest of the world; it permits us the freedom of being able to select what aspects of our identities we choose to put on display, to mask an to hide. Fashion is a medium for expressing how we feel, for conveying messages as much as it is for comfort.
Consider the distress caused when a woman walks into a shop and cannot find a garment that fits her.
All the doubts or insecurities that she may have had are relentlessly confirmed. She leaves convinced that her body is wrong; that she needs to make some changes to her appearance.
As the fashion industry becomes ever more available with the rise of high street brands and affordable trendy ‘throw away clothes’, it has paradoxically made more women insecure about their appearances.
As styles change and young women in particular are tempted to renew their wardrobes every season, every month, even every week; we absorb the idea that we must constantly change in order to be ‘fashionable’. But this continual flexibility is not simply fun, it inevitably trips us up and the fashion industry simultaneously feeds off of and into our personal most intimate insecurities.
SIZEISM in the fashion industry works on many levels.
It defines certain guidelines for glamour and sexiness. It establishes the size distribution in shops. It influences the visual aesthetic zeitgeist of our times. More seriously though, it goes unquestioned. As we are visually overfed with image after image of air-brushed divas, how often is it that a voice dares to make a stance and challenge the norm?
Beauty doesn’t lie solely in uniformity! Beauty also lies in diversity!
How much more exciting it would be if fashion -and the media that surrounds it- catered to a rich myriad of different beautiful bodies?
If it celebrated curves as well as slenderness? If a cross-cultural vision really prevailed rather than simply being raided. And, can you imagine how wonderful it would be if every woman felt spoiled and celebrated whilst shopping? If all sizes and shapes were catered for?
It’s high time to move on darlings, SIZEISM is so last season.
- Article by Karishma Chugani
- Karishma is a fashion designer based in Morocco and member of AnyBody Ltd (copyright 2006)