Image and text: Elise Slater, AnyBody member
As a fashion designer and member of the lovely AnyBody group I was asked to speak at the annual BEAT conference on the topic ‘Has fashion got it’s house in order’ and I thought I would share my ideas on this topic with all the AnyBody devotees out there. The talk was in response to the results of the London Model Health Inquiry, we’d love to hear your views on the topic also…..
'Being a fashion designer I obviously love fashion, but I do not believe it needs to be deadly or detrimental to women to be great. And I most certainly do not believe that developing an eating disorder and body hatred should be a normal rite of passage for a teenager the way it seems to be becoming.'
At no other time in history has fashion’s ideal been so narrow and restricting, with identi-kit ultra-thin models being the global ideal. And this isn’t the fault of the models, it is the fault of the designers who are demanding these anorexically-thin figures.
The most ridiculous aspect of the fashion industry at present is that bodies are being cut to fit the fashions, whereas it should be the cloth that is cut to fit the body.
The invention of standardised sizing is much to blame – the idea that the body comes in a range of incremental sizes that everyone should slot into was and is ridiculous.
In the age of couture garments were made to fit each model personally. Now the clothes are made, and then the models found to fit them – thus requiring a standardised body – something which doesn’t exist. So it isn’t the models fault that they need to starve and binge to fit the clothes – the problem is that the designer isn’t designing for a woman, but a human coathanger.
No other industry is so un-economical, producing increasingly tiny sizes and ideals while the sizes in the population continue to increase. You only have to see how most women feel when exiting a change room – despressed that their body doesn’t fit the clothes, rather than blaming the clothes for being ill-fitting – to see fashions serious effect on our psyche.
And the change can start with the fashion industry – if designers increase their sample size, then catwalk models will look healthier, fashion magazines that use these sample garments will be forced to use larger models, and the ripple effect will continue to the advertising industry and eventaully to the impressionable minds of women.
The recommendations of the ‘Model Inquiry’ are a good beginning, but they are still only ‘recommendations’ and require funding and continued public pressure to make them a reality.
Part of the solution is to make designers realise the massive impact they have on women’s sense of self, and that portraying unrealistic and unhealthy messages has a catastrophic effect. Fashion functions by being discriminatory and elitist, but truly great fashion should be amazing without relying on body fascism to elevate it to the lofty heights of cool.
The solution is many-fold – it includes media literacy education at schools – something the Dove real beauty campaign has started, it includes making changes to sample sizes at fashion schools and increasing the rights and treatments of our models, who are as much victims of the fashion industry as the rest of us. It includes putting pressure on designers to meet the challenge of designing for women in all their diversity.
People will get used to seeing bigger and healthy models the same way fashion can convince us to embrace high waists on the catwalk after seasons of hipsters – our eyes and minds will adjust.
We. As women need to realise these ideals are only in place to make us spend through insecurity. We need to reject these negative images found throughout magazines and teach children how to analyse and decipher these messages.
We need to see that these ideals limit and restrict us, they are designed to preoccupy us so that we cannot focus on the larger issues. And it is within our power to reject these ideals and talk back to the fashion and media worlds.
So while the changes require hard work and perseverence, when the next generation grow up to love and not loathe their bodies it will all be worth it.
C. Elise Slater 2008