The Psychological Effect

The psychological consequences of being overweight can
include effects such as low self-esteem, anxiety and more serious conditions
such as depression and eating disorders. The modern culture of today is obvious
in the way that it worships the young, slim and toned bodies, apart from the
rare exception, only thin and proportioned bodies are deemed sexy and
attractive. Therefore, overweight people are often looked down upon, especially
in the fashion industry. It is easy to feel self-conscious or depressed when
todays culture makes it clear that there is not a market for overweight women. Not
all women are born with model-like bodies, most women are continuously struggling
with their weight and their acceptance into society.

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“Having a ‘smaller’ frame
isn’t for everyone. That’s what pisses me off with society. We feel that you
have to be below a size 6 to be ‘accepted’ in the world. That’s what’s been
brain washed into our heads for years. Many times producers and industry people
tell entertainers that they ‘must’ lose weight or be a certain size in order
for records to sell. Ummm, I think last night Adele proved them wrong.” (Styles 2012)

 

While the obesity and overweight rates of people throughout
the UK are continuing to increase year after year, the demand for plus-size
fashion ranges is also set to soar. Nearly a quarter of UK women have purchased
plus-size clothing over the past year and UK shoppers are set to spend 5.4
billion pounds on plus-size clothing this year (Hendriks 2015). More than 4 out of 10 women in the United Kingdom
are buying clothing a size 18 and upwards, more so there are over 100 billion
plus-size women in America alone, and both are increasing each year. In the
1980’s an average woman wore a size 8, however today she wears a size 16. But
as being a plus sized woman is generally still frowned upon, designers are
still refusing to make clothes that are readily available for every size.

Luxury fashion is particularly sensitive, with many designers only
manufacturing their garments in small sizes. This could create a less than
pleasurable experience while shopping for the large majority of plus size
women. All women deserve to look and feel good in clothing that fits and
flatters them, but they must be given the choices. Plus-size sections are often
a small range of clothing hidden away at the back of the shop with limited styles
and less adventurous choices and more often aimed at the older woman. Plus-size
fashion also very rarely appears in advertisements or shop windows however
straight size models and fashion is everywhere you turn. Why is the fashion
industry ignoring the plus-size market?

Occasionally, some plus-size activists and campaigners receive
a bad reputation and are accused of hating on people who are not fat, but that
is not what fat activism is about. In a TED talk titled “Enough with the
Fear of Fat” at TEDxSydney festival in May, artist and fat activist Kelli
Jean Drinkwater scrutinised the sensitivities of bigger bodies by calling out a
number of truths about fatness. In a society that is infatuated with the
perfect body image and manifested by a fear of fat, Kelli Jean Drinkwater
engages in profound body politics throughout her art. She confronts the public
perception of bigger bodies by bringing them into the spaces that were once off
limits – from fashion runways to the Sydney festival – and invites everyone to
look again and rethink the biases, saying “unapologetic fat bodies can blow people’s
minds”. A misconception of plus size women is that all larger women probably
hate themselves or wish that they were thin. Why can a fat woman not be happy
with who she is? Why does the media feel the need to put words into women’s
mouths for them? Everyone is fixed to think one way about weight and size. Fat
equals bad and thin equals good. Therefore, fat people are not treated as well
as thin people are. “We may even blame fat people themselves for the
discrimination they face because, after all, if we don’t like it, we
should just lose weight,” Drinkwater says. Plus size women do not ask to
be bullied or discriminated against and no one deserves it no matter what they
look like. Plus-size women are the subject to many different struggles that thinner
people do not have to deal with, just because of their size. Plus-size women
have a harder time with dating, finding the right clothes in the right size,
landing that dream job and having to deal with the judgement of being the size
they are. “I’ve been openly laughed at, abused from passing cars, and
been told that I’m delusional,” Drinkwater said. “But I
also receive smiles from strangers who recognize what it takes to walk
down the street with a spring in your step and your head held high.” Drinkwater’s
plan with her TED talk was to try to normalise all of the different body types
that are in society and to tell them to do all of the things that they have
been told they cannot do.

 

Negativity from the Media

With the ever-increasing influence of the media in people’s
daily lives, more and more individuals suffer from the negative effects of
being exposed to the medias impression of an ‘ideal’ body. This can cause a harmful
effect on women and their body image, maybe even funding to several eating
disorders such as depression and anxiety. The focus needs to be more on increasing
the efficient ways that will decrease the negative effects that the media can
cause. There have been numerous studies that display how the media can lead to
the negative perceptions of a woman’s body image (Ashikali & Dittmar, 2012; Thompson & Small, 2013; Hausenblas
et al, 2013). Although the media can have a very negative effect on a
woman’s body image and her standards of beauty and the ideal body, it is
believed to be slowly improving. The images of perfection that we see in the
media are an unrealistic version of the reality that women are continuously
told is attainable. The media is one big powerful tool that emphasises the
beliefs of bodies and beauty and makes it nearly impossible to escape the
bombardment of the images and attitudes of ‘perfection’. This is the core of
what is holding back the plus-size fashion industry, a set of firmly imposed
rules and ideas of normal. As the desired size of models has been recently
challenged in the media over the last few years, some models who do not fit
into the industry’s ideal standards still come face to face with challenges in
their attempts to break into the fashion industry. More recently there has been
a ‘trend’ of using what the media refers to as ‘plus-sized’ models. Initially
this seems to be a positive step up for the modelling industry but the fact
that this small amount of ‘plus-sized’ models get their work overly emphasised
by the media, it just goes to show how much more needs to be done to make a
‘plus-sized’ model just another model in a magazine or on the runway. Recently
the BPM (body positive movement) has taken the fashion world by storm with more
magazines and stores starting to feature models of all sizes and shapes. Social
media is also a factor that plays a huge role in the reinforcement of women loving
their bodies no matter what size they are, producing a generation of women that
are building positivity for all body types. However, there are still concerns
and struggles to keep the body positive movement an optimistic one. A focal
point of the BPM is that all women are beautiful, no matter what their weight
or size, many different body types can be just as healthy. Typically, the
bodies shown in the media are very thin but unfortunately this gets taken as a
‘perfect’ body, letting women assume that this is the most beautiful body but
also the healthiest. This is simply not true.

 

“Girls
today are swamped by ultra-thin ideals not only in the form of dolls but also
in comics, cartoons, TV and advertising along with all the associated
merchandising.” (Dittmar 2006)

 

The feminine beauty ideal that is portrayed by the media can
have a negative effect on young girls as the use of social media is rising and

 

Diversity Within the Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is slowly starting to include more
diverse body types, somewhat to reflect the idea that health, not thinness, is
the new body ‘ideal’. The fashion industry has been criticised for a long time
for destabilisation the confidence and health of women by showing an
unobtainable ideal of what beauty is and that it an idea based on thinness and
Photoshop is normal. Recently, it has been proposed that by representing the
plus-size consumer that the fashion world is standardising obesity, a condition
that can be as harmful and unhealthy as being ‘model thin’. The fashion
industry is beginning to embrace the idea of non-traditional beauty by
supporting a wider range of sizes. By promoting diversity in the ‘ideal’
beauty, the fashion world and the media are making big strides to show how
every woman can be beautiful if she takes proper care of herself. Research has
typically shown that giving women exposure to thin models can elevate their
body dissatisfaction. In one study (Rodgers
and Chabrol 2009) it explains that women who have already experienced some
level of body dissatisfaction after viewing certain advertisements with thin
rather than average sized models. Another study (Bell, Lawton and Dittmar 2007) found similar results for exposure
to thin models in popular music videos. Adolescent girls who watched music
videos featuring ‘ultra-thin’ models demonstrated significantly elevated scores
on a measure of body dissatisfaction. It’s no secret that the fashion business
has a severe diversity problem but despite many celebrities and social media
campaigners that have been challenging the idea that you should be a size six,
young, white woman to become a model. Latest figures show that things are not
changing as fast as they should be. The Fashion Spot 11 has
released a study analysing the diversity of models that have been featured in
the AW16 advertising campaigns, and the breakdown of casting is still rather
‘straight’. Just 1.4% of those models were plus-size. Out of 422 models, only
six plus-sized women made an appearance. This figure could be even more
shocking when you factor in the fact that these were campaigns specifically for
mass market plus-size brands. No one that was over a size twelve appeared in a
campaign. However, there has been some slight improvements as this year at SS17
New York fashion week, the most plus-sized models were featured this September.

Brands like Christian Siriano, Tome and Tracy Reese cast curvy women in their
shows. Nevertheless, only 16 out of the nearly three thousand models were
plus-size.

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