Imagine this: young girls standing in fitting rooms at trendy fashion stores like Brandy Melville, dismayed when they learn the brand's "one size fits all" motto doesn't apply to them. Or consider the rise of fashion trends like "chopsticks legs" and the "A4 waist" in Asia. Body anxiety has stealthily crept into corners all over the world. As we near the end of 2023, body image anxiety continues to be a prevalent issue, pressuring women to conform to various beauty standards and pursue unattainable body shapes. According to an article by the National Eating Disorders Association, "69-84% of US women experience body dissatisfaction, desiring to be a lower weight than they currently are." In this blog post, I will delve into multifaceted forces in the fashion industry, from online shopping to new media and advertising campaigns, that reshape our perceptions of body image and offer potential solutions to address body image anxiety.
Fashion has long been a powerful force in shaping how we perceive body image. From historical corsets to contemporary social media trends, the influence of fashion on body image almost touches every corner of our lives.
Traditional print media, such as newspapers and magazines, have long shaped an idealized standard and concept of a perfect body through their features of models and celebrities. The idea that "thin is beautiful" has prevailed. In the past two decades, a large amount of research has demonstrated the strong negative impact of exposure to idealized bodies in the media on how people perceive their bodies. For instance, in 2002, Lisa M. Groesz's study indicated that "mass media promulgate a slender ideal that elicits body dissatisfaction." Furthermore, as women are consistently exposed to unattainable and idealized images and lifestyles and compare themselves to these, comparative culture arises, inspiring dissatisfaction with their bodies and further exacerbating body image anxiety.
Advertisements have applied a similar logic, presenting products that feature models with idealized bodies. Advertisements from Victoria's Secret have notoriously featured models that are universally tall and thin. These kinds of advertisements imply and reinforce the idea of the "thin ideal", further exacerbating body image issues as women feel pressured to meet these standards.
The advent of online shopping has revolutionized the fashion industry in numerous ways, offering various benefits to our society, including accessibility, convenience, wider selection, and cheaper prices. With online shopping, people can browse and purchase products anywhere and anytime without lining up at physical stores, saving time and energy. It also provides a broader selection and price comparison, allowing consumers to find the best deals and prices across different shops, with e-commerce platforms offering exclusive online discounts. However, as it relates to body satisfaction, there are other considerations to keep in mind. One drawback is the lack of physical experience, as people shopping online cannot try on clothes in fitting rooms to examine fabrics, sizes, and quality, potentially leading to disappointment when products do not meet expectations. Inconsistent sizing across different brands can also cause frustration when clothes don't fit as expected, especially given that returns can be a complicated and time-consuming process
In response, fashion companies have emerged that aim to provide a more positive online shopping experience by celebrating diversity across body shapes and offering more personalized shopping services:
Stitch Fix offers a personalized styling service that uses algorithms to predict consumers' preferences and provides stylists with personalized clothing selections. Customers receive clothing that suits their body shapes and style preferences, promoting body confidence.
Fitsearch, powered by TrueToForm, is a search engine for personal shopping that uses 3D body scanning technology to provide personalized clothing recommendations based on a shopper's unique body measurements. The site offers detailed fit predictions for all product listings to prevent the frustrating experience of ordering something online that doesn't fit.
Universal Standard labels itself "The world's most size-inclusive brand." It offers clothes in sizes ranging from 00 to 40, ensuring that people of all body types can find comfortable clothes that fit your body types.
With growing awareness of the adverse effects of idealized beauty standards on individuals, new media and advertising campaigns make notable efforts to reshape the narrative surrounding body image:
In the new media era, social media platforms have emerged as influential and powerful spaces for social movements, offering unique ways for individuals to express ideas through various functions such as challenges and tags. For instance, the #The BodyPositivity movement on TikTok gained significant attention in 2021. Individuals, primarily women, openly and genuinely share their aunthentic journeys towards self-acceptance, encouraging people to embrace their natural bodies confidently. This tag spreads messages of confidence and the rejection of unrealistic beauty standards.
The use of plus-sized models in advertisements is a noteworthy and transformative trend in the fashion industry, promoting body inclusivity and diversity. Brands such as Lululemon are consciously choosing to incorporate plus-sized models in their advertising campaigns. By showcasing models with diverse body types, these brands send a compelling message: Beauty exists in various forms beyond the narrow frameworks.
Marketing campaigns are crucial in reshaping perceptions of beauty and confronting conventional “idealized” standards. These campaigns go beyond traditional advertising, inspiring self-acceptance. Dove's Real Beauty Campaign, a groundbreaking initiative, made a profound impact on the way we think about beauty. It stands out by featuring women of diverse body sizes, backgrounds, and ethnicities, emphasizing their natural beauty. Therefore, it highlights the idea that every woman possesses inherent beauty that transcends traditional ideals, promoting confidence and female inner strengths.