Body Positivity in Fashion

Updated: Jan 15

Written and illustrated by Martha Rose Emerson

The positive beliefs one has for themselves is not stimulated from the context of the media but is a phycological and sociological process of self-love. The fashion industry has the power to influence one’s perception of themselves. Fashion and styling are a systemized construction of one’s personal identity. The industry for years has run up negative press with their lack of diversity and normality. It was only a few years ago that our magazines and TV screens were flaunted with slim, tall and naturally beautiful women. We were always taught that the “Kate Moss’s” would sell to the audience, generalizing a beauty standard in the industry. We are taught to hide our non-conventional flaws in order to gain acceptance in society. Little attention was given to plus size or other realistic body types. Being slim allowed for far more privileges, whether the industry would care to admit that or not.

In the light of a more “woke” generation, with people becoming more outspoken especially against male-led media, the body positivity campaign began in 2012. Body positivity is about viewing our bodies as a wonderful creation, and embracing who we are. In our orthodox society we are taught to be ashamed of who we are, if we fail to meet the media’s beauty standards. The movement that started out on social media soon gravitated into mainstream media, creating a body revolution. Self-love was the topic of conversation and people were eager to talk about it. The movement has led to plus size bodies playing a more prominent role in campaigns, TV & film and even on front pages of some of the world’s most prolific magazines. Although the Kate Moss’s and Kendall Jenner’s of the industry sell to a select few high-end buyers, the general consensus has opted for comfort over fashion, choosing brands who they feel caters best for them. The body positivity movement still has a long way to go. In recent years the movement has become more commercialized. Brands are using it as a revenue tracker in order to appear more inclusive. Brands are failing the movement, by appearing to be inclusive. They are blindsiding the ones who made the movement so prolific, losing touch of the message.

Anybody that uses body positivity to sell something is using it for their personal gain, we weren’t selling anything in the beginning. We were just selling ourselves.” - Lizzo, interview with vogue 2019.

Lizzo has become a global icon for the movement, symbolizing a change in how society views plus size bodies. Seeing a young black woman take ownership of her body, being confident and comfortable of herself sexually has empowered a generation of young women. The movement over the years has opened up new opportunities for those at focus, but with this has come a new body trend becoming the ultimate beauty standard. The media has began to focus on women with an hourglass figure, ones deemed to have the “correct amount of fat on them”. The ever-changing body trends in fashion can become damaging, not just to the audience but to the models who get dismissed due to the size popularity at the time.

The conversation around body positivity in the fashion industry has become normalized. It started as a whisper, but gradually grown to symbolize hope in the industry. The progression and acceptance of the movement is already a huge achievement for those involved. After all, there is enough room for all sizes in this industry.

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