Look at That Body

It’s no secret that the body type that is admired in our culture today is a very thin and petite one. But, Why is this? A lot of this has to do with the fashion industry and what the clients look for when choosing a model. In the article “why thin is still in” written by Adam Fish he interviews a fashion client that remarks “clients choose looks that they expect everyone else to choose too. They widely perceive that white-washed ultra-skinny models are most likely to be types chosen by their peers, and to deviate from this tried-and-tested formula would be to risk professional status by being out of fashion.” So really they are just giving the people what they want, which is what you do when your trying to sell a product right? So are we really to blame any one but ourselves for this thin body type we all idealize? Often times we blame the fashion industry and magazine editors for creating this idea that we are not pretty unless we are thin. When in reality they are trying to give us what we want and what we admire in order to remain trendy and not out of fashion.

In this article that fashion industry is compared to a cultural industry and that “fashion modeling should be thought of as an institutionalized production system, where the goods produced – the models – are embedded in an historically-shaped and market-driven network of agents, designers, and casting directors” They are looking on how to their product to sell and look to what has sold in the past. So, basically we are objectifying models and not looking at them as human beings at all. Rather, as an object that can be used as a marketing tactic to get a particular product to sell. After a while things start to flow in a systematic way and trends start to form. “Agents look for skinny models because that’s what the designer wants. Yet, when you as designers why they choose skinny models its because that is what’s provided.”

It is also noted that designers make sample sizes in sizes 2-4 because “that is the way things are done” “compared to QWERTY keypad, we end up with a certain working order of things because over time conventions get locked-in, and it becomes easier to not change them, even if we don’t like them.” This is not surprising because often times in our society we get locked into our ways and it becomes hard to change things that we have known and done forever. Which is most likely one of the reasons that we experience culture shock when we travel to new places. We are all so accustomed to doing things in a set way that when we go somewhere else and things are done differently it is hard for us to adjust.

These designers also seem to have a vision of their clothing hanging on a thin woman. A London casting director made the statement that “it’s really hard to find size 12 or 14 girls that are fierce, I mean they’re all just–” and here he puffed out his cheeks and raised his eyebrows, vaguely resembling the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man.  “It doesn’t look good.” Why doesn’t it look good? Because it would be challenging the customs we have been exposed to and it would be something different. So why is it that something different when it comes to fashion in terms of clothing being acceptable and valued? Yet, when it comes to body shape it is not? All of this is routed in how as a society we view and value things, and also how we struggle to change our ways because we are comfortable and fear change and not being trendy.

Reference: Savage Minds: Why Is Thin Still In? by: Adam Fish http://savageminds.org/2010/10/29/why-thin-is-still-in/

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One thought on “Look at That Body

  1. I find the quote that you put in alluding to the factory-line industrialization of modeling (“fashion modeling should be thought of as an institutionalized production system, where the goods produced – the models – are embedded in an historically-shaped and market-driven network of agents, designers, and casting directors”) a very interesting point for a number of reasons. One is the fact that although thin is in currently, it used to be very fashionable to be chubby less than a century ago, and had stayed that way for generations before the later 20th century. Because of this, something obviously had to shift in order for westernized culture to idolize being skinny.

    I think a large part of that has to do with food distribution–people in Westernized societies often have a plethora of food and many options to choose from. Therefore, being overweight can seem to signify (often incorrectly) gluttony, or lack of self-control. However, as Ann Simmons explains in her article “Where Fat is a Mark of Bueaty”, in other cultures where food is more scarce it is necessary for women to gain weight before marriage in order to find a good suitor. Thus I believe a significant amount of our belief when it comes to the fashion industry is derived from how accessible food is to us.

    Another (albeit smaller) point I’d like to make is about the last quote, and how the designer finds it is difficult to make women of larger sizes look “fierce”. The original point of modeling was not to sell a body type or a lifestyle, although that’s what it seems to have become. Instead it was created to show off and sell clothes. Therefore the women had to have bodies that more resembled mannequins than the actual average human being, because that size is what would show off the clothes best. As the fashion industry progressed, their models kept getting thinner and thinner, and out of it has borne numerous unhealthy effects on the society it is within, such as a spike in eating disorders.

    If ti was possible to change society from glorifying fat to glorifying thin, it should be possible to switch again. However, is a healthier societal psychological outlook on body and body image worth lessening the amount of food we have available for consumption in a society that still has not yet attained equal distribution of resources? That’s a difficult question if I’ve ever heard one.

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