(image via The Washington Post)
So yesterday I was trolling on my Facebook page trying to get a pulse on what's going on in the world. I've found that, as unfortunate as it may sound, Facebook can be a better measure than the evening news when it comes to discovering what issues are on the top of everyone's minds. Normally I just scroll down the feed on my mobile app, reading status updates and clicking on any images that catch my attention. I rarely ever post my own status updates (yeah, I'm one of those) but yesterday, something changed all that.
I was scrolling Facebook on my iPhone when I came across a post a relative had shared from the fan page of a radio personality. The title of it was "H&M in Sweden introduced these normal sized mannequins" with a picture of two mannequins in a store window (above). One was full-figured and the other was smaller but still had curves. So of course, I clicked on it. One, because H&M introducing normal-sized mannequins in their stores is a game-changer in the fashion industry and two, I was snobbishly wondering how my cousin, who works in education, heard about this before I did. Love ya cuz! I immediately turned on my computer and logged into Facebook from there. This required some investigation.
After a quick google search, I discovered the original article on The Washington Post. I wont recap the whole thing, but they basically stated, at first, that the photo was a hoax that went viral. Afterwards came an update where they claimed it wasn't a hoax, just misinformation and the mannequins were actually displayed in Swedish store Åhlens. And with that, debates about body image in fashion are saved. However, I personally am still let down that this did not happen.
There are hundreds of articles about this issue on the web, with statistics to boot, about the size of a model versus the size of the average women. Everyone seems to agree that there is a serious problem in the industry. Beauty standards, assisted by a heavy dose of photoshop, have gone far beyond what anyone can hope to attain. Even some models have begun to complain about not being able to fit into sample sizes if they're not a size 0. It can't be fun starving. And the damage that they do to their developing bodies is pretty well documented. We all know this already. We all are aware of this non-stop debate. So the question is, how come if we all agree that this is a problem, we are still debating about it?! Is the industry just posturing with their self-awareness, but in the end has no intention of changing? In my opinion, that's exactly what it is.
We praised to no end plus-sized model Crystal Renn and held her up as the poster child of normal-sized beauty, but didn't embrace plus-sized models as a whole, who for all intents and purposes are not plus-sized at all and are the true normal-sized models. We went nuts over Cate Blanchett's unretouched Intelligent Life magazine cover where she proudly displayed her wrinkles and still looked fabulous. Jennifer Lawrence's candid statement about her Dior ads "Of course it's photoshop. People don't look like that" had us praising her as the darling of realness. Yet, even after all of this ovation, rampant photoshopping on covers is still standard practice. When Sports Illustrated cover darling Kate Upton came on the scene, she was lauded for her curvaceous body and we all watched closely as she attempted to transition from bikini model to high fashion. Now that the hype surrounding her has died down, it seems we take more enjoyment out of ripping her lack of muscle tone or her belly fat. Last, but not least, let's talk Lena Dunham. Admit it, we can't decide if we love her brazen, in your face, I don't give a f*@k attitude when it comes to her body, or if we would like her to wear more "appropriate" clothing that hides a roll or two. You know you've thought it.
So where does this leave us. We certainly are a schizophrenic lot. We argue for more realistic body images while simultaneously fighting against the rise in obesity. We poke fun at photoshopped celebrities, but still buy the magazines featuring them on the cover. Had a global powerbrand like H&M entered this debate, I'm guessing we would have celebrated it as a coup and possibly would have seen some significant, if slight, changes. But, and this is a big but, after the hype dissipated, would we still have considered them cool and edgy? Would we still have continued to spend money in their stores? And that my friends is the heart of it. Money. As long as people continue to spend money on magazines and covet the brands that use the most stick thin models, nothing will change. I've decided that it is not wholly the fault of the fashion industry. The consumer has to share in part of the blame. Why? Because being outspoken with disapproval is one thing, but money talks and the consumer dollar is saying loud and clear "Please, continue".