How is fashion media influencing the female body image?
This essay will critically analyse and evaluate the different perspectives concerning the fashion media influences on the female body image. Online research and other academic sources will be used to gather relevant information which will be compared and contrasted to produce key arguments regarding the topic. Based on these arguments a conclusion will be drawn up to identify an informed perspective in relation to this research question.
The unfavourable relationship between fashion media and body image is not a new topic, in fact, it has been around for a very long time. Fashion media harmonizes the thin ideal through using desirable models on their magazine covers and retouching their bodies to make the models appear even slimmer than they already are, creating a deception among their viewers (www.theguardian, 2017). Marketing within fashion media is, in a way, telling society how and what we should look like, telling us we are not enough. It is crucial to not accuse the fashion industry of being the cause of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, it is, however, a large influence. (www.eatingdisorderhope.com, 2017) The retouching method is unfortunately very common within the fashion media – female models are made to appear slimmer whilst men are made to look stronger, mutually to attract the opposite sex as well as create an unachievable ideal to be strived for. It is not unfamiliar for young females to be easily influenced by the fashion industry and the magazine covers. However, with today's technology, the outcomes of this have taken a new path. The consequences still remain, but new ones are adding up.
According to (retouchingacademy.com, 2017) a few years ago, only certain people had the resources and abilities to retouch images, today, any person with a smartphone can retouch any image they want within seconds. What does this say about the future? The main problem with this method is the fact that the influencing goes beyond fashion media, it revives through social media and creates a larger problem. Society no longer sees retouching as what it is, in fact, image manipulation is so prevalent today, we don't even notice it (Idealbite.com, 2012). Prof Janet Treasure, of the Eating Disorders Research Unit at Kings College London stated that fashion media is having a “dangerous influence the public”, she argues that the persistent exposure to images of thin models have reduced self-esteem, particularly among teenage girls. (www.telegraph.co.uk, 2008)
The fashion industry, particularly luxury brands, have begun to target a younger audience (Carmen Moreno-Gavara, Ana Jiménez-Zarco, 2016), meaning, they have to introduce new marketing techniques aimed towards millennials. Chanel, who is one of the biggest luxury brands on the globe, is now targeting millennials through the use of younger, well known, models. The brand introduced Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp, as the face of their much-publicised Chanel no 5 perfume which previously was targeted towards an older audience. The public quickly reacted to her very slim figure and speculations were wandering the internet for a time, until Lily-Rose Depp later admitted to Elle France that she has been struggling with eating disorders for a very long time. (Elle France, 2016) The main obstacle lays with brands, such as Chanel, choosing someone so thin to represent their brand, in purpose to target the younger audience. Lily-Rose Depp earlier worked with Karl Lagerfeld, who has been sued for “curvy women comments”, also stating that “no one wants to see curvy women on the runway” (Vogue UK, 2013). A study indicated that 70 percent of teen girls were strongly influenced by fashion magazines on what they saw as the ideal body. (www.cmch.tv.com). This means that the majority of females have an unrealistic body ideal to strive towards from a very young age and fashion media, is actually, often misleading girls to unhealthy eating habits which could contribute to bigger problems such as anorexia and bulimia. When young girls look at brands such as Chanel, and see how a young, very thin girl, can live their dreams and become the face of Chanel, what does that tell them? The fact that the majority of young girls are so strongly influenced by the magazine covers, that they will see what is put on there as the ideal, fashion media needs to be really careful in order to prevent possible health risks among females in society.
In addition to the public becoming strongly affected by fashion media, some brands have started to change their sizing, adding more inches to the garments, but still labelling it the same size as previously marked. This method is called Vanity sizing and is not used by all brands, meaning, the other brands will label the same measurements one size higher. The brands who are using this method are boosting their customers self-esteem when they come shopping from another brand who is not using this method, but actually labelling it as its true size, a size higher. The outcome of this method are increased sales through the use of dishonest self-esteem boosting. Unfortunately, females are more likely to purchase from a brand that makes them feel thinner, rather than a brand who is not using vanity sizing. (www.forbes.com, 2013) What is this telling the customers? Vanity sizing is using psychological customer behaviour habits to trick them into buying their clothes, rather than doing something about the fact that society is so influenced by fashion media when it comes to body ideals.
The usage of thin models on magazines and advertisement have caused strong reactions, however, the displaying of “plus size” models is becoming more and more common nowadays. (www.moneyish.com, 2017) A big factor in this change and brands adapting to it is social media. Platforms such as Instagram allow a place for everyone, such as females who up until the social media era never felt like they belonged in the mainstream fashion crowd. Social media is led by society and therefore its values are different from industries such as fashion media, creating a change in many aspects such as body ideals. More and more females with large following on social media are promoting body positivity rather than body dissatisfaction in hope to change the unrealistic body ideal – This has led to their voices being heard by media, and commenced a change. (www.adweek.com, 2016)
“Influencers” are born in social media, the definition of an influencer is someone with some large following and aesthetically pleasing images, potentially influencing their followers. Many brands have started to see this as a marketing opportunity, using the young female's ability to influence a large crowd, to promote and sell their products through them and social media. “Influencers post about what they truly like whether it's brands, experiences or activities and this honesty filters the types of people that follow them. People follow influencers because they want to, not because they have to. This creates a community of commonality.” (www.forbes.com, 2017)
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