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Essay: Fashion: ShapingIdentity

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  • Subject area(s): Sample essays
  • Reading time: 8 minutes
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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 2,308 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 10 (approx)
  • Tags: Fashion essays

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Sorry To Burst Your Body Image Bubble

How the fashion industry broke them down but later kept them intact, the hardship of poor body image takes a new stand with fashion individuality and seeing your “outer” self differently.

The fashion industry is continually changing and growing every day, all around us. You yourself are a walking piece of art, even if you do not know anything about clothing. You woke up and decided to put together your outfit and those clothes are a way of expressing who you are or even who you want to be. Fashion is a sense of personal identity, making what you wear a huge part of your life.

This industry has been known to encourage body image negativity, especially for teens, because of that fact that the industry strives for slender bodies and tall figures. Unrealistic beauty and body expectations are seen in stores, advertisements and on the runway. These body image issues can have a great impact on their daily lives as a teenager. Teenagers are considered some of the most fashion-conscious people on the planet. People of young ages are now feeling very insecure and obsessed with their bodies. Comparing yourself to what you see can negatively impact body image. Most articles you read on body image and fashion are interpreted as negative, but what if I told you that fashion can not only make you happier– but also help you be more confident with your own body image.

The average American woman is 5 foot 4 inches and around 140 pounds. That usually ranges between a size 10-16 depending on where the weight falls on their body type. Yet the average model in the fashion industry is around 5 foot 9 to 6 foot and 114 pounds. This is a very obvious difference is real life and what the fashion industry portrays on young teens. They are used to seeing this type of frame on women and expect that this is what is attractive. Looking up to women who have an unattainable body figure will not help the issue teens are having with body image.

A recent survey done by Marshalls showed that 75 percent of women have said “no” to a certain activity due to a lack of confidence in themselves and their body. Women are known to underestimate their attractiveness because most believe that their appearance is essential to how they are seen by others. Your mind is a very powerful tool and only you can choose how to use it. If your mind can convince your eyes to physically see your bodies differently and make you feel better and more confident in your own skin, imagine how big negative thoughts can be on your mental health and well-being.

I sat down with Rowan Myers, an art major at Westminster College, who shared her thoughts and experiences with body image as a teenager and young adult. “Every single day, not all day every day — but every day I feel uncomfortable with my body in some sort of way.” Growing up hating her body, Rowan was never confident. She would put on clothes that hid her figure as a way to hide from the world and everyone around her. As a teenager, she wanted to be the one wearing the crop tops and the polo shirts, but they didn’t sell them in her size. She had to use accessories to spice up her outfits because she couldn’t find any cute clothes that fit.

Rowan was annoyed by tiny flaws that eventually developed into an obsession with a body part. She thought of these tiny flaws all throughout her day and the flaws began to rule her life. She was surrounded by thinner friends who would call themselves overweight, only enhancing the negative thoughts about her own body. She heard constant disparaging of her friends “big thighs” that planted her first thoughts of her body not being “okay” when compared to others.

The mirror was one of Rowan’s biggest enemies. It would show her her true self and she couldn’t get the thought that no one would ever want her out of her head. She did not want to be faced with the image of her ‘expanding” physical body when she only wanted to get thinner.  She was told her whole life to get rid of the weight, never to love your weight. All Rowan could think about was her weight, how to lose it and how to hide it. She would try to lose the weight and would gain it back again. Each time she would fail and would return again to try.

 In high school, Rowan was faced with thin women wherever she looked. Thin supermodels, actresses, singers, and artists were all that she could see. “This part of me is too small and this part is too big compared to her,” Rowan said every time she looked into a mirror. She struggled with being invisible at times and then being too visible at others. She wanted to be accepted into groups but was judged and singled-out. She continued comparing her body to someone else’s that she believed was better than hers. She started to build her personal style. Now in her third year of college, Rowan has learned to overcome her insecurities by using the one thing that tore her down, clothing.

Rowan’s life changed dramatically when she was in college. She began to take risks, not only in her life but in her clothing. She didn’t want to fade into the background, she wanted to start over and have college be the place she truly enjoyed. “People think the industry is filled with self-absorbed, conceited people who would pay any price on multitudes of clothing. That’s only skin deep. When you look at it from a deeper level, fashion is much, much more than that,” Rowan said. Fashion has the ability to transform and empower you as a human being. It’s not just something you put on in the morning anymore.

Rowan has a slight addiction to social media — one that very much contributed to her body image issues in the first place. Social media is a crucial business tool for the fashion industry. The online community has a desire to discuss fashion and most plus-size girls want to be recognized by the industry. Rowan liked to call herself a curvy woman. The curvy that the media portrays is not what most curvy women look like in real life. In the media, you need to be “perfectly curvy” meaning curvy in all the right spots. It is clear that there is still a long way to go with the plus-size community coming into the fashion world. It is necessary to find leaders in the industry who can bring these issues to attention and can paint a picture of what the future holds.

I reached out Stefani Nicole, a body positive creator on Instagram to see what she has to say about the fashion world and how it can impact one’s body image. She has such a powerful and independent voice, it is hard to not fall in love with her when you meet her. Stefani has such strong beliefs that have helped her as a child who struggled with a “larger” frame than the average teen. Stefani begins to firmly discuss how fat-shaming is not the only type of shame girls are starting to hear. Thin-shaming has become more apparent in today’s day and age when looking at models and how “delicate” and “breakable” they can look. Stefani doesn’t think that “thin-shaming is as serious an issue at fat-shaming by any means,” she finds it really sad that a shape or size can become “banned” from media. Fashion magazines are one of the most powerful influencers of body image. Not only is this seen in women, but men are starting to struggle as well.

Stefani has lived by the motto of “when we look at others, we shouldn’t see their flaws, we should see all of the amazing gifts and talents they hold.” Over the years, she has taken this to heart and hopes that others will begin to use it as well. Being “overweight” in society, Stefani began to integrate fashion into her life as a young adult. She had the hardest time finding clothes that fit her, but she worked hard to fill her closet full of clothes that she loved. To be beautiful, it doesn’t matter what you weigh, but what you wear. Your clothing choices can make a huge impact on your self esteem and body image. You don’t have to change your body, but you can change your clothes! There comes a time when you just need to give up on listening to what people have to say and be you and enjoy every bit of it.

Rowan took these words from Stefani and started the challenge. “The magic of fashion is that you can change your image in less than a minute depending on what you wear,” Rowan adds. You do not want to be uncomfortable in what you wear and you need to understand why the right-for-you clothing can contribute to your confidence. Once you feel comfortable in your own skin, you will see how it changes the way you approach the world. Dress to make yourself feel good and not anyone else. At the end of the day, it is your body and opinion that matters.

Rowan has learned to dress in a way that makes her comfortable and confident. She is not afraid to wear bright colors or a dress that shows her calves. She incorporates pieces into her wardrobe that she can walk out of her house with a smile on her face. Rowan’s body confidence is not fully gone, and it will be hard to get rid of it fully. Rowan noticed that her clothes can make her feel pretty on the inside as well as the outside.

Both Rowan and Stefani were people who used to focus on the number on the tag. Size varies across every store, brand, and location. As women, you tend to get stumped on the number game. You try on your “regular” size and it doesn’t fit, so you go back for a bigger size. You look for your size on the rack and it is not there, so you feel discouraged and never want to go back to that shop again. This doesn’t mean that your size is a bad thing. When you buy clothes you want to be purchasing something that makes you feel beautiful and comfortable. You are not buying clothes to show off the size. The mannequin size at stores it unattainable for most women in the United States. You try the same outfit on and it looks completely different because you are comparing yourself against the thin model.

It is time to let go of the insecurity of your size and like confidently and bravely. Let fashion guide you to be a beautiful woman inside and out. Realize that who you are is enough and your outside shines just as much as within. When you start to see yourself in a positive light, you start to become what you see. No negative comment, negative stares or bad dressing room experience should affect your self-worth because you know that you are beautiful.

The fashion industry still has a long way to go when it comes to positive body image. The addition of plus-size models recently has given the industry a positive outlook. More designers are designing clothing for plus-size women and are promoting body positivity. Research has shown that the more a person looks at a model of their body type results in high satisfaction and fewer comparisons to others.

Fashion is a wonderful way of expressing yourself as a person whether it is by color or garment style, there is always going to be a story on why that makes you, you. Fashion isn’t permanent. It is forever changing. Our body positivity will change along with it. Every person is unique and different and we want to stay that way. A perfect mold is not what people want to see, as the joy of being unique and confident will last forever.

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How To Help People Who Are Struggling With Body Image

Avoid discussing weight and food. If you tell someone that they “probably shouldn’t eat that” they are not going to suddenly put down their silverware and stop eating. Usually, the person struggling realizes that they are eating unhealthy items or even eating more than they should have. It is not your place to tell them what they need to eat. The best way to go about this is for you to say “Hey! Let’s go get this certain food”. It will let you give the suggestion of what to eat but not in a forceful way.

Try not to talk about your appearance if you realize that they are struggling. You saying that your thighs are too big or you have huge stomach rolls will not make your friend feel any better about themselves. They will compare themselves to you even if you are saying your body isn’t perfect.

Recognize what fashion choices are wanting their attention. If your friend suddenly changes their look that might be a cry for help. Take time to connect with them to see what is impacting the extreme behavior. At the very least, it could just be a change in style but it could be deeper than that!

Find ways to build their self-esteem. Find other hobbies that can distract them from their negativity about their body. It’s about them and what makes them happy and confident in the end!

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