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A Healthy Love of Fashion?

It’s unfashionable to complain about the models being too skinny. You come off like a hater. I mean, some people are just naturally thin. We want to see these models, this is our ideal. No one wants to buy clothes from a normal looking person. It’s too close to reality. Who wants that? We already have reality right here.

Lately, I’ve been facing some ethical problems, whether or not to play into the whole fashion machine. I love fashion, I love the human interaction with clothes. It’s a beautiful art, one of the most personal, clothing protects us from the elements, it communicates our values, our culture, our desires. Fashion sets itself apart from the necessity of clothing the way architecture sets itself apart from the cave.

“Nothing [in fashion magazines are] real, it’s all fantasy, photoshop… the clothes aren’t even meant to be worn.”

In a discussion with a fashion editor about my concerns, “Nothing [in fashion magazines are] real, it’s all fantasy, photoshop… the clothes aren’t even meant to be worn.” Yet, more and more clothes that are meant to be worn are modeled by women who are subjected to the same standards as runway models.

When I pass by these billboards with the image (shown above) of a woman whose upper arm is thinner than her lower arm, sunken cheeks, clothes hanging on for dear life. I have to wonder if I should be OK with this. I don’t even shop at H&M anymore, but should that even matter?

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26 comments for “A Healthy Love of Fashion?”

  1. this discussion is just endless, unfortunately. but pointing it out every once in a while is a first step, and holding on to your ethics right in this blog another way. i don’t think we’ll see a change on runways an advertising soon, but journalists and bloggers can make a difference, though you feel that too many people have said it before. i love fashion blogs, but one thing i’ve noticed is that even bloggers too often write about models they think are beautiful, though they are too young to be a woman and too skinny to be alive. so who’s writing about other forms of beauty, who’s putting up fashion photos with normal women?

    Posted by Tessa | September 1, 2008, 7:02 am
  2. I am very happy that you address that topic as I was also wondering about the latest h&m adverts. Of course it is not done with not buying at H&M anymore. Especially “us” bloggers support this whole thing tremendously - I mean just when I scroll down your site, there are also few pics showing women whose upper arms are thinner than her forearms. My point is, the only consistent way would be not to show those models no matter if from adverts or runway pics or… at all.

    Posted by lila | September 1, 2008, 7:55 am
  3. Good question! I don’t really know how I feel about it. I just got the French Connection catalogue in the post today and I have to admit that even though I know about Photoshop and make-up artists and how nothing is as it appears - the beautiful slim model with legs up to her ears was intimidating me. Maybe I’m just particularly fragile today but as sensible as I like to think of myself as being, I found myself thinking ‘I wish I could look like that’! I can’t imagine what its like to be a model caught up in an industry where your body is under constant criticism and you are constantly being compared to someone taller, slimmer, prettier. All I can say is I would never be able to do it!

    Posted by missmilki | September 1, 2008, 7:56 am
  4. Hmmm…

    This is also something I’ve been thinking about since I’ve had University on my mind. I love fashion and I want to study Journalism but I highly doubt I’d combine the two because I don’t want to be part of the whole “You Suck! Buy this to feel better” “campaign”.

    These images bother me but they don’t make me feel pressured in any way because first and foremost of my mother and two I’ve never looked to anything besides my family to feel better about myself. (Which obviously comes with it’s own pros and cons) I dunno but I’ve never thought that companies that get huge profits from/because of people not liking themselves would be reliable sources for what I should aspire to. That doesn’t change the fact that a lot of my friends think they’re fat though…

    Another thing for me in particular is how white fashion is. There was that whole Black Vogue thing but that in itself IMHO missed the point but at least some black models got some work out of it.

    I try my best to be a conscious consumer and make my own “rules” when it comes to Fashion and try to lead by example.

    BTW I did a blog post the other day with a different spin on this whole mess, here

    Posted by Valentina | September 1, 2008, 8:50 am
  5. Bloggers make the difference when they show their personal outfits, in human and normal bodies. The eyes show there is someone there, and as the editor said, in fashion magazines, is unreal, and the looks of some models sometimes scares…no live, no nothing…

    My reaction was to make my own production, choose the models, the place and the attitude. It was fun to see how difficult it is, and how fun too…

    Posted by Mer | September 1, 2008, 9:05 am
  6. I think we all realize that the ads are fake and photo shopped. What really concerns me is the girls on the runways. This is not photo shopped and quite often it is shocking.

    Posted by anthea | September 1, 2008, 9:08 am
  7. I work in Advertising and we have done ads for lingerie companies, some for “plus” sized lines. Even with those gorgeous, very normal looking girls, we photoshopped. I am well aware of the unreality in these images.

    The good thing is I’ve never wanted to be taller (I’m 5′4″) so I never aspired to be a model. There are times when I like a certain style of clothing but I know it won’t look good on me. Then I sigh over the outfit. I do know that not everything is perfect for everyone so I try to let it go.

    Currently I feel like I’m on a path to better self-acceptance. Switching to a vegetarian lifestyle has kicked off a number of mental changes. It’s been quite interesting.


    Posted by Poochie | September 1, 2008, 9:18 am
  8. You need not worry about that model, because that’s Daria Werbowy, a “name” girl. She gets paid plenty. She can eat if she wants.

    Modeling, on the other hand, is a badly regulated industry and will carry on in its chasing of so-called perfection. Until forever.

    Posted by Leela | September 1, 2008, 9:48 am
  9. Very intriguing. I can’t say I’m all that torn. I mean, I completely agree that a small part of the charm of fashion is the escape. But there is no reason why you cannot have non-emaciated looking models to provide that image. I see a difference between being naturally thin and emaciated. Yet the problem is not something that lies with models or indeed the industry, but with society as a whole. And for that reason, it’s not something that will alter immediately.

    Posted by Leah | September 1, 2008, 9:57 am
  10. I agree that a lot of models look unhealthily skinny. Sometimes to an extent that is unattractive. But, I do think fashion bloggers are changing the landscape. You guys are, after all, real people (albeit with unreal closets, if I do say so myself!). I love seeing you, jennifer from sally jane, rihannon from liebe marlene and other fashion bloggers model their own clothes. It has been slowly inspiring me to post pictures of myself on my own blog (so far 3… slowly but surely!) I grew up with a lot of body issues since I am tiny-short (5″1′), but grew boobs in the third grade. Also, i attempted to be a dancer (double body issues now)! Now that I’m older I realize how unimportant skinniness is. The best policy is to dress to your strengths and have fun with it. And real girls like the bloggers I read are the most inspiring role models yet.

    Posted by Market Publique | September 1, 2008, 10:41 am
  11. Hmmm. That model doesn’t look that thin to me — just very made up and photoshopped.

    Posted by WendyB | September 1, 2008, 12:20 pm
  12. thank you all for you wonderful, and thoughtful comments… it’s given me a lot to think about.

    @tessa: sometimes i get bummed out trying to apply principles to fashion… but this gives me hope. bloggers are gaining more and more respect, and it’s important to remember that respect also comes with responsibility.

    @lila: i’m going to try to reduce the number of too-thin models on my blog. it’s hard… but to be honest there was one show at berlin fashion week that had horribly emaciated models, that in the photo section, the photographers were whispering about it. but no one said anything publicly. i personally, chose not to show the collection on the blog though, i liked the clothes.

    @mer:good point, i guess this means i should do more original photography.. which would be a way to step things up around here.
    @valentina: you’re lucky to have a good mum… but yeah, why not do fashion journalism? it’s probably better if you got something to say…. which it sounds like you do.
    @poochie… ooh self-acceptance, its a good path, but for some reason it always evades me. stupid path.

    @wendy- of course she doesn’t look too thin to you, you live in manhattan silly.

    Posted by jennine | September 1, 2008, 1:59 pm
  13. i think it does matter whether you shop there or not. it is just unethical. i do agree though that some if not a majority are just naturally thin. and that’s okay. but i do believe we need a little more reality on the runway. because although we are the reality the more people who buy into the labels the more they’ll be seeing these models as the reality and if they don’t look like that in the clothes then they’d dam n well better get themselves to look like that in the clothes. and that’s wrong. i think we need variety on the runway. tiny. medium. above average. below average. why not? variety exists in real life and i do beleive fashion needs to begin mirroring that.

    Posted by farren | September 1, 2008, 3:03 pm
  14. This is a post on an issue which is definatley worth thinking about. I think its important for people to keep their feet on the ground and not go to extremes about looking like models in magazines because as you mentioned, a lot of is is photoshop and touch ups, with clever lighting and expensive hair stylists and make up artists.

    Also as people have mentioned here, bloggers have changed the scene a little by posting great pictures of themselves which are real things to aspire to, which is a great thing and this is hopefully going to continue.

    I also agree it would be great if variety was on the runway, because then it would show what the clothes look like on people on all sizes rather than just one end of the spectrum.

    This is a great post, thank you for sharing.

    Posted by oaktree | September 1, 2008, 4:16 pm
  15. I do not understand why people are so bothered about this images, yes this models look way better and skinnier than me, so what? I like to see beautiful things I certainly do not feel the need to see a reflection of myself on those billboards, I think we all have to start taking responsability for our own insecurities.

    And don’t be fooled yes everything is photoshoped and fake, but most of this women are indeed gorgeous and naturally thin, and I do like to look at them.
    I see fashion as a totally superficial thing, our value as persons is in our essence not in our exterior, we all have our physical limitations, this girls are just a bit more perfect to look at.

    Posted by Lolinha | September 1, 2008, 5:44 pm
  16. But it’s Daria Werbowy. And plus, her cheeks… are manipulated by lighting and Photoshop. She’s gorgeous in real life and her cheeks are definitely not that scary.

    Posted by evolutionary | September 1, 2008, 6:09 pm
  17. Thank you for discussing this issue — it is important that people keep this issue in the forefront. I love fashion, love clothes, love beautiful photography, etc. However, I try to never focus on or obsess about models or celebrities in general. I feel that my blog and most of the blogs I love the most avoid this as well. I am a normal size girl (size 10) and will always try to keep my focus on the “average” gal!

    Posted by Tara | September 1, 2008, 7:04 pm
  18. i’m having a little back & forth with a flickr contact about this issue here. i haven’t “rebutted” again in the discussion though plan to. i also agree with her, and my argument.


    in my own blog and for the totes i sell, i use all the client pics with their bags, i’m very inclusive, and try not to be lookist in any way. i still have more thin people on my blog because i repost a fair amount of mainstream fashion.

    something that hurts me though is that since i am slim, it feels a bit like open-season in that you can’t criticize bigger people but it is somehow ok to tell a slim person to “go eat a sandwich”, etc. or that i have some sort of fascist mindset accompanying my blue-eyed, slim, white self.

    it would be preferable that a new, more inclusive attitude is just that. and not a new version of what is ok and what is not.

    Posted by SwanDiamondRose | September 1, 2008, 11:04 pm
  19. is fashion really such a superficial thing? is architecture superficial? is design superficial? is art superficial?

    maybe it is if you make it so, but let’s not sell ourselves short.

    i’m not sure if it makes me feel better that daria is photoshopped to look scary.

    swan, you make a great point about thin bashing, i’m not really sure about what the solution is at this point, but it’s also good to look at what’s being presented all the time, forcefed to us… images of surreal women… we’re supposed to want this. perhaps if the roles were reversed, the same thing would also occur.

    i guess what i’m questioning here really boils down to fantasy and desire. something at my very core was bothered by this image, i don’t know what it is… but it bothered me.

    Posted by jennine | September 2, 2008, 1:01 am
  20. This is a really good point. And the fact of the matter is, even if you don’t shop at H&M and even if you don’t necessarily feel like you’re going to starve yourself to look like her - it still affected you.

    It bothered you, so yes it does matter.

    How to fix it? What to do? I don’t’ think anybody knows.

    Posted by Cate | September 2, 2008, 4:25 am
  21. Why does the problem always have to do with image and not in ourselfs?

    My exact train of thought when I saw this ads on the street was” Daria is doing H&M again, those trousers are cheap but the cut must be awful, hate H&M”.

    My thoughts were nothing but
    Absolutely superficial.

    Posted by Lolinha | September 2, 2008, 4:47 am
  22. i actually think her body is perfect.

    Perhaps I’m a teen, brainwashed into thinking THIN IS BEAUTIFUL. I’ve dieted excessively to try and be thin. i still think clothes would look better if i was thin.
    But, when I think back, thin has ALWAYS been what i’ve wanted. not since i started being interested in fashion. always. I wasn’t exposed to much media as a child, yet i wanted it.
    How can I change this innate feeling that to be beautiful, i MUST BE THIN?

    so, is it really the media?
    who knows.

    Posted by annah | September 2, 2008, 2:12 pm
  23. i think a part of the solution is what is happening here. people using their blogs to show all sides of the story. there’s that book The Long Tail though it is product oriented it still applies to ideas, and it says something like- people are very interested in what was previously considered non-mainstream “stuff”, they just need to be given access, and when they are given access they are all over it. people can be shown more beautiful images of more types of beauty. to assume that these “they” voices of advertising have all the power, well they don’t.

    Posted by SwanDiamondRose | September 2, 2008, 8:03 pm
  24. A really interesting discussion; it was great to read all these comments. I really wish that too skinny would go out of fashion. I love looking at curvy models / actresses like Sophie Dahl, Scarlett J., Monica Belluci etc. What I think about these days is how all these glammed up high street fashion images contrast so harshly with the environment (sweatshops!) the clothes were made in. Of course H&M and other brands claim that they don’t agree with exploitation but they don’t really do much to change it either. I wonder what the consumers can do to put pressure on these companies.

    Posted by Fair shopping fairy | September 3, 2008, 5:11 pm
  25. This is an issue that I feel very strongly about as I’m someone who has always been skinny without being anorexic or unhealthy. When I was younger I used to be very aware of how thin i was, although my mother used to constantly tell me i was fine and looked lovely (i inherited my figure from her), people would often comment saying i was ’sooo skinny’ but never with a positive tone. Most wouldn’t tell an overweight person, ‘ooooh you’re so huge!’? Why the difference?
    I changed the way I reacted to people’s comments by returning their exclamation by asking if they meant it as a good thing- strangely they always ended up saying yes.Although even some of the exact same people who used to say it negatively, now say ‘oh you’re so thin, so lucky, i’m so jealous’ etc. Now I have to laugh because back then their comments really upset me.

    Anyway, what I’m really trying to say is that people should really just consider that some models are thin and do have eating disorders, and some are just naturally thin and can eat anything without it affecting their weight. Although I understand your concern about Daria’s weight, I actually think she looks lovely. Look at her green eyes, her lovely hair, long legs. Yes, she has slim arms but does that make her unhealthy? And concerning the cheekbones, i’d say it’s mostly a case of heavy lighting and bronzer or whatever.

    I understand the love for fashion changing in terms of hairstyles, clothing etc, but as for weight? Changing your body to fit in with fashion seems strange to me. In Ruben’s time big women were most popular, the 50s loved a bust and curvaceous hips, then the 60s moved on to Twiggy long legs.
    I personally think that this media obsession is exactly that-the media’s obsession. they are to blame for the many eating disorders as they are the ones releasing the images for vulnerable girls to see. Constant contradictive headlines consume magazine covers, e.g. ‘how to lose that flab’ and then ‘love your lovehandles!’
    I think it’s all a bunch of bollocks and everyone should start worrying about what’s really important.

    Rant over! (I love your blog, Jennine, very informative and fun to read)

    Posted by Skyla | September 5, 2008, 11:48 am
  26. runway models are basically living version of clothing hangers. when we look at them just as that a an inatimate object than we can fully appreciate the clothes at their truest forms.
    Unfourtunetly the depleating states of these models is something we all need to change as a whole. Something in society needs to change. What that something is we don’t know yet

    Posted by megan | September 6, 2008, 12:50 pm

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