The world of high fashion is not the world of the everyday person. The fashion world sets impossible standards; it is an industry founded on illusions. The female body, in particular, is constantly being manipulated and objectified. Yet, a lot of what we —the everyday person—considers beautiful or aspires to be, is based on an ideal constructed by the fashion world elite. Meryl Streep says it best in The Devil Wears Prada:
“However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”
If the fashion world is so exclusive, I worry there is no place and/or voice for the consumer. Where do I fit into the structure of the fashion industry? I do not see my body represented. (How many 5 feet tall models do you know?) I do not see the layers of background represented. (Irish-Japanese fashion designers, anyone?) It’s a serious problem if I am so deeply connected to a machine which fails to see my point of view.
I admit to constantly thinking about what I am wearing; does this look good on me, does it accentuate “my best parts?” My perception of beauty is dictated by people who perceive beauty as one note. But I CANNOT complain. I am represented, if only as a White woman.
When we spoke with Dr. Ford, I couldn’t help but think that for all the “progress” being made, there is still a representation problem. Chan reiterated this point, asserting that the fashion industry is inherently racist. I thought the easiest way to further explore this was to look at covers and editorials from American fashion magazines. (Cynically, I thought this was a pointless exercise. I think the fashion industry does a terrible job representing anyone who isn’t skinny and White.)
THE LAST EIGHT MONTHS OF NYLON:
Hailee Steinfeld: American Actress, 17 years old // Sienna Miller: English Actress & Model, 32 years old Jessica Alba: American Actress with Dutch, French, and Mexican heritage, 33 years old Nina Dobrev: A Bulgarian-Canadian Actress, 25 years old // Haim: American Pop-Rock Band, 23-28 years old Leighton Meester: American Actress & Singer, 28 years old// Tavi Gavinson: Founder of Rookie Mag, 18 years old Aubrey Plaza: American Actress, 30 years old.
WHAT WE LEARN: After 33 years old, as a woman, you are no longer beautiful and therefore no longer desirable. If you are not of European descent, you are not beautiful. If you do not identify as “American” you are not beautiful.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GOOGLE “W MAGAZINE COVERS”
25 White women // 2 Black women
WHAT WE LEARN: Women are either Black or White. Forget about your personal history, your only identity is the color of your skin. If you’re White, you’re more beautiful; if you are Black you maybe could be beautiful.
VOGUE’S FEATURED FASHION SPREAD — “Around the World with Mario Testino”
WHAT WE LEARN Apparently, the entire world is made up of thin White women. Transnational Feminism is just a myth .
The fashion industry is always selling the idea that if you look good, you feel good. This is bullshit. If you look like the woman they deem beautiful, you feel good.
I would love to hear your thoughts on race and representation in the fashion industry.