Call for Stories: What is Your Relationship With Fashion and Body Image?

This intersection between the fashion and beauty industries and self expression and/or body image is one that I am really struggling with. Personally, I am secure enough in my sense of self and body image that I can enjoy fashion — especially shopping and picking out outfits, occasionally magazines or trend-following — as a hobby and not worry about eating disorders, weight issues, or whether my attire reflects my personality.

For many people, though, this does not seem to be the case. For some, fashion presents a quandary because their gender identity may be difficult to express in clothing, or the general public is not receptive to their chosen mode of self expression when they do. Others work so hard to attain the thin, tall, white beauty ideal that they drive themselves to eating disorders and poor self esteem. Still others get so discouraged by the so-called beauty ideals that they opt out entirely, avoiding mirrors and shopping, cultivating  low self-esteem and body image.

I want to hear from you. What is your relationship with the fashion and/or beauty industries? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Why? If you have a conflict with the fashion industry, where does that conflict lie? Leave a comment and let me know.

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9 Responses to Call for Stories: What is Your Relationship With Fashion and Body Image?

  1. Amanda says:

    I’m the type that hates to dress up, or even “dress nice” because I’ve had issues with my body type and fashion. If What Not To Wear has taught me anything, it’s that there are outfits in the world designed for every body type. I just don’t feel comfortable in anything other than jeans and a Phillies t-shirt. It’s why I bitch and moan on Twitter about having to dress up for senior events around campus.
    Truthfully, there are no real plus size women in the fashion world. There are size 14, which is roughly around what is supposed to be the “average woman” in the U.S. I seesaw between a 16 and an 18 and have a height of 5’10”, so there are not many models for me to look up to and aspire to be like. The modeling world has been a big factor in my adolescence, and definitely played a (small) role in my depression in high school. I didn’t look like the other girls and I couldn’t fit into the fashions that all the other girls were flaunting. It made me feel like crap. And I see girls today feeling like crap because standards are still the same. Sure they’ve allowed a few mentions of IT’S OK TO BE BIG, but “big” meaning below a size 12. Other than that, who cares about you. That is the message I get from the fashion world.
    But I’m comfortable with myself now, as long as I can wear clothes that I want to wear. My black jeans and So Perfect (zoowithroy) t-shirt does just fine, thank you very much. :)

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  4. fashion says:

    nice information sharing with you thanks.

  5. orenm says:

    This topic, fashion, gender and bodies, is (or should be) on the cutting edge of feminist/GLBT/race/class/ability/size theory and activism. My personal story with fashion has been entangled with my entanglement with critical theory. In high school, I was a goth kid who consciously “genderfucked” through wearing skirts, make-up, stockings, and nail-polish, but without the mindfulness of subverting gender normativity, heteronormativity, etc. I have always been coded as a male, yet that coding was harder to achieve for others when I did “the goth thing”.

    I grew out of that, not in a way that would put down alternative culture or self expression, but in the way that I was forced to join the real world where both goth-ness and genderfucking is a limit to empowerment (aka no jobs). I have noticed certain things about fashion after joining “the real”: “women’s” clothes (clothing that is made “for women” as if the category wasn’t created through the category of clothing itself) seem to construct feminine sexuality in terms of being the desired object, and therefore have thinner, tighter fitting clothes; clothing literally constructs a range of codes, from racially gendered ones (wearing “high tops” are labeled “street fashion” or “urban”) to queer expressions (dressing in drag at GLBT events or putting certain differently gendered clothing articles together without intending to fully “play” one or the other); the politics of a sizist discourse, where the anti-fat ideologies predicate gender norms, and where femininity and masculinity are not simply a regulation of labor, but also of fat deposits.

    As a “fat kid” I found freedom in “the goth look” and personal empowerment, while now I am forced to shift my fashion depending on who matters in my life. When working for on a canvass, fund raising for Planned Parenthood or Freedom to Marry, I have to cater to the business women/men who I am asking for money as my common denominator. When I am working for Catholic Health Services, there is no wiggle room for racial/gender/sexuality subversion.

    Lastly, fashion is the definition, or rather example, of transvaluation, i.e. the lack of content that ties any value to a signified. That’s a fancy way of saying that fashion, what is fashionable, changes instant to instant, and only is fashionable for the sake of being fashionable, in that the thing that was just fashionable isn’t fashionable anymore, and for no reason. It illuminates the sad reality of politics and power: it operates for no real reason aside from arbitrary historical events that do not resolve themselves but seek to simply go further, failing again and again to ever finish the job of empowerment or “justice”.

    To give an example, the feminist problem of women working is not one that was “the” problem of the 1950’s that has been resolved now by having women within the workplace. Instead, we have to understand the trends around women’s oppression, where white women, who are from an upper middle class family, who are able bodied, “attractive” … essentially fitting the model Jamie described as the image of the beauty according to the industry, are preferred to the most well paid jobs women often are given. There is no reason to why we think that the issue of women in the work force is one that “has been solved” according to Fox, but that instead Fox thinks it fashionable to discuss “how empowered women have become” while always silently denying that other women’s issues (the attempt to close Planned Parenthood for starters) are still oppressing women.

  6. Pippi says:

    I hate the fashion industry, because they feed the victim blame ideas, as well as the concept of men having a right to objectify women, through their fashions. You get moms who were raised without a healthy basis of self-respect, now dressing their little girls in undie-length shorts that say “Sweet” or “Kitty” or other inappropriate slogans across the butt. Seriously? One of the first steps to making girls and women confident in their rights is NOT messing up their sense of boundaries while they are young. Little girls should know that it is ABNORMAL for men or older boys to be sexually attracted to them. There are two extremes in fashion: The hyper conservative end that wants to hide the female body and make it a shameful thing, and the hyper liberal end that wants to teach girls how to be sex objects in first grade. BOTH contribute equally to the idea that it is the women, not the men, who are responsible for the men’s thoughts.
    Girls should dress for themselves, not for men. Parents should establish ideals of self-respect, not self-loathing or self-flaunting, at an early age. I want my daughter to be confident in knowing that nobody has the right to touch her, regardless of her clothing. And also to know that she does not need attention from men to be complete. I want my sons to know that a girl’s clothing should not change how they treat her, and that a girl who seems to want only sex is really the one who is most in need of respect. I’m well aware that boys have instincts which cannot be entirely overwritten. But I believe if they are modeled respect, and expected to take responsibility for their actions, it will minimize their mistakes in adolescence and make them much stronger men in the long run. Both the fashion industry and the conservatives get in the way of this.

  7. Rick says:


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