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Modern Fashion: The Proprietor of Eating Disorders in America’s Female Population

INTRODUCTION:

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

In the modern day United States there are more women who wear a size 16 compared to those who wear a size 6. Regardless of this fact, fashion designers continue to perpetuate not only unrealistic but harmful body image ideals through their clothes, clothes that are purposefully designed to only fit a select group of people. For even though half of the female population wears a size 14 or above, most stores only carry size 14 or below. Additionally, the models that these companies use to showcase their textiles in shows or magazines have been found to weigh 23% less than the average American woman. Overall, the images these brands are promoting are not accurate representations of what America’s population truly looks like, and the ramifications these falsities are having on the women of the country are disastrous.

HISTORY:

1900’s Gibson Girl vs. 1920’s Flapper Girl

The “ideal” body type for woman is ever evolving, but there is a constant factor that characterizes this change: the progression is consistently towards a smaller shape. The desire for a more petite body can be first seen in the style change from the 1900’s to the 1920’s. In the first two decades of the 20th century, the “Gibson Girl” was the look everyone seemed to covet. “This ideal of femininity was depicted as slender and tall, albeit with a “voluptuous” bust and wide hips,” (“Women’s Body Image and BMI: 100 Years in the US”). Though in sharp contrast to this, just a few years latter came the rise of the “Flapper”. A style trademarked not only by its iconic dresses but also its pension for a slim, straight figure, and a flat chest. So much so that bra’s were made constrict women’s busts and as a result flatten them. The preference towards thinner bodies can be seen in each new fashion trend that came about even in the latter years of the 1900’s. The 1970’s, an era that promoted a “twiggy” look and “Crash Diets” that advertised the ability to lose up to 5 lbs in one night, were followed quickly after by the 1980’s which promoted high intensity work outs. These fashion tends prove to show that each new beauty standard came with the unspoken requirement that females must become thinner, and as a result society is facing the same problems today.

THE EFFECTS:

With the rise in fashion trends and social media, women’s standards for themselves are becoming harsher due to the constant pressure they feel to conform to society. Women are being taught the belief that “smaller is better”. This can be seen in a study done by Tammy Kinley at the University of North Texas, where it was found that when women were asked to try on clothes, smaller sizes had a positive effect on their body image. Furthermore, the posters plastered on walls people see of models in the clothes they seek to buy are only serving to reinforce that message. What they don’t know is that a majority of models maintain a BMI that is the same as someone who suffers from Anorexic. This information demonstrates that modern fashion is creating an undeniable force that is pushing women towards a certain body type. And when they try to reach these unattainable goals, women are continuing to struggle with eating disorders because they see no other way to achieve their goal.

Going to extremes: Eating disorders - CNN.com

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Promote self-love and kindness to all, including yourself, despite weight, height, or any body image “ideal”. This means being aware of the disparity between what average women look like vs. runway models! Know that brands are not sharing pictures of the average person. Though at the same time not shaming people who are naturally thin due to their genetic make up. It means taking the time to include diversity in any projects you create, so that you can depict America as it truly looks. Take the time to educate others! A lot of people are unaware that the “reality” being promoted to the public by these designers is not so much a reality after all. 

Advocate for yourself! Reach out to the fashion brands, designers, and major companies who are the root of these problems and make them aware of the issue. Support movements like plus size model Ashley Graham’s “Swimsuit’s For All” campaign, that promote body type inclusivity within the fashion industry. 

As well, keep an eye out for any signs that a friend or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder. Some signs may be: refusing to eat in front of other people, disappearing after meals, drastic changes in weight, extreme mood swings, withdrawal from usual activities. If you take note of any of these symptoms speak to a trusted adult or counselor, and try to seek help for said person. Eating disorder’s do not easily go away, and left untreated can be very dangerous.

If you or some you know is suffering from an eating disorder, listed below is the number for the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 

READER RESPONSE FORM:

Please click the link below to fill out a response form!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1lKFeQ52c0HWsIbGPZMwLZIhVfm1YKRdnxSC_b5VB1oc/prefill

WORKS CITED:

Bloomfield-Deal, Elizabeth. “The Fashion Industry & Body Image; Transcending the Acquisition of Thinness.” Eating Disorder Hope, 2015, www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/the-fashion-industry-transcending-the-acquisition-of-thinness.

CNN, Cable News Network, www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/03/health/infographic.eating.disorders/index.html.

Cox, Analisa. “‘How the Fashion Industry Affects the Bodies of Young Women.’” Medium, Medium, 22 Nov. 2016, medium.com/@analisa97/how-the-fashion-industry-affects-the-bodies-of-young-women-2c735fc6cec7.

Jones, Madeline. “Plus Size Bodies, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway?” PLUS Model Magazine, PLUS Model Magazine, 15 Aug. 2018, www.plus-model-mag.com/2012/01/plus-size-bodies-what-is-wrong-with-them-anyway/.

Kinley, Tammy. (2010). The Effect of Clothing Size on Self‐Esteem and Body Image. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal. 38. 317 – 332. 10.1111/j.1552-3934.2009.00027.x.

Lee, Veronica, et al. “Infographic: How Women Are Being Set Up For Eating Disorders.” Infographics Archive, 25 Feb. 2020, www.infographicsarchive.com/infographic-how-women-are-being-set-up-for-eating-disorders/.

Seruya, Ashley. “Designer Blames Fashion Industry for Eating Disorders.” Center For Discovery, Center For Discovery, 22 Oct. 2019, centerfordiscovery.com/blog/designer-blames-fashion-industry-eating-disorders/.

“Warning Signs and Symptoms.” National Eating Disorders Association, 6 Feb. 2020, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/warning-signs-and-symptoms.

“Women’s Body Image and BMI: 100 Years in the US.” Rehabs.com, www.rehabs.com/explore/womens-body-image-and-bmi/.

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COMMENTS: 16
  1. April 23, 2020 by Sasha Zitter

    This is a fantastic page! I like that you mentioned how the ideal female body type has evolved over the years. What shocked me most was the age that most females start wanting to be thinner: first through third grade! That is incredibly tragic. Our society puts so much pressure on women’s body type, but none on men’s. That’s simply unfair, and unhealthy.

    • April 27, 2020 by Cam

      Hi Sasha! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review my project! I’m so glad you liked it! I completely agree that it is devastating to see how early on these issues begin as it tells us that these are not issues that are just related to puberty but begin in childhood and are a systemic issue. I also, of course, agree women feel an immense amount of pressure to conform to a certain body type, but I think it is important to note this pressure does not evade men completely. In this project, I didn’t focus on men because the stats are a bit harder to find, but they are also being targetted by ads advertising things such as bodybuilding supplements. Women do feel more pressure, but the sad reality is the pressure produced by the fashion industry is a force that can be felt by everyone.

  2. April 23, 2020 by Ms. Grieco

    Cam – The statistic that half of all advertising targeted at my young daughter will mention her physical appearance is utterly alarming. Kudos for selecting such a relevant, timely topic. Fantastic job pulling together such an informative page!

    • April 27, 2020 by Cam

      Hi Ms. Grieco! Thank you so much for reading my Catalyst Conference, I’m so glad to see that people from EA viewing my project! I agree the statistic is quite shocking! I hope that by the time your daughter becomes my age we will have been able to fix some of the issues that we face at the current moment.

  3. April 24, 2020 by Sebastian

    Cam, this is a great catalyst conference. I really appreciated how thorough you were with your statistics. I think they really added some levity to the message of your page. The infographics were also a nice way of organizing info in a way that was easy and fun to read. One not I would add is that your page is primarily about women, obviously, but it also ended up feeling primarily for women, which I don’t think is the goal. I think adding a piece in the final section about how male-identifying people can help with this issue would be great.

    • April 27, 2020 by Cam

      Hi Sebastian! Thank you so much for your kind words and your insightful feedback! You were correct in your observation that this page is about women, but is also meant to be for everyone. I hadn’t researched men in this project as It would have made the undertaking a bit too extensive, but I think it is very important to note that the issues I spoke about on this page do not apply exclusively to women. Thank you for the tip on a way to bring awareness to that fact within the project without completely changing its entire focus, it is very helpful!

  4. April 25, 2020 by Annabelle Johnson

    I requested access to fill out your form!
    –On another note I really appreciated all of the statistics on your page. This topic is very important to me because I know a lot of people who suffer with eating disorders. I thought you had a nice mixture of historical and present day information in your presentation. Something I wonder is why body standards have changed and evolved over time. Evolutionarily isn’t it less beneficial to have many characteristics that are so desired today? It reminds of the eating disorder unit where we read about the case study where men had to restrict their calories. I don’t understand how humans have changed so much when we have fundamentally evolved to not restrict food because meals were uncertain? (people needs to have enough fat to burn if food is low)

    • April 27, 2020 by Cam

      Hi Annabelle! Thank you for looking at my conference! So sorry about the inability to access my form, I hadn’t realized it was still on private sharing mode, though I changed the setting a couple of days ago and shared it with you I believe. I think you point out a really interesting concept that it doesn’t make sense for us to change our appearances like this throughout history in an evolutionary sense. I believe this occurred though as a result of how we humans function in society and also out of our desire to attract a preferred “mate”.

  5. April 25, 2020 by Brynn

    Very thoughtful and well written. This is an incredibly troubling but relevant topic, and I appreciate the time and research you’ve put into it. Thank you for encouraging this type of conversation; it is the only way we can hope for change!

    • April 27, 2020 by Cam

      Thank you so much, Brynn! It means the world to know you appreciate this! And yes, you’re completely right, conversations are exactly the thing we need to have to create change!

  6. April 25, 2020 by Amber

    Great presentation! Great topic choice! I think that body image is an ongoing conversation, especially nowadays with social media being ever present in our lives. With apps like Instagram and TikTok, the “ideal body” is often shoved in your face constantly. Like you said, it’s important to counteract the negativity with body positivity movements. Great job!

    • April 28, 2020 by Cam

      Hi Amber! Thank you so much for reading and responding to my conference! You point out such important things, the impact on social media on body image is unbelievable! The progress we’ve made so far is great but it’s hard when body image “ideals” are being reinforced every time someone opens their phone. I hope that we can continue these movements in order to create change!

  7. April 26, 2020 by Jadyn

    Hi Cameron!
    I love your project and I think that you were able to spread and share a lot of important information with the readers. I really loved the use of images and graphs that show how the “ideal body type” has changed from as far back as the 1920s. I found it really interesting but sad that a lot of supermodels met the BMI index for anorexia. I completely agree that one of the best ways to help with body image is to promote self-love for everyone! I think that if we can all start to help lift each other up we can change how people view body image for the better. What do you think the “ideal” body of today’s world is?

    • April 28, 2020 by Cam

      Hi Jadyn! Thank you so much for your kind words and thought-provoking question! I agree it’s quite sad to see the sad but true statistics that are facing our world today with models and I hope that through body-positive movements we will eventually be able to change this! I think its hard to say exactly what the “ideal” body of today’s world is because it’s so subjective. Everyone’s preference for what they want to look like differs slightly but I think the majority of the population has one that likely mirrors something similar to the main “ideal” that the media presents. In media, the “ideal” body is portrayed to be a thin woman who also maintains an hourglass shape, something akin to that of Kylie Jenner, but in reality, though she is a beautiful woman, that’s just not realistic for so many women, and I hope we can change to a society where we no long idealize a singular body type, but all body shapes that are seen throughout the population.

  8. April 27, 2020 by Emma McDermott

    Hey Cam! I really thought this was an amazing and organized project that focuses on a topic that is not talked about enough! The middle infographic was the most interesting for me, especially the part about how the mannequin sizes have actually shrunk as time goes on. That’s so scary. I also loved how you included a history portion to this project so that the reader could get an appropriate background on the subject and fully understand your argument. Keep up the good work girl!

    • April 28, 2020 by Cam

      Hi Emma! Thank you so much for taking the time to look at my project! Your comment genuinely made me smile! I found the change in mannequins to be quite shocking as well, and I hope that we can revert them to more human-like proportions one day. I’m so glad to hear you liked my project, and I also am happy to know you find it necessary to be talked about as well. Everyone single person who starts conversations about this topic is doing important work!

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