Body Positivity is defined as “The social movement focused on empowering individuals no matter their physical weight or size while also challenging the ways in which society presents and views the physical body. This movement advocates the acceptance of all bodies regardless of physical ability, size, gender, race, or appearance”. Throughout this history of fashion and beauty, young men and women with unrealistic bodies have been the face of advertisements. In recent years, society has begun a revolution against this lack of diversity to encourage more inclusivity. Today I will be exploring the body diversity and representation inclusivity movement in fashion and beauty.
A Look Into the History of the Ideal Body and Beauty Standards in Western Beauty and Fashion
Society’s beauty standards have evolved within the past twelve years. In the 1950’s the feminine woman was the beauty standard for most women. Dainty, ladylike makeup and the latest fashion trends on slim yet curvy bodies was what women aspired to look during this time. The fictional character Jessica Rabbit was the ideal figure for women to have. The ideal body type for men during this time were tall, slim, clean shaven men with broad shoulders. Suits were cut slightly larger and boxer to give the illusion of a slim frame.
Forty years later, tall women with thin bodies and pronounced bone structures were marketed across fashion and beauty lines. Men were held to the standard of having chiseled muscular features and tall figures.
From 1990 onward, the moden beauty standard was set to unrealistic expectations. Male and female models were photoshopped to exaggerate certain features such as muscles, breasts, a thin waist and face, etc.. Designers would market women who wore between a size 0-4. It was not until 2010 that populations of men and women of different backgrounds, body types, gender orientations, and races uproared against these false advertisements, sparking a revolution.
How This Lack of Diversity Impacted Modern Day Western Society
The main component that propelled this push back against these practices were the lack of diversity. Lack of representation amongst those of various body types, races and ethnic backgrounds, physical abilities, and ages caused a revolt in fashion marketing campaigns. Solely advertising tall, thin, and muscular body types created a visual dismorfia in several young men and women.
Around the world a vast majority of women did not like the way they looked. Many wanted to look thinner, taller, clearer skin, or have bigger breasts in order to resemble photoshopped models. This issue affects men as well. In Australia, approximately 15% of all men felt shame over their body image this past year. In the United Kingdom, one in five adults said that they felt shame over their self body image over this past year. These statistics reveal how influential fashion and beauty industries possess over populations across the globe. Individuals across all discrepancies have measured themselves against these standards.
These statistics also lead to another disturbing topic, eating disorders and body dysmorphia. This unrealistic fantasy of what a “ healthy, fit, and attractive” body looks like is propelling self hatred amongst others. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one in fifty people suffered from body dysmorphic disorder. This issue interferes with people’s work ethic, home life, romantic and social life, etc.. We do not know to what extent fashion and beauty marketing strategies have influenced this among the population. However, creating these inconceivable beauty standards that are impossible to meet leads to others who do not resemble photoshopped models feeling ugly.
A lack of diversity and inclusion is also a flaw in fashion and beauty marketing practices. In past AD campaigns and fashion shows thin, young, stylish women have been the faces of many companies. Individuals of different races, gender identities, ages, cultures, and ethnicities have been excluded from participating on these platforms.
Without a variety of individuals of different backgrounds and walks of life being featured in fashion, we create a space that makes them feel un-welcomed. We market that only a select few men and women are meant to feel beautiful or be stylish. If businesses diversify their marketing campaigns, we can create a space where everyone is meant to feel represented.
How Can Business Be More Body Positive and Inclusive in Their Marketing Campaigns?
After realizing how grave of an issue this topic is, it is important to ask ourselves how we contribute to the problem and how we can begin to absolve it. Simple fixes like our terminology and dialect when speaking on body inclusivity, to adjusting marketing strategy are steps we can take to being more inviting in our businesses.
One adjustment we can make in our day to day lives is the vocabulary we use when discussing body positivity. Removing terms such as “ mid-sized “ or “ Plus-sized” and simply saying “ sizes “ will make everyone feel that their body is normal and accepted. instead use words and descriptions that best reflect what your clothing line offers.
Speaking of clothing sizes, take note of how your clothing line can expand its sizing to fit people of all shapes and sizes. I suggest creating clothing from sizes 00-42 for womens clothing, and sizes ranging up to 48 in men’s clothing. Include a wide variety of clothing sizes in all of your trend designs.
Throughout the design and production process of these garments or products, it is important to include diversity behind the scenes as well. Encourage the participation of people of different backgrounds and ask for their input. Actively listen and establish a dialogue between people of different sizes, physical abilities, races, and genders. Their advice will help you create a product or garment that fulfills the needs of everyone.
I also encourage you to diversify your advertisements when it is time to publicize your designs. Include genders of all backgrounds in your marketing advertisements. Making diversity at the core of your campaign will help other individuals of all backgrounds feel welcomed in your business. Do not photoshop or re-touch any images you take for your advertisements. Photoshopping a thinner frame, a clearer complexion, or any other changes onto your model’s bodies will undo all of the diverse milestones you have made.
Finally, be open to any and all feedback you receive throughout the design and campaigning process of your products. Invite the opinions and constructive advice from team members and customers on how to improve your product and advertising. Respect the thoughts and concerns of all participants in your business.
The world is beginning to shift its definition of beauty. Fashion and beauty industries are being encouraged to redefine beauty as our culture shifts to be more inclusive in their advertisements. In the past, society has set beauty standards so outlandish individuals have felt they were not attractive enough to participate in beauty and fashion trends. Far too long have beauty and fashion empires defined what “ beauty” resembled on the outside, resulting in growing insecurity and self-hatred in men and women around the world. Businesses participating in this industry have an obligation to reverse these stigmas and rewrite the standard of beauty. When companies diversify their business and include models of all backgrounds the world begins to find beauty in everyone, and individuals will find beauty in the faces of themselves and others.