Why Fashion Fails to Embrace Body Shape Balance

Analysing the Link Between Fashion, Body Image and Inclusivity

While advertising featuring young women with ultra-curvy silhouettes is mushrooming, revealing a seeming shift towards inclusivity, it prompts us to question why fashion fails to embrace body shape balance. 

Delving into the historical narrative of the fashion industry since the 70s, ultra-slim female body shapes have been deeply entrenched. But lately, the discussion on inclusion and diversity prompted the fashion industry to widen the representation of different body shapes. Despite recent conversations surrounding inclusion and diversity, exemplified by plus-sized models, this transition remains fraught with contradictions.

Fashion and body shape: inclusivity or marketing?

For a while, plus-size women seemed to be everywhere. Despite the disappearance of plus-size models from fashion shows, many TV advertisements now prioritise promoting what they perceive as an inclusive body image.

Therefore, the question arises: are these representations truly promoting a healthy body image?
In the past, skinny silhouettes have been criticised for fostering unrealistic ideals, often leading to harmful behaviours like anorexia. But the opposite extreme is no less concerning. By featuring heavily overweight body shapes, especially to impressionable young girls, both the fashion and beauty industries may inadvertently convey the message that it’s acceptable to be significantly overweight. From a health perspective, this is far from the truth.

For the fashion industry, as well as the beauty industry, it boils down to following trends. So, they shift from one trend to another, expressing themselves through misleading marketing messages. In fact, their sole purpose is selling more clothes, shoes or beauty products, uncaring of the damage they can bring to women.

Body positivity and well-being

In conclusion, the fashion industry swings between extremes, from thin silhouettes to plus-size models, but still fails to embrace body shape balance. Indeed, it overlooks the importance of promoting a healthy body image, which is essential for overall well-being.

Furthermore, it is unsettling to observe that women are always the primary focus of marketing. And it’s concerning that we often don’t know how to respond. In the name of (fake) freedom, we become victims of the latest gimmick.

Of course, being unique involves accepting our imperfections; let’s embrace body positivity. But this acceptance should not come at the expense of our health. Balance is the key.

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Violence Against Women

A Victim Shares Her Story of Abuse With Us

Violence against women is gender-based violence, either physical, sexual or psychological. But economical too. In fact, it is a form of abuse very present in modern society in which patriarchy prevails.

Italy mourns the death of 22-year-old Giulia Cecchettin, found stabbed and wrapped in plastic on the 18th of November, 2023. She had been staying with ex-boyfriend Filippo Turetta at the time. And he had been on the run since November 11 when security cameras got him fighting with Giulia on tape. Now, he’s been picked up by police in Germany.

With the necessary rise in awareness of gender-based discrimination and in honour of the 25th of November – the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, we are taking the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the prevalence of these violating acts by telling one from an anonymous victim.

An ordinary report of abuse

22 November, 2023- 9:22, morning
The sky was overcast, and the tram screeched on the tracks, forcing her to push her headphones closer to her ears to block out the sound. Stepping into the sea of people, she took a deep breath, finding a small space for her to stand by the door. It wasn’t unusual that the public transit was this crowded in the morning. But the stress from days prior had really taken a toll on her. She hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, and the previous day, she had experienced a panic attack from overwork and stress. So it was safe to say that she didn’t think anything else could go wrong.

The ride was smooth for a while, people bumping into one another as the tram car took sharp turns. As the tram halted at its next stop, more people crowded in behind her, packing the tram so unbelievably full that it didn’t seem possible for the vehicle to keep moving. With a shove to her back, she found herself pushed against the wall of the tram. Even if she tried to move, it was useless. It was then that she felt the breath of someone behind her, a little too close, even in the crowded car.

With the shoving and moving of the sea of people, she felt a hand slip to the upper part of her leg, just under her rear end. No, she was not going to deal with this today. The hand searched, groping and feeling, sending the woman into a frenzied panic. Still stressed from the days before, she screamed, but to no avail. People couldn’t move. It was too tightly packed, and it’s not like anyone else could see what was happening. The tram slammed its brakes to a stop, and the person behind shoved her into the opening doors, sending her body flying toward the wall, smashing her arm between her own body and the sharp corner by the door opening.

Stop gender-based violence

As horrifying as this incident may be to hear about, this is an occurrence that is all too common. Men consistently harass women this way, especially on public transportation. Here it is easier for harassers to victimize others since the space is small, tightly packed, and sealed.

When speaking to other women about this issue, the common theme between all of them was empathy, sadness, and the common phrase ‘I can relate.

What kind of world are we living in when such a tragedy is commonplace? Enough that the majority of women can relate?

This story is only one of thousands, millions. Women from all over have stories of situations just like this, harassed just because of their gender. Despite the progress made as women in the hierarchy of society, we must keep pushing forward, this is unfair. Violence against women needs to stop!


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More on modern feminism

Is it true liberation and women’s empowerment?

Modern feminism mainly corresponds to exposing almost naked women’s bodies. From red carpets and fashion shows to music events, that seems to be the most visible trace of female affirmation.

As a demonstration of emancipation, women want to express themselves as they like. And, of course, that makes sense. Hence, dressing, or we better say, undressing, is part of this liberation. But look at music and movie stars, influencers, TV entertainment, and professionals. Followed by all the women who flooded social media with parts of their bodies as the only thing they can convey. Unfortunately, women’s image is more stereotyped than ever. So, we were happy to read about Chinese women who are challenging “beauty-duty” and traditional standards.

When it comes to dressing or undressing, the women’s so-called gained freedom strangely unveils traits that win the favour of men. Doesn’t any light bulb switch on in your head? Don’t we even question why our supposed freedom corresponds to men’s preferences?

Perhaps there is something we’re missing. But let’s take as a fundamental detail the liberty of showing our body as a reflection of our power. Take red carpets, for instance. Or any other event, since there’s no difference in terms of outfits, which are mainly inelegant. Women show up almost naked, as it seems that’s the only way to reveal all their femininity. But have you ever seen men show up naked on red carpets?

Indeed, this is the crux of the matter: Have you ever seen men show up semi-naked to promote their masculinity?

Are we talking about liberation and women’s empowerment, or is there something else behind it? As women, is our worth expressed only by nudity? Or by cages and standards – hair, make-up, plastic faces and bodies – we must fit in in order to satisfy societal expectations? If so, it doesn’t sound really new. In fact, it’s the same old story, which tells more about patriarchy than fashion or modern feminism.

But the reality is so well manipulated that they made us believe it’s about women’s power and modern feminism.

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New beauty standards in China

Empowering women vs societal expectations

Whether for feminism or practical reasons, women are redefining beauty standards in China. By challenging the traditional ideal of femininity, some young Chinese women want to be free to express their individuality. And we couldn’t be more proud of such a brave choice.

Women, buzz cut & beauty duty

Patriarchal society shaped the rules which subdued women over time. Long hair has always represented the image women have to conform to, not only in China. However, a new trend reports a step towards empowering women against societal expectations. Specifically, Chinese women started breaking the rule by switching the classic haircut with a bold buzz cut.

The buzz cut is easier to manage, low-maintenance and high-impact. It is not just a matter of fashion, it goes beyond that. Indeed, it represents a powerful statement: freedom and self-determination. The buzzcut is a synonym for self-confidence and independence. And so the trend is rising in China, and more women are opting for it.

Along with it, another trend is growing: “embrace beauty without makeup.” It’s a way to defy the “beauty duty” that forces women to maintain their appearance, imprisoning them in oppressive standards.

Beauty standards: western vs Chinese

We live in a man’s world. By analysing historical and cultural context, we can see that beauty standards are the embodiment of a male perspective and a market demand. In fact, everywhere in the world, society brainwashes women to conform to a specific image. And to stick to those precise features that women – of course – believe are the fruit of their personal reasoning or independent thought. On the Western side of the world, we witness this distorted idea of feminism: women conform to contemporary stereotypes that (just by chance?) perfectly reflect a man’s viewpoint. And women call it freedom!

So, what happens in China surprises us positively. In a society where social norms and traditions are so deeply rooted, Chinese women’s choice against “beauty duty” represents a brave move.

Indeed, by rejecting traditional ideas of feminine beauty, new beauty standards in China are an inspiration to nonconformism and women’s empowerment. Most importantly, it should make us reflect on what beauty standards really hide.

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Modern beauty standards: between patriarchy and market demands

Do you know what beauty is?

Apart from the male perspective, which has always ruled women’s life, there’s more to explore about modern beauty standards.

Even bearing in mind the subjectivity of the matter, aesthetic judgement isn’t about beauty itself anymore, as an archetype or related to physical traits.

Modern beauty: what influences our judgement?

Analysing beauty standards, we have to consider two main factors:

First, beauty is the embodiment of a male perspective. Therefore, it’s a matter of power. The male eye works like a filter, shaping and dictating women’s choices. This judgemental screen took over women’s viewpoint, almost as a natural feature which limits independent activity. So that women themselves play the man’s games.

Second, contemporary beauty is a market issue. The commercial factor is crucial in understanding modern beauty standards: the product of brainwashing through advertising, movies, tv programs, social media etc.

modern beauty

“Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire
with ourselves.”

Nathaniel Branden

Modern beauty stereotype

From thin to curvy, plastic dolls are the stereotype. But all shapes have the same cookie-cutter features: doughnut lips, cheekbones like protruding mountains, and eyebrows like they got scared. Sadly, that botox expression will never disappear from their face.

The emulation process triggered in young girls’ minds and adult women, whose self-esteem is not solid, is appalling. Furthermore, self-esteem is a work-in-progress because reaching self-awareness is a growth process. And you don’t just snap your fingers to gain it.

However, this emulation is the result of the brainwashing system, a form of persuasion that makes women look all the same, like fake plastic dolls.
Is that beauty? No, it’s business. Indeed, it’s a very profitable business.

And so, beauty standards have to do with male power and market demands more than any archetypal or old-fashioned rule.

In prehistory, the traits connected to fecundity were considered beautiful. Specifically, the Palaeolithic Venus was more generous and curvy. The Greek Venus had a more slender figure. Therefore, the beauty archetype was associated with given characteristics.

What about the modern beauty myth?
Modern beauty is not only about power but also a market issue.

And so, forget who you are. Go and buy your new equipment.
In the end, beauty is just a product.

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