There has always been an element of otherworldliness in the modelling world, where the walking clothes-hangers are encouraged to be ‘un-human’ and elevate themselves, and the clothing that they’re crowbarred into, above the common herd.
Staring dimly or intently into the middle distance, poking elbows and hips out at strange angles and sucking in their cheeks with such vigour that it’s as though they’re trying to create a black hole on either side of their face. They want to look alien, distorted and unusual.
Is this so ridiculous though?
Well, yes, of course it does look ridiculous but, if models looked like everyone else, then there’d be no aspiration to be willowy and interesting and no-one would be interested in the clothes that they’re wearing, which would be no good for the designers, brands and retailers.
I mean, if I see a slightly podgy, unkempt and tired looking man in his mid-thirties stumbling down the street I don’t think ‘Gosh, look at that guy, I wonder if I can get that jacket and look like him’. In fact, it probably is me, and I’m about to walk straight into a highly polished shop window.
So, do I think the fashion world should make their models look like everyone else? No, I do not.
But, this is quite an (ironically) unfashionable viewpoint. People these days want models to look more and more ‘normal’. Skyscraper tall and painfully thin models are considered to be irresponsible. Irresponsible on the part of the fashion world this is. Maybe, at a push, it’s the ‘fault’ of the designer label in question. It’s never the model’s fault though. I’m sure that models take great effort to maintain a sinewy frame, but they are generally selected because they’re predisposed to look like that. I’ve never seen photos of any runway models in their later years, with them having ballooned like Kirstie Alley or Oprah.
So, the main issue is really about body image. It’s the argument that very tall, thin people create a depressed Britain of people who want to be 6ft tall but can’t because they come from a long line of Anglo-Saxon or Celtic pit workers, and not from a long line of Russian wolf-hunters. People are apparently too stupid to realise that they are the shape they are for a reason, and it’s not because they’re ‘wrong’.
Yes, yes I know that lots of young people feel a terrible pressure to confirm and be perfect, and there are a lot of reasons for this. Images in magazines, advice columns, the earlier and earlier sexualisation of children and young adults, aspirational fame programs, and the ever-increasing rise of the cult of Celebrity. It’s all rubbish, but I can’t help think that there’s always been stuff like this going on. The common response to that argument though is ‘Yes, but it was never as bad as this!’ It was though, you just can’t remember because you’re too old, man.
I’m a relativist, so I don’t get too wound up by this kind of thing, but there is one aspect I find a little chilling.
Shops, and high street retail brands in particular, are actively promoting themselves as more representative of ‘real women’. Magazine’s got themselves all righteous and holy a while back and started to talk about ‘positive body image’ and ‘real women’. Dove soap talks about real women all the time. It’s a crock of shit, of course, as the ‘real women’ they promote are always blemish free, lovely and happy looking, have got wonderful hairstyles, no crawling stretchmarks or razor burn. In short, they’re not real women, they’re just different shaped women.
This isn’t the issue though, it’s the shops promoting real body shapes, but then surreptitiously choosing everyday ‘girl next door’ type models who just happen to weigh 12oz. They’re not cyber-models from Jupiter anymore (unless you watch the catwalks in Milan etc) but they’re still unusually talk, thin and unrepresentative. But, they’re supposed to be, but they’re not, but they’re supposed to be, but they’re…(you get the picture).
Fortunately I’ve never been so concerned about fashion that I feel the need to respond quickly to changing trends, and therefore find myself constantly disappointed when the ‘outfit’ I buy doesn’t look like I thought it would. But, I realise that it is not me that is at risk here and, if magazines and newspapers weren’t so in thrall to both advertising, and the seeping pressures of surrounding cultural mores that they can’t control, then I suspect that they might address it a little more seriously, and consistently.