Last month, Wish.com, a discount retailer for incredibly cheap items straight from Chinese retailers, came under fire for their objectionable attempt at advertising clothing for plus size women. The advertisement campaign for their new collection of plus sized stockings revolved around the variety of sizes they were offering by showing how conventionally sized models can fit comfortably into them, with more fabric to spare. Social media quickly exploded attacking the retailer for body shaming plus sized women, while advertising plus sized products. It called out the website's attempt at commercialising a poor joke at bigger women's expense while also propogating the idea that there exists only a certain standard size, against which all women have to be compared.
In the fashion industry, which is traditionally so visual, it is very easy to form stereotypes. The most popular stereotype in the fashion industry relates to body measurements. Although the 'ideal' measurements are constantly changing, the standard size is tall, lanky and an unhealthy level of thinness. 2017 saw players and influencer in the industry create conversations about body positivity and the requirements for diversity in sizings and measurements. Initiatives like the CurvyCon, a conference dedicated to the $20 billion plus-sized apparel market, are helping industries shed stereotypes and embrace diversity. The ultimate goal and outcome of these steps is to redefine beauty and reject the idea that fashion is meant for only one size.
However, the debate isn't always between small and big sizes. Body shaming extends to bodily features, mannerisms etc. Designer Masaba Gupta revealed to the Daily O how she was once called 'too manly for the Lakme commercial.' Her features were deemed not 'feminine' enough to be featured in an ad for the famous cosmetic brand. Similarly, actresses like Parineeti Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha have been trolled and ridiculed for their weight and size. They have both replied to the mockery in their own ways, and helped forward the issues relating to boody positivity and acceptance in the entertinment industry. However despite their attempts, many others like Huma Qureshi, Richa Chaddha etc still face body shaming.
Some of the top fashion models in the world today are plus sized, fashion designers are actively casting plus sized models onto runways and designing more inclusive clothing. However, fast fashion, the most accessible, affordable and widely available form of fashion for the modern bourgeoisie still remains largely biased towards the outdated standards of 'smaller' sizes. Women and men of larger sizes have to go through trouble, and shame, to find clothing for themselves which fits well and is in fashion.
Opinions and images are formed through what we see in society around us. What we think of ourselves is also often influenced by the media we consume, the clothes we wear, the celebrities we are fans of, etc. Part of the reason why young girls around the world suffer from insecurities could also be that mainstream media chooses to showcase thin, tall models in commercials. This exercise is not just harmful for the impressionable youngsters, but also for the models who join the industry with hopes, and end up fighting against their bodies and the very laws of nature to maintain their figures. Almost 65 per cent of models in the industry have been asked to lose weight by their agencies, while 35 per cent of them admit to having suffered from eating disorders.
However, the last couple of years have shown that although our pace is very slow, we're slowly inching towards more welcoming ideals of what size a woman should be. Even though we continue to see ads where Shraddha Kapoor tells women to drink green tea for a flatter stomach or sit straight to hide stomach rolls, and CBSE students study that 36-24-36 measurement of females is 'the best', there are influential actresses like Richa Chaddha opening about eating disorders and French fashion houses banning size zero models from shows.
Insecurity, eating disorders and body dysmorphia etc have long plagued the fashion and entertainment industry. Consumers have been left feeling confused, shamed and out-of-place in the industry which focuses on 'one ideal measurement'. Change is being warmly welcomed through conversations, evolving mindsets, modifying perceptions and shunning stereotypes. However, it must reach the detached consumers, especially young teenage girls and boys who continue to see mostly 'ideal' men and women on hoardings, in ads and in stores and comparing and going to great lengths to make themselves look like them.