The body and how we view it has been one of the most discussed topics in history. It is a key element in fashion, what else would said fashion be worn on, right? But it is with fashion, celebrities, and general marketing that our society is constantly being bombarded with conflicting messages. “You’re overweight.” “You’re anorexic.” “Go out and eat life, but make sure you can still fit into your skinny jeans on Monday.” It’s a wonder how anyone can wake up in the morning.
Take for example Comme des Garçons’ 1997 Spring/Summer campaign Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body. Head designer Rei Kawakubo herself says that “fashion was very boring, and [she] was very angry. [She] wanted to do something extremely strong. It was a reaction. The feeling was to design the body.” (i) And in doing so, she designed garments with misshapen padding sewn into them to represent the natural ‘lumps and bumps’ of the human body and put them on the catwalk. While it was quite a groundbreaking show and some may praise her celebration of the body, the fact remains that she took these disfigured forms and put them on a pedestal. Of course, Kawakubo has also made it clear that these garments may neither be easily worn nor sell well, much as how the lumpy body they’re representing would fare in society.
Now, granted, this campaign was from 1997, but there are still designers and photographers in our contemporary society who are making use of the body’s imperfections to sell their names and brands, such as Alexander McQueen and Nick Knight. And yet at the same time, celebrity ‘trash talk’ magazines are doing their utmost to slam the imperfect body. Take the most recent scandal with Kendall Jenner: she’s a B+ list celebrity with a well known name. She’s was also a runway model at Tommy Hilfiger’s New York Show earlier this month. FAMOUS magazine actually took her picture and photoshopped cellulite onto her. They made this the magazine’s cover shot with text saying that she’s “too fat for runway” and “she’s been ordered to lose 8kg.” (ii) This is a complete contradiction to Comme des Garçons’ show because (even though the image was a fraud) the imperfect body is being shamed rather than praised. Plus, there’s the fact that FAMOUS would rather risk a lawsuit than miss out on the profit of fat-shaming a celebrity. This isn’t the only example of course. The Queen of America’s Next Top Model – Tyra Banks – partnered with Special K late last year to “Shhh” fat talk such as the words ‘plus size’ and ‘muffin tops’. This is very confusing as Special K is a food brand meant to promote weight loss, but now it’s also promoting you not to concern yourself with words associated with it. (iii) Whaaat?
Objectification theory suggests (in layman’s terms) that with all of the mass media that surrounds us, specifically women, in our everyday lives we start not only judging ourselves as objects to be evaluated, but we judge ourselves through the eyes of our peers. (iiii) With such conflicting yes/no imagery that saturates our society, it’s no wonder things like photoshop or tinder have risen in popularity. It’s much easier to edit your digital profile to cultural standards than fit your body to them.
(i) Calderin, J, Kennedy, A & Stoehrer, E 2013, Fashion Design, Referenced: A Visual Guide to the History, Language, and Practice of Fashion, viewed 18 September 2014, <http://books.google.com.au/books?id=76p1khskZK4C&pg=PA372&lpg=PA372&dq=comme+de+garcon+spring/summer+1997+Body+Meets+Dress,+Dress+Meets+Body+collection&source=bl&ots=8iSDDrt_Pi&sig=R2q-ioa1pfWZBItmYIUUGnBBCMk&hl=xx-bork&sa=X&ei=MWgdVMfrLpL88AWDloJ4&ved=0CGoQ6AEwEA#v=onepage&q=comme%20de%20garcon%20spring%2Fsummer%201997%20Body%20Meets%20Dress%2C%20Dress%20Meets%20Body%20collection&f=false>
(ii) Hater, H 2014, Kendall Jenner: Photoshopped, Fat Shamed on Australian Tabloid Cover, viewed 18 September 2014, < http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2014/09/kendall-jenner-photoshopped-fat-shamed-on-australian-tabloid-cov/>
(iii) ‘I don’t like the term plus-size’: Tyra Banks on how body-image labels in the fashion industry are harmful to women, viewed 18 September 2014, < http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2527112/Tyra.html>
(iiii) Fredrickson, B & Roberts, T 1997, ‘Objectification Theory’, Psychology of Women Quarterly, no. 21, pp. 173-206. <http://www.sanchezlab.com/pdfs/FredricksonRoberts.pdf>