The Fashion Industry's Issue with Body Image


My name is Jordan and I'm an intern here at OKW Fashion. I'm currently in my senior year of college studying fashion merchandising, with a focus in fashion styling and media. When I'm not on campus or interning, I work part time as a model in the Boston area. Between my deep studies in fashion and my experience as a model, I've noted a few concerning things I've observed. 

I was first introduced to the world of high fashion and modeling at a young age, when I was in elementary school. My family and I were highly entertained watching the show "America's Next Top Model" and from years of me watching it (up until high school) I accumulated a significant amount of knowledge related to the industry. The names of common designers, top fashion editors, iconic supermodels in history, how to be confident and have good posture, and the importance of being fierce were only a few of the topics I learned about in the ridiculously scripted, drama filled, yet entertaining reality show.

A large issue that was brought up in almost every episode was body image. From numerous contestants suffering with major eating disorders, to contestants getting ridiculed by others when they gained a few pounds, to harsh conversations casting directors would have with models when they were "fat," at a young age I knew that there was a dark side in the modeling industry - an industry that seemed to glamorous on the outside.

The fashion industry loves to sell unattainable ideas and looks to consumers, so consumers can continue to buy and buy in hopes of looking pristine. Since most of the people that make big purchases are older, they tend to be the ones that desire to look younger, slimmer, and more vibrant. With that in mind, modeling agencies love to get "new faces" or new unexperienced models that are around 15 or 16 years old. When girls are 16, they are typically more slim because they haven't completed puberty yet, and they have such a young, youthful, and pure look with clear skin and no aging. Although modeling agencies are successful at getting young models, a significant amount of talent still tends to not be good enough.

Models experience a large amount of rejection, whether on a daily or weekly basis. When models go to numerous castings a day, typically they lose the opportunity of getting jobs more than they receive jobs. When a 16 year old is goes to a casting and does not fit in the sample size 00 dress, she won't get the job and can receive backlash from the director of the casting and may have to have a meeting in her agency to discuss the weight she should lose. Under so much pressure from an agency, and with pressure to make money and become a successful  model, most teenagers will resort to eating disorders to be as skinny and frail as possible, because that is what equals beauty in the modeling industry. 

With such an exclusive look in mind in order to be with an agency and to get good work, many women that are currently models take extreme measures to be their slimmest. Most models have an extremely strict diet, over-exercise, or simply do not eat. Beautiful girls who have potential to be great models get rejected from agencies if their measurements are inches over the average models, if they have scars or pimples, or if their cheekbones aren't as defined to the agency's liking.

I personally have had tons of rejection as a model, even though I do not do it full time. During the semester I spent in London last year, I was scouted to meet with agencies, however I could not join them because my hips are 3 inches too wide and I have blemishes on my face. During a recent job I did, I worked with a freelance male model who expressed to me that he has gone to numerous agencies but can't get a contract because his height of 6'5 is "too tall" to model. There's been times at castings or fittings in which I did not fit into the one size garment or shoe, and either have been released from the job or somehow inconvenienced the director with my size. If you're not naturally skin on bones thin, then modeling can be uncomfortable (figuratively or literally) when it comes to body image.

In an industry where unhealthily thin women are praised and healthy to curvier women are shamed, I've learned to love myself the most and still remain confident and hopeful for a better future. From my days of watching America's Next Top Model to now, I can tell that slowly but surely, the fashion industry is becoming more inclusive and accepting of women of different shapes and sizes.


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