Fashion Photography: A Morbid Fairytale

Once upon a time, a woman had to rely on her basic good looks and some tricks up her sleeve: make-up, clothing, personality, and a good creative photographer. She was healthy, fit, and absolutely gorgeous. She knew what to wear and how to wear it.

Somewhere, things went wrong– really, terribly, horribly wrong. I’m not a fashion historian so I can’t sit here and tell you about when it started and who started it and why. But I am a mother of a daughter. And what I really am, is freaked out. I see it in myself, an average height girl who by all standard definitions is a skinny girl (I wear sizes 2 and 4 and even squeeze into an occasional 0 for instance). And yet, I’m uncomfortable in a bikini and am forever sucking my stomach in. At 122 pounds, I’m discouraged and trying to get myself to get back to a workout routine. Sure, I want to be a healthy person, but really I want to look amazing in a dress.

I know. There is something really wrong here. I try and convince myself that I really should be quite proud of my figure. Some times, I believe it. Most times though, I just can’t. There are ads everywhere with very young, very skinny, very “perfect” looking creatures. What I don’t understand is who on Earth chose underfed girls as the epitome of perfect and why on Earth the world embraced it.

We know, as educated adults, these girls are not perfect. They are quite the opposite as the career of a fashion model demands an underweight figure. Don’t try and argue this with me. I’m 5’4″ and 120 pounds. That’s fat in fashion. These girls are all 5’7″ and up and most of them stay under 110 pounds. That’s underweight. That’s being ill. If you’re ill, you’re not perfect. End of story. And, as if giving these girls eating disorders and chopping them up in surgery rooms isn’t enough, the image manufacturing process still hasn’t come to an end. In many ways, we’re only halfway there and we owe this to the dawning of technology.

Once that sick and disfigured (that’s what plastic surgery is- it disfigures your figure into another figure) girl has her heavily made-up, carefully posed photographs taken, it passes on to the hands of professionals. Their job: alter her some more into some bizarre idea of “perfect woman”. And only once they are done raising her cheekbones, shaving her waist, fixing her hair, ironing her skin, adding muscle tone, removing unwanted body hair, and so on and so on, only then is she delivered to the world on screens, buses, and glossy pieces of paper. Her image gets unleashed into the world like a virus. Every day. Every hour.

And we wonder why we’re sick.

Today, a UK study proposes putting disclaimers on airbrushed photos in an effort to educate our young, uneducated, and highly impressionable children that what they are looking at is hardly the real thing. I find it ironic that the one industry that pushes so heavily against knock-offs feeds its customers that very thing. These women are fakes.

Don’t tell me these freaks make the clothes look better. They don’t. And if they do, don’t tell me you’re designing clothes for “the modern woman”. You’re not. You’re designing clothes for walking hangers- sickly ones at that.

The fashion industry needs to get a spine. It needs to scrap this revolting fascination with “the faker the better” and go back to its roots. Designers, real designers, didn’t need anorexics and bulimics to sell their clothes. Instead, they designed for queens and princesses who were hardly sticks. Those fashions trickled down. Later with the dawn of Hollywood, they got probably as close as they have ever gotten to designing for “the real woman” when they designed for starlets. Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Jackie O– don’t tell me clothes don’t look right on those women.

I don’t care who the designers were that started the whole obsession with so skinny you might as well be a skeleton– I’m interested in the designers that put a stop to it. Will someone please put an end to the madness so I don’t have to deal with warning labels on my photo spreads?

Originally published on MomsMiami Friday, February 26, 2010.

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One thought on “Fashion Photography: A Morbid Fairytale

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