It seems like a paradox that, in advertising, fashion brands prefer to use obscenely thin models to sell clothes. While the physiques of models in the past might have been in the realm of mostly-impossible-but-maybe-attainable-if-I-go-to-the-gym-enough, the models of this decade are waifish toothpicks with thigh gaps the size of the Atlantic and bones that jut out like the brittle wings of malnourished birds.
Why does the fashion industry use these models to sell clothing? I do not blame the models for this problem; I blame the advertising and fashion industries. Advertisers attempt to sell products through pinpointing certain target populations of people who meet a brand’s personality. But we know that the fashion industry does not want to sell clothing exclusively to the model-thin. If that was the case, their target market would be extremely small and limited to a very rare body type that is not typical of most women.
It makes the most sense for advertisers in the fashion industry to use models of all shapes, sizes, body types, and appearances in order to sell clothing. As an advertising student, I am told that the goal of effective advertising is never to just sell the product, but to sell feelings as well. Well, wouldn’t it make the most sense for advertisers to sell women feelings of inclusion, beauty, and empowerment by having them see models who look similar to them in ads? By using models whose appearances are relatable only to a slim few, advertisers sell feelings of comparison, shame, guilt, and unworthiness.
Obviously, this does not seem like an effective method of advertising, but it is done anyways.
So, why does the fashion industry use unreasonably thin models to sell clothing?
The answer I have uncovered may sound like a conspiracy, but I encourage you to hear me out. The ways in which women are portrayed in advertising, and in the media in general, are designed to keep women down.
Ads of all kinds, not just ones used in the fashion industry, tell women over and over again that most important aspect of their lives is their appearance, and that their appearance will never be good enough. Because, if you’re considered attractive in the conventional sense, then you will be able to win the most important prize of all: the attention of men.
Through using impossibly thin, made-up, and air-brushed models in Photoshopped images, ads bully women into wanting to look younger, lose weight, cover their faces in different pigments, primers, potions, and products, and dress in certain ways, all in the name of being sexually desirable.When ads (and society) convey to women that the most important thing to be is attractive, they keep women from advancing professionally, personally, intellectually, and socially.
Never let ads, or society, tell you that you are not beautiful or worthy, because you don't look like a model in an ad. You are more than a set of standards made up by the patriarchy. Be your own kind a beautiful, a beautiful that rejects the unspoken rules of our society. In the words of Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale: "Illegitimi non carborundum" (don't let the bastards grind you down).