I'm too sexy for my shirt

I wanted to post an article about this the other day but didn't get around to it.

This issue of how women are idealised in media is a serious matter - not simply one for easy consumption. In part this is because the media is a mirror that we hold up to ourselves. In theory, at least,it is representative of 'us'. Through the media we tell our stories. Increasingly they are not true stories but fictional accounts. Fantasies.

Fashion is, perhaps, the world where the greatest distortion exists. Haute Couture is the preserve of the very wealthy. When was the last time anyone you know bought an original Balenciaga evening gown? But the extremes of fashion trickle down through other channels from high street ready to wear to popular culture. It is easy to forget that, when creating a collection fashion designers are not highly motivated by the utility of their garments but the impression they make when they are first shown. Unlike other forms of design fashion doesn't respond to consumers needs and wants - it is not the product of usage research or consumer preference. For an insight into how Karen Walker conceives a collection this video is instructive:
Of course I am not singling Karen Walker out for any other reason than to demonstrate the creative process behind her craft. She refers to historical cultural artifacts that have sufficient distance to appear strange, where once they might have simply been vernacular. In doing so she does not follow a trend but endeavours to create one - albeit that she might be a part of a trend (her work is decidedly post-modern; with ironic twists and turns).

The point is that, unlike other forms of marketing, fashion intentionally leads. At its cutting edge it is a theatrical blend of virtuoso craft and a pushing of boundaries - much in the same way that the automobile salons and motorshows demonstrate the future of technologies - which may find their way, in diluted forms, into sports cars and family sedans. Practicality is not the point.

Where the distortion becomes disturbing is the use of fashion models who are chosen for their striking features - impossibly long legs, impossibly thin, impossibly exotic. Even their ridiculous gait down the runway is little more than an in-bred trait, like the bulging eyes of a King Charles Spaniel. Plainly absurd, but prized nonetheless but aficionados. The term model becomes ambiguous. It is the clothes they model. They are not models of humanity. Haute Couture is an art form - a performance of crafts and to misconstrue it as anything else is dangerous.

For those of us who don't attend the Fashion Weeks of the world but who are fed the footage and breathlessly advised of the glamour and importance of it all, the danger is that we are so cloddishly ignorant about what we are seeing and become susceptible to the idea that this is how we should behave or model our behaviour.

This is patently ludicrous. Most reasonable people filter out the messages from the world of fashion such - you can never be too thin - and realise it is the news media that are promoting the message, rather than the fashion industry.

So it is interesting that the media turns on itself when the news gets old. Instead of the exotic glamour of the world of fashion it finds a new angle to generate anger instead of desire.

The move to ban skinny models from catwalks probably refers to only the most marginal people in the modelling business. What designer would genuinely contemplate hiring a model like this? And what person who is not suffering from a mental illness would choose to subject their bodies to such abuse?

elena miro plus size model milanBut how can you win? Featuring 'plus sized' models could also invoke howls of protest from the anti-obesity claque.

The fact is that humans come in all shapes and sizes. Most people can relate to the clothes horses of the fashion business for what they are - in the same way that one can identify with an All Black prop without feeling the need to bulk on the kilos - for entertainment purposes only. They are not real.

Personally I find the Elena Miro catwalk model (in the second picture, clothed) very attractive and would hardly consider her to be 'Plus-size' at all. But I suppose everything is relative. Kate moss has never done anything for me (not that I've asked).


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