‘Size zero models banned by luxury French fashion giants LVMH and Kerring’ was the headline I woke up to one morning last week. This news no doubt sent the fashion industry into a frenzy – and so it should. The article, detailing how two major fashion houses have banned the use of girls under the age of 16 in adult focused fashion shoots and introduced a charter to ensure models’ wellbeing, is something that I didn’t expect to see. Given the fashion industry’s reputation for portraying this idea of a ‘perfect body’ to increasingly young audiences, it is a great surprise to see such big companies finally beginning to take action.
Repeatedly seeing unrealistic ideals of the perfect body can have such a major impact on girls’ mental health and wellbeing. The unspoken pressure girls feel to look like the models they are exposed to every day has a detrimental effect on their body confidence and how they see themselves. Women featured in these campaigns are photoshopped and airbrushed to hide what the fashion industry considers their ‘flaws’. As a teenager, I understand that when girls and young women are exposed to these images it makes them question every little aspect about themselves and how they should look, even though the images they are comparing themselves to aren’t even real.
Everyone hints at the pressures girls face but do people truly understand what these are, and the negative impacts they can have? In Girlguiding’s 2016 Girls’ Attitudes Survey 78% of girls aged 11-21 said they felt they should lose weight, while 72% said they felt ashamed about how they look. The fact that girls feel ashamed of their bodies is so upsetting. Girls should be able to feel comfortable in their own skin but when the fashion industry constantly drills into the minds of young women that they should look and act a certain way, it can make them feel ashamed to be who they are.
It is great that these major fashion houses are proposing changes but more needs to be done to ensure the diversity of our society is represented so there are positive role models for young people and they see themselves represented in the images around them.
Hopefully, in the future, we can begin to see more popular brands following the same charter as LVMH and Kerring. I think it is about time that women can be proud of who they are without worrying about what others think or perceive them to be. If more fashion houses can join this movement of change I believe we will have a much brighter future. However, more needs to be done to address body confidence than simply changing the fashion industry. Girls feel sensitive about body image for a whole range of other reasons. We need to be supported to understand that no one needs to change if they are happy with themselves, and that we shouldn’t be putting others down but making them feel better about themselves. Through Girlguiding girls build confidence through a range of activities and the charity offers girls the chance to be in a space where they are free from these pressures.
Ultimately, girls just want to feel comfortable in their own skin and can only do so when there are no longer constant pressures to look like these ‘perfect women’, and no longer the unrealistic images of the ‘perfect body’.