The fashion industry is out of style with its old-fashion notions of what modern women really want. Time for a makeover!
The fashion industry still lives in the 50s. It prides itself on creating new platforms for design talent but has been operating for an eternity in the same antiquated boardroom. Sure, trends change at lightning speed but the industry itself still grabs onto archaic concepts of beauty with bare white knuckles.
One would think that an industry which prides itself on creativity would lead the charge by preaching a broader image of beauty. Sadly, that is not the case. The industry still resonates with old-fashioned notions and clings to sexist perceptions. It appears that the fashion industry is overdue for a full makeover!
Where did the women go?
Creative directors for major brands in women’s wear is still dominated by men. Not to disparage the design talents of men but I have never understood why more men fill the position of “creative director” for major fashion brands than women. Interestingly, women make up about 80% of most student bodies for fashion schools but only 20% fill the much coveted title of creative director. The consumers for women’s clothing are mostly women. This conundrum begs the question, “Where are the women?”
There was a time when women designers dominated the fashion scene. That moment occurred in the early part of the 20th century. During this time in our history it was considered a woman’s job to design women’s clothing. However, that ended when financiers realized that fortunes could be made in women’s apparel.
In fact, the most prominent designers in the first half of the 20th century were Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Lanvin and Nina Ricci. There is no questioning the talents of Charles James and Alexander McQueen. But the idea of women as mere mannequins has become tiresome. Walking down a runway and walking down four flights of stairs while carrying a large tote bag requires a different fashion sensibility. It is designers like Phoebe Philo for Celine that show us how it is done. Her style speaks to the modern women with her exquisitely designed ready-to-wear that move easily with the body.
Why is body shaming still a thing?
Over the last few years the industry has tried to convince us that they are all inclusive when it comes to diversity in body shape. Campaigns have appeared with plus size (man do I hate that expression) models like Ashley Graham. But what we are not seeing is a consistency in their messaging. Plus size models rarely appear on the runway and the covers of fashion magazines.
What dominates still is the rail-thin model. This problem manifests in a unacceptable way—our worth is still evaluated according to size. The disingenuous act of including a handful of not size 4 models onto the runway still falls short of representing women.
The Truth will set you free.
The truth is the average woman in the US is between a size 16 and 18. Women larger than a size 14 struggle to find a good selection of fashion even though they make up a larger portion of the market. In addition our vocabulary distinguishes large sizes for women in a negative way. Men’s stores that feature large sizes are referred to as Big and Tall. Women’s stores that feature large sizes are referred to as Plus Size.
Have we forgotten what 50 looks like?
Major brands using “older” women in their campaigns are spotty. It was a thing to feature mature women in ads several years ago. Lanvin, YSL and Celine caught our attention with older women in the pages of fashion magazines.
But today they are almost gone. The half-assed compliment, “you look good for your age”, is drenched in disgust for the face of older women who look their age.
Two years ago author, scholar, and professor Mary Beard felt obliged to begin a crusade for a woman’s right to age today. “You are looking at a 59-year-old woman,” says Ms. Beard, “That is what 59-year-old women who have not had work done look like. Get it?”
No, we still don’t get it. We are confused because when we see women like Diane Keaton as an ambassador for L’Oreal products at 64 years old with no visible signs of aging we begin to examine, too closely, everything that is wrong with the way we look.
It is not we that need a makeover—it is the fashion industry. The absence of women making the creative decisions, the untenable face of beauty and the indifference to the diversity of our culture are out-of-fashion.