Fashion: For Women, By Men?

For an industry that basically runs on marketing towards women, fashion is surprisingly full of men.

According to TIME Magazine’s “All-TIME Top 100 Fashion Icons List” (as of 2015), 51% of these icons are women. A majority indeed, but only by a percent.  And as we delve deeper into the more detailed statistics, it becomes clear that the entire thing is still fairly skewed, with white, middle-aged men in the most influential and active roles in the system.  Organized into the five categories that TIME has employed, here are the numbers:

  • 26% of top fashion designer labels are women*, of which 16% are women of colour.  Women of colour make up 4% of the total list of top fashion designers.

  • 100% of top models are women, of which 3% are women of colour.

  • 75% of “muses” are women, of which 13% are women of colour. 

  • 15% of top photograhers are women. Neither of the two women in this thirteen-person category are women of colour.

  • 100% of top stylists and/or editors are women. None of them are women of colour.

  • Overall, this adds up to 7% representation of people of colour on the entire list.

*Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, as with any of the other listed pairs of designers, are counted as one.

This makes me upset.  This makes me upset because in this world of ours, women are expected to be constantly conscious — if not obsessed — of their appearance.  And we can’t win, either: if I’m too worried about how I look, I’m shallow; if I’m not trying hard enough to look nice, I’m lazy and ugly and “not like a girl.”  It goes both ways as well:  men who dress themselves well are often assumed to be gay or less masculine in some way or another and if he tries to look nice, he’s accused of being too much like a girl — as if that’s a bad thing.

This is especially upsetting because as a woman with even a mild interest in fashion, I can’t believe that the people behind the ads that are everywhere are resoundingly white and male — especially when white boys are, more often than not, the most annoying when it comes to a) dressing themselves and b) demanding that women dress for them, and not themselves.

Actually, when I think about it further, I really shouldn’t be that surprised.

“Sex sells” is a phrase that’s heard a lot around advertising, and if we take into consideration the high number of women who are in more passive roles in the fashion/modelling industry — 25 of the 30 models and ‘muses’ listed by TIME — I can’t help but think that this is due to the tendency for women’s bodies to be over sexualized. So once they are used in this way in an industry that sets the status quo for what women “should” look like, they also become perpetuators of that sexualization, regardless of intention.

The three categories of icons dominated by women are as models, editors/stylists, and muses. As such, these categories are all passive in comparison to the number of men who make up the designer section.  These roles in the industry, while definitely important, are relatively passive because in each of these roles, women are being given items to critique, to wear and model in, or they are the “inspiration” for the designers to create from.   Rather than giving women the role of creator, or giving them more control over the fashion industry, they are looked at and admired — and in doing so, they are easily reduced to objects to be manipulated by the men of the industry.

The women dominating the editors/stylists category is also problematic for a few reasons.  While it is excellent that women’s are the discerning eyes who decide the “do’s and don’ts” and “ins and outs” through their editorials and blogs, we should be concerned that TIME’s top ten editors are all white women. Harper’s Bazaar’s “14 Fashion Blogger Instagrams to Follow Now” also features an all-female list of bloggers, however just over three quarters of that list are also white women.  What does this say about the people in fashion whose opinions matter?  Women of colour don’t get much of a say anywhere, after already being erased by the visual media.

The low numbers of female designers and female photographers on this list also indicates a high priority for the male gaze.  Not only are men the ones in control of the clothing that the predominantly white female models are going to wear, they are also in complete control over the photos produced that will eventually move into the advertisements plastered all over magazines, websites, and other social media.  Why aren’t more women being recognized? Why aren’t more women getting into these jobs and onto these lists?

So then how does this relate to #BoycottBrandy?

Brandy Melville’s model-recruitment strategy starts and ends with young girls — and even this company was founded by two men.  The girls they choose for their marketing research are typically 15-16 years old according to an article by racked.com , and if the actual Brandy Melville Instagram (brandymelvilleusa) is any indicator, all of them are tiny, long-haired white girls.  But who can really be surprised that this is the aesthetic that they are going for, and that most people seem to be pretty okay with its exclusionary standards, when we look at something like TIME’s top 100 list and see mostly white people?

The number of skinny white women who are in the fashion industry who made it onto TIME’s list encourages the kind of advertising that Brandy Melville (and companies like it) puts out.  By excluding women of colour from advertising, modelling, and marketing ideas, the fashion industry reinforces a status quo of whiteness, blondeness, and thinness that cannot continue to go ignored.  While there is nothing wrong with empowering young girls to make decisions and tell large corporations what they want — can we get a hell yeah for diminishing the condescension and dismissiveness that teenaged girls have met with for so long?? — the tiny white, bougey percentage of all teenaged girls that fashion is catering to with this kind of advertising is still nowhere near enough.

Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen can continue to strut their stuff all they like, and I will support them and girls and women who look like them wholeheartedly — just as soon as more women like Velvet d’Amour, Saffi Karina, and Jennie Runk are also celebrated as widely and often as Victoria’s Angels and Brandy’s “Beach Girls.”

Links for you! 

TIME’s All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons

Huffington Post’s Top Plus-Sized Models

Harper’s Bazaar 14 Fashion Blogger Instagrams To Follow Now

Racked.com Smells Like Teen Spirit: Inside the Secret World of Brandy Melville

And for more absolutely wonderful plus-sized models who should be getting more priority and attention and love from the masses, check out one of my favourite tumblr blogs: http://curvesandconfidence.tumblr.com

xoxo — Kristin

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Keely’s Fitting Room Confessions: Part 1

This past week, Kristin and I decided to go on an adventure to West Edmonton Mall in hopes of discovering the truth behind the “one size fits most” phenomenon. As well as comparing the sizes of different brands of jeans, from low-end to high-end, to better understand inconsistencies within women’s clothing. This is just a quick overview of our trip. A more detailed analysis is coming soon.

My Stats

me

Height: 5’7”

Weight: 160 lbs

Tops: M, L

Bottoms: 10-12

Those are my stats just for reference. And the picture here is me in my regular clothes. I consider myself very average. Not too small, not too big. Could I lose a few pounds? Maybe. Will I? Only if I want to. Also, the most common size in the US is a size 12, so I think I represent the majority just fine. So keep this in mind when looking at the photos of me in the “one size fits most.” Either I am much larger than a size 12, or one size doesn’t fit most. Spoiler alert.

Clothing Sizes around the World

We already know shopping can be hard, annoying, frustrating and downright painful at times. What makes it even more confusing is the fact that every single country has a different sizing system. Stores like H&M and Zara have the different sizes right on the label, which makes it easy. But other stores only have the European size listed, which is a headache.meee

Here’s a conversion table for women’s clothing sizes. It looks slightly intimidating at first. And it is! A lot of foreign stores are making their way into North America. Especially in huge shopping centres like West Edmonton Mall. This means that not only are the clothing sizes within Canada confusing and inconsistent, but now we have to worry about the systems in other countries too.

One other thing that really irks me about shopping is that half the time jeans are sizes 0-14, and the other half of the time they’re 24-32. What’s up with that? Why can’t we just come up with a universal sizing system for jeans? That would be nice.

The Stores

Kristin and I wanted to visit a variety of stores so we could really compare the differences in clothing. We visited some very, very expensive stores, as well as some more modest ones. We each tried on several pairs of jeans at each store, and I definitely noticed some patterns. This is a quick breakdown of each store we went to, price point, sizes available and some notes about what I noticed.

Brandy Melville

Price: $

Sizes: XS, SM, “One size fits most”

Overall Impression: I need to eat a salad.

This store makes me very sad. The clothes are super cute, but they literally only carry a size small or extra small. The tag will say “one size fits most,” but the tag on the actual piece of clothing says small! It’s ridiculous. Even the jeans were labeled SM or XS. The only thing that actually fit me was a sweater, but that’s only because it was meant to be very oversized. I would definitely not shop there. I wouldn’t want to give my money to a corporation that caters only to supermodel-sized women.

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High Grade

Price: $$$ – could barely afford to be in the store

Sizes: Up to size 31 or 32

Overall Impression: Nice jeans, but sizes were too small. Not a lot of options.

I was very uncomfortable when we first went into High Grade. Maybe because a pair of jeans is half of one month’s rent. There was definitely an air of pretentiousness. I also felt a little bit guilty since I had absolutely no intentions of buying anything. Not that I could buy anything anyways, since the largest size they had was a 31, which is roughly a 10.

True Religion

Price: $$$

Sizes: Up to size 32

Overall Impression: Not worth $400

I have the same feelings about True Religion as I do about High Grade. The largest size was 32, which is a 12. There was a pair that fit me, but they were also $400. No thanks. They don’t have any options for curvier girls, which is unfortunate. I guess the brand only caters to smaller people because they don’t want larger people to be seen wearing their clothes.

 

Old Navy

Price: $

Sizes: 00-30 (plus size)

Overall Impression: Awesome! Caters to ALL shapes & sizes. There’s an option for every woman here.

I commend Old Navy for being so all-inclusive. They have a bunch of different sizes, cuts, and lengths for pretty much any body type. They also go up to size 30 (plus size)! No one has to feel bad or ashamed, because there’s something for everyone here. And the prices are more than reasonable.

 

American Eagle

Price: $-$$

Sizes: 00-18

Overall Impression: Plenty of sizes & fits for every body type. Also available in short and long.

I may be a bit biased, because AE is my favourite store. But I think they do a great job at reaching a wide audience. Like Old Navy, they also have a variety of lengths and cuts. They also go up to a size 18, but only carry up to size 12 in store.

More pictures and a detailed analysis coming soon!

-Keely

Body Dysmorphia and the Problem of “One Size Fits All”: An Aside to the Fitting Room Confessionals

Body Dysmorphia, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), is an anxiety disorder related to depression which affects both men and women equally.  A person who suffers from BDD is literally obsessed by their appearance, usually fixated on a flaw that is beyond their control, or which is almost unnoticeable by others.  Oftentimes, the flaw is imagined.  This obsession with an invisible or uncontrollable problem begins to manifest itself in compulsions to adjust, camouflage, or “fix” the issue, with some BDD patients going so far as to engage in extreme, and sometimes unnecessary, cosmetic surgeries, which may or may not rid them of feelings of inadequacy or discomfort.

While BDD affects both men and women equally, the areas of concern differentiate greatly: men with BDD tend to be worried about their body build, thinning hair, and genital size. Women, on the other hand, have a much longer list of common BDD concerns: skin, stomach, weight, breasts, buttocks, thighs, legs, hips and excessive body hair.

So what does this have to do with #BoycottBrandy?

Among other things, the idea that Brandy Melville’s clothing ought to fit “most” people who walk into their store could be seen as a trigger to people with, or at risk of developing, BDD.  Societal expectations and standards for beauty add to the pressure that people living with BDD feel to maintain their appearance.  Brandy Melville’s philosophy of “one size fits most” has the potential to trigger the panic and anxiety of the disorder.  Constructing the idea that “most” people can fit into Brandy’s clothes is alienating: if I don’t fit into those clothes, then am I not most people? Does that make me different? And is that bad?

Going to Brandy Melville and experiencing this kind of discrimination firsthand was rather disheartening.  Keely herself, as we finished up our trip, commented half jokingly, “Well, that was depressing.”  Having struggled for so long and so hard with body image and trying to find clothes that fit me properly, it’s easy to let the sentiment resonate a little.  And when so many stores have thin models in their photos and constantly stock more of the smaller sizes near the tops of their displays while hiding the larger sizes in harder and more awkward places to reach, the message that is being told becomes clear: the bigger you are, so are you less welcome.  To fit, you have to work harder for it.

And that, to me, is just plain unfair.

– Kristin


For more on BDD:

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-body-dysmorphic-disorder

http://bddfoundation.org/helping-you/about-bdd/

http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd

***Disclaimer: this post contains information from a quick Google search, including a summary of information found on the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, but should not be considered authoritative, medically.  For more information on BDD, remember to consult a professional.  This post also contains a personal opinion on Brandy Melville, the clothing industry, and how it can potentially be linked to BDD: this, is a personal opinion and should not be cited as an authoritative source.

Kristin’s Fitting Room Confessions — Part 1

Shopping is hard.

Between having to find parking and mapping out a plan for how best to navigate the mall with efficiency, half the battle begins before you even get to the stores in mind for the day.  Keely and I set aside two hours yesterday morning to tackle West Edmonton Mall, its long hallways and slippery, shiny new floors, to visit our pal Brandy Melville and some other places, to see just how much frustration we could experience with trying to find new clothes.

Over the span of these two hours, I personally tried on over a dozen pairs of jeans across 5 different stores. Removing the consideration of prices, there were about 3 pairs I would have bought based on fit, feel, and look alone.  And this was not accomplished without a great amount of effort. But let’s get into the specifics, shall we — starting with the inspiration herself, Brandy Melville.

I think the thing that pisses me off the most about this store is that there is almost no excuse for it to not be basically immaculate at all times.  Having worked in clothing retail in the past, the greatest struggle in the store’s cleanliness and shopability issues were about 90% to do with organizing sizes and having a good, even representation of those which were most popular on display for customers.  Brandy Melville eliminates this struggle by bravely proclaiming that everything it carries is “ONE SIZE / TAILLE UNIQUE”, so it wasn’t exactly surprising when, upon our entrance at the strike of 10 this morning, there was only one person attending the store.  There’s not a lot of maintenance to do!

2015-02-19 10.13.12

This is the first article of clothing I tried this morning.  My jeans in this pic are a pair I’ve owned since September (AE Hi-Rise Jeggings, size 14).  I was a little anxious grabbing a crop top as I’ve struggled with body image and confidence for most of my life, but have in the recent past given myself more credit, started hitting the gym, and decided to give it a shot.  This top also had me rethink this whole #BoycottBrandy thing for a second, too: because hey, I look like I can rock a crop top like this.  The problem I have with it is that on the models in their photos and the mannequins in the store, the top is supposed to look loose; on me, it was stretched snugly (though not uncomfortably) across my chest.

Not a terrible start.  But then came the next tshirt.

2015-02-19 10.17.14

My initial skepticism still fresh, I contended also to grab a raglan tshirt that looked like it might fit me, albeit not in the “cute drapey” way it fit on the mannequin. But even then, it was uncomfortably tight.  (Sorry for pantsless mirror selfie —  I had also just tried to fit that skirt higher than that, to no avail…)

And that’s not all! The only pair of jeans to be seen in this vast expanse of clothing store was this lovely pair which — despite the overall “one size” slogan that was on every paper tag — sported a fabric label stitched into the back claiming “S”, alongside others which similarly declared “XS.” A spark of hope as one attempts to overcome the dread of being too big, thinking that maybe, just maybe, “XS” and “S” were being used arbitrarily as some kind of reverse psychology…

2015-02-19 10.15.41

Sigh.

Not impressed, Brandy Melville.  Not impressed.

In the interest of getting the best idea of what they might have to offer an “abnormal” body like mine, I also grabbed a tshirt dress, again hoping for the best.  By this point I was about ready to roll on though, because —

2015-02-19 10.18.32

I would maybe consider wearing something this short (not to mention shapeless) as pyjamas, or maybe as a swimsuit coverup if I felt particularly frumpy on beach day.  But considering how short it was… nuh-uh.

None of this felt very good after the crop top.  I felt like an intruder, and not just because my visit was motivated by this project: I genuinely hoped that there would be at least something more than half a shirt that might be there for me.  And, I think I have a pretty good amount of self-confidence when it comes to clothes shopping.  But all I could think about as I wandered around this store and in and out of the fitting room was the time I had to go shopping for my 9th grade “graduation” dress and my younger (and less fat) sister tried dresses on next to me just for fun, which was mortifying.  Because she fit into and looked good in everything she tried, and I didn’t.  And not being able to fit was terrifying, frustrating, and alienating — alienating from my own body, which is something I never want me or anyone else to feel, especially when searching for ways to adorn and present themselves.

Yeah, yeah, cry all you want about “then just don’t shop at Brandy Melville then!” — but think about every other girl whose waist isn’t 24 inches around that watches parades of girls whose waists are that small, and how they begin to internalize that as self-hatred. It’s a dark place.

Starbucks in hand, properly-fitting clothing around me again, I headed out of my fitting room and out onto the couch to wait for Keely. The shopping continued just across the hallway, at High Grade Clothing, hoping that with increased selection there might be more success…

To be continued.

– Kristin

Meet Ayan!

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Hello Guys,

My name is Ayan and I’m a first year accounting student at the U of A. I decided to #BoyCott Brandy MelVille because of it’s discriminatory outlook on clothing sizes. What I what  to get out of this project is to stop the discriminatory clothing biases set in Brandy Melville’s “one size fit all “ branding policy. This standard of marketing is not only irrational but harmful for most young girls out there. Therefore, boycotting Brandy MelVille for me is a must for young girls out there like myself in order to address this issue at a larger scale.

What I hope to get out of our blog post is to encourage young adults out there to be more verbally outspoken and not timid when it comes to serious issues such as the one size fits all policy that Brandy Melville envisions for most  young girls out there. Moreover, this idea of categorizing 95% of most women “fat” due to the exclusive branding decision that a clothing company decided to make, brings no value but rather diminishes that companies foundations and ethics. For this reason, we will need your support and we eagerly encourage you guys out there to stand up to discriminatory standards that are evolving in most clothing stores such as Brandy Melville’s by supporting our endeavors or by signing our petitions, as well as tweeting us on twitter!

Thanks,

Ayan.

Introduction – Keely

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Hey guys!

My name is Keely and I’m somewhere between my first and second year Anthropology major and Physical Sciences minor. Although I’m considering changing my minor to WGS, because it’s freaking awesome. My interests include anthropology, archaeology, astronomy and feminist issues of course! I do quite a lot of volunteering around campus and am an active volunteer at the campus observatory. I also do lab analysis for an archaeology project one of my professors is running. In my free time, you can find me curled up on my couch with a cup of coffee, watching Netflix and cuddling with my guinea pig. I also enjoy looking up pictures of cats.

I definitely would consider myself a feminist. Although I do usually wear a bra and shave my legs – sorry stereotypes. I don’t believe women are better than men, or that women deserve special privileges. I believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. Some would say we don’t need feminism in today’s society. Because we can vote, right? Wrong. We need feminism because “acting like a girl” shouldn’t be an insult, because women are still expected to take their husbands name in marriage and because when a women is assaulted, she was “asking for it.”

#BoycottBrandy interests me because the company is openly racist and fat shames young girls. They set an unrealistic image for girls to live up to. “One size fits most” is not a size! 00 is not the size that most women are. I’m interested in comparing companies like Brandy Melville, to companies like Aerie. Why is sizing across all stores so inconsistent? Why are men’s clothing sizes consistent? Why is there no “one size fits most” for men? What kind of audience do stores like Brandy Melville target? These are the types of questions I hope to answer with this project.

Keely