Why the female form in fashion is about more than Instagram likes

Credit: Glomad


 I want to bring to light an issue, which perhaps is not the first that springs to mind when you hear the words “ethical fashion” but which nevertheless is an integral element that we need to consider in creating a more heart-centred fashion future.   Jameela Jamil

Notions and concepts of beauty have been fluid through the ages, formed in part by the socio-economic, cultural and political landscape of every era, writes Alexandra Morris.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so the old adage goes. If the age that we are living through were to have a chapter in the history books of the future, it might be entitled – beauty is in the number of likes you have on your Instagram account!

When we consider the depiction of the female form throughout history the stark contrast between modern, mainstream perceptions of beauty, with that of the 15th and 16th century is startling. We could even go so far as to say that you could read history through the evolution of the female form.

The rotund belly in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus typifies the aesthetic of the early renaissance when “looking pregnant’ was considered the height of desirability. Similarly, the voluptuous stout women of Ruben’s paintings from the Baroque era reflected the look of the day.

The correlation between the fashion industry and female body image is undeniable, what is questionable is the extent of that correlation.  Since the birth of grunge and heroin chic that ruled the nirvana fuelled waif era of the 90s, there has been a lot of mud-slinging at the fashion industry for popularising an unattainably thin aesthetic, that doesn’t represent the average woman and encourages an unhealthy relationship with body image.

Whether it be models on the catwalk, in advertising campaigns or size zero mannequins in window displays, the power of the message that thin equals beautiful is deafening. In fact, charting the genesis of mannequins through fashion history is also an interesting way to understand shifting perceptions of female beauty, from the nipped in waist and curvy hips of the 1950s to the toned body and narrow hips of the 1990s.

Fashion Spot’s ‘Report on Diversity’ in the fashion industry, surveyed 236 fashion print advertising campaigns from Spring 2016 in order to ascertain how much progress has been made in creating a more inclusive landscape. Women over a size 12 were generally not represented (even though the average dress size in the UK is a 16). From the 440 models who were cast, only 7 plus size women were featured representing just 1.6%.  According to the report tentative improvement has been made towards a more diverse representation of race and age, with millennial savvy campaigns from Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs. However, it seems that size is still a sticky issue and the fashion industry needs to try harder to be more inclusive.

At the St. Martin’s Graduate Show at London Fashion Week in February I winced at the jutting razor sharp hip-bones parading down the catwalk.  I understand that it’s an issue that not all designers want to address or even acknowledge, but I do feel that we should be aware of the power of the imagery that we are sending out; We must empower rather than objectify and provide a space where a wider range of women imagine they belong.

It’s for this very reason that I decided to use a mixture of real women and models in my debut photo-shoot to communicate the message that inspired the collection; the unleashing of the inner goddess, the freeing of the heroine within, a celebration of unbridled femininity, in all it’s glorious diversity.

Alexandra Morris is Founder & Director of Luxury beachwear and resort wear label GLOMAD www.glomadbeachwear.com