1. Its dependence on idealizing a certain (often unhealthy) kind of body.
Few things are more upsetting, as a woman, than seeing what the fashion industry is quick to deem “plus-sized,” or the haughty indifference with which top designers treat the vast majority of female consumers. When you have plus-sized models who are barely a size eight, or plus-sized sections of major stores which are little more than heinous muumuu graveyards, you realize that — if you don’t look a certain way — you are just not meant to enjoy clothes as much as other girls. And as body positive fashion blogs or designers are constantly relegated to the niche section of the industry (even as their bodies are much more representative of the average woman), it’s a constant reminder that fashion is a club whose members are not interested in having you enter. For every young woman who grows up hating herself because she will never see herself in her favorite magazines, there could have been a girl who grew up believing that she is beautiful and capable of enjoying style as much as anyone. We simply choose to make her feel like she is ugly and unworthy.
2. Its derision of personal style that doesn’t fit into a certain bell curve.
Every time someone sincerely says that something is “last season,” an angel bursts into flames. Despite the fact that personal style should be a fun, carefree activity that we could all take pride in and use to express ourselves, there is a whole industry that is financially invested in telling us that what we like — if it isn’t perfectly up-to-date — isn’t good enough. And it creates generations of people who are afraid to wear what they like, simply out of fear of being the one person who doesn’t “get it.” Pro tip: No one gets it. Literally everyone is faking it until they make it, even the famous designers.
3. The extremes that models will go to to achieve the perfect look.
If your day hasn’t already been ruined, and you didn’t know about Vogue Australia former Editor-In-Chief Kirstie Clements’ new book, get ready to get sad. While there is obviously a bit of hypocrisy in profiting off of a dangerous system right up until the moment you are axed and want to cash in on a lucrative book deal, it’s still important that she’s telling the horrifying stories that need to be told. From models eating tissues to keep their stomachs full, to the women used to size designer clothes spending extended time in the ICU with IV drips for malnutrition, the world that the impossible standards of thinness has created is one that is as deeply ugly as it is arbitrary. If there is anything that embodies the word “embarrassing,” its an industry who packages and sells to women an image of beauty that literally comes at the cost of our own health and happiness.
It’s almost hard to conceive of a world before Photoshop, before every image in every glossy magazine was edited to the point of absurdity in order to ensure that the people looking at it — even if they had achieved the human version of perfection — would still have something to strive for (and buy products for). But this is the reality of our lives, looking at models and actors and singers who have had every last flaw digitally buffed from their body so that we can hate the fact that we are stuck looking like actual human beings. And the truth is that the blame is so hard to place here, because it’s become a sort of airbrushed arms race in which everyone has to participate, lest you be the lone swamp creature who has to be on a billboard looking like something that might actually be a living thing. Deciding who is going to set aside their weapons first and go back to something natural is just as impossible as escaping the digitally-enhanced images’ reach.
5. The focus on being “in the know,” often at the cost of personal expression.
If this brilliant Jimmy Kimmel man-on-the-street bit teaches us one thing, it’s that a huge amount of fashion lovers’ interest stems more from a desire to be on the cutting edge of something — and firmly part of a social caste — than it is about real, personal pleasure. To pretend to know an artist simply to give the impression of being well-informed would seem ridiculous, but once you have invested even a small percentage of your self-worth in how many designers’ shows you’ve attended or how well-versed you are in this season’s offering, it’s a game you will simply win. And while there are pissing contest in every center of interest, the desperate dependence that fashion has on always being avant-garde is one that inevitably leads to ludicrous posturing. It’s funny to laugh at the guy in the green hair and his absurd certainty about being wrong, but it’s also pretty sad.