The Evolution of the Female body in Fashion

by Gloria Marquez

The way women’s bodies should look like according to societal beauty standards will forever be a topic of discussion. Women have become accustomed to being critiqued, for their weight and outer beauty above anything else; so much that it has become a norm. We praise models and celebrities on magazine covers for their cinched, photoshopped waists and long beautiful legs. Which in turn sets the standard for the way we believe all women should appear, revealing our shallow side. However, let’s not be fooled, even the thinnest of models will have imperfections, like cellulite for example. How humbling! 

In the recent years, we have moved on from this limited mind frame to praising girls for their natural bodies, thanks to the era of the Instagram models and the Kardashian Klan. The use of their bodies and faces for beauty and fashion campaigns has altered limited viewpoints of beauty standards. For better or for worst, they’re the trendsetters of this era. 

Gone are the days where we limit the way a woman’s physique should look, and instead have adopted a more inclusive approach. An approach that advocates for self-love and acceptance. Victoria’s Secrets has been one of the major commercial brands that has taken the forefront towards this body revolution. 

The year 2019 was a pivot year for the lingerie brand Victoria Secrets. This mostly had to do with Savage x Fenty, Rihanna’s lingerie line landing on the scene. What was so different between the two? Well, Rihanna came forward with a very progressive and all-inclusive mentality that was very well received. Could this have affected Victoria’s Secrets decision not to have a Christmas special taping for the holidays? Here’s their statement from Stuart B. Burgdoerfer, Executive Vice President of Victoria Secrets parent company L Brands. 

“We think it’s important to evolve the marketing of Victoria’s Secret. There will be more to come as that continues to get evaluated,” he said. “The show was a very important part of the brand-building of this business and was an important aspect of the brand and a remarkable marketing achievement,” he added, per WWD. “And with that said, we’re figuring out how to advance the positioning of the brand and best communicate that to customers and that’s among the things that [Victoria’s Secret chief executive officer] John [Mehas] is focused on.”

So, did Savage x Fenty have anything to do? I’m not going to outwardly make any assumptions, but the use of all their all-inclusive model choices did have some influence during that time. Now fast-forward to today, and all you see on the windows of Victoria’s Secrets are natural bodies and larger plus-size models. This is quite major coming from a brand that long held a reputation for targeting a specific body type for their campaigns and runway. It’s incredible to see the power we women have when we want to be included. 

We will be heard! 

The body evolution of Barbara Palvin as a model has always stood out to me as I got into the fashion industry.  I felt she was perfect for commercial modeling since she had a very pretty face and fun personality. She had been discovered at the age of 13 and had been non-stop since then. She’s graced the covers of Vogue, Marie Claire, and Harper’s Baazar and made her high fashion debut for Prada in the year 2010. However, her high fashion modeling career didn’t last as long due to one thing: her weight gain. Fashion houses used Palvin less and less and labeled her as plus size, including Victoria Secrets during 2019 as they introduced plus size lingerie. As expected, many people were outraged that 57 kg, which is around 125 lbs., is considered plus size especially when considering her height. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but luckily her modeling career has blossomed due to this and her confidence is up the roof. As one Instagram follower of hers said, “her body represents me.” 

I remember when I first got interested in the world of fashion, circa 2010-2015 models (the Sasha Pivovarova, Snejana Onopka, Natasha Poly era if you’re familiar) bodies needed to be a size 0 to be considered as a runway, high-fashion models. These girls typically starved to achieve their goal weight of 90-100 lbs. Their height ranged from 5’10 to 6′ ft in height and a size 0 was non-negotiable. As a model scout myself, rummaging the streets of Texas to find these very specific criteria of models was beyond exhausting. The girls I did scout, did not have a real interest in being high fashion models, so it wasn’t taken seriously. The reality is this: there are different viewpoints of the modeling industry between New York, California, and Texas. Recently, commercial modeling is what’s pushing the industry forward and setting the standard of what people (mostly women) want to see. 

Why do we let societal paradigms decide what makes us beautiful? Ultimately, I believe it all comes down to competition. Women have naturally been raised to consider marriage as the ultimate pinnacle in life. Raised to believe that we have to look/act a certain way to attract the attention of men. So naturally, we then become our own worst critics; which isn’t limited to just ourselves. There exists competition of who’s the prettiest, of who’s well-known, and having societal privileges because of one’s outer beauty. Have you heard of pretty privilege? Well, it’s a real thing, and this is something that many Instagram models have taken advantage of for years. Can you blame them though? After all, it all comes down to what the consumer finds attractive—as in what you and I choose to support! And recently, the consumer has geared their view of the female body towards transparency, realness, and positivity. Speaking of confidence, this is the type of influence the young girls of Instagram need to see. So much criticism has surrounded the bodies of women for years, aiding to the lack of confidence and self-love there exists. When you think of it, our bodies do so much to keep us alive that it’s only fair we love ourselves properly—with all of our flaws. Who cares what the media portrays as beautiful because we’re all special and beautiful in our own unique way. As someone who used to scout for a very particular type of model—I like where the modeling industry is heading. 

Gloria Marquez is a Mass Media Arts major at HBU. She is heavily influenced by fashion, traveling, and the art around her. She enjoys being surrounded by creative minds.

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