Shopping for perfection

The media practically permeates the very air we breathe, and advertising is one area that causes the greatest impact on our day to day lives. After all, that is its aim – to get us to spend. But when the fashion industry starts to advertise the unattainable, it can take a toll on our self-worth.

Part of the problem is that brands enhance images. This is understandable; brands want you to think that by investing in their product, you can attain the ‘perfection’ represented by their models. It is not certain what the greatest selling point is anymore: models or clothes. Though this kind of advertising incites us to buy, buy, buy, it can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

A survey by New Look in 2013 found that a third of women “feel the body they aspire towards is not possible for them to achieve”. We’re constantly trying to achieve the unachievable, causing many to be unhappy with their bodies. In fact, the same survey found that 650 out of the 2,000 interviewed felt extremely uncomfortable with their own bodies. It might seem like an inescapable cycle, yet some companies are starting to challenge this debilitating trend. Aerie launched a campaign called ‘Aerie Real’ last year, refusing to enhance models. Stomach rolls and stretch marks are uncompromisingly present. The images are accompanied by the positive slogan, “The girl in this image has not been retouched because the real you is sexy.” There is starting to be a change in fashion advertising towards celebrating body positivity and refusing to warp images to conform to unrealistic standards.

However, until companies also start to rethink who they hire (Aerie already pledges not to use supermodels in its advertisements), perhaps little will change. Victoria’s Secret recently launched a ‘Perfect Body’ range, but its definition of ‘perfection’ was limited to a very specific height and weight range. The company was forced by a petition to backtrack on the campaign, changing their slogan to “A body for everybody” instead.

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Even though Victoria’s Secret does enhance images, the extreme exercise and dietary deprivation their models are subjected to means that an end to retouching may not be enough. Victoria’s Secret’s ‘Angels’ are advised that a 1,000-calorie liquid diet is sufficient, alongside fi ve exercise sessions per week, despite recommended intakes for women being twice that amount. The models many companies use are both genetically blessed and physically manipulated before being retouched. The end to Photoshop is only the beginning of the campaign to stop the fashion industry publishing the dangerous messages which keep them sustained.