Fixation of body shape and attaining that perfect beauty standard is no new concept. History shows that perfect body shaping can be dated back to the early centuries even before the model culture took off in the world of fashion. The modeling industry is blamed hugely for the body image issue through high fashion shows which only bring tall, slim, and blonde models for the runway. As the great Fashion Designer Karl Lagerfeld once said, “The secret to modeling is not being perfect. What one needs is a face that people can identify in a second. You have to be given what’s needed by nature, and what’s needed is to bring something new”. But is it really how the fashion industry portrays models? Learning about the classic corset era for attaining the perfect body shape from history to watching Victoria’s Secret angels on TV and the Kardashians – Jenners on Instagram setting unrealistic beauty standards. It can automatically set an unattainable mindset on young girls and women. Although body image in the fashion industry among models has changed a lot from the past few decades, loose ends still need to be tightened. Let’s take a walk down to the lane from where it all started and how it has changed throughout the decade:
- It all started with the ‘Father of Haute Couture’ Charles Frederick Worth
French designer Charles Frederick Worth was the first fashion designer to revolutionize fashion and introduce the model culture into the industry. He hired his first model in 1853 and then send her to attain high societal parties to gather more customers. Surprisingly, the man not only included tall and slim living mannequins to his list but also dressed short and curvy women. It may come as a shock to many because of the time people were living in. But Worth created clothes for customers who prized his aesthetic and not for the sake of visual satisfaction. It eventually gave birth to a new career called ‘modeling’. Eventually, with the rise of editorial body diversity took a back seat and a new era followed.
- The rule of fashion powerhouse and the rise of ‘Big name’ models
During the 70s and 80s when Dior and Jacques Faith turned their attention to couture, names like Versace, Channel, Gucci, Valentino, and Prada understood the importance of comfortable and versatile clothing for women which will be well-tailored and well fitted. The editorials by then have already started to print models on their glossy papers. It was the beginning of the model era. Designers bought only tall and slim models on their runway shows in short black dresses and fitted gowns. As visually appealing as it looked on the magazine pages and runaways, it instilled a sense of ignorance in those who desperately wanted those clothing yet failed to imagine themselves due to lack of diversity. Some of the big names of the model during that era are- Bettina, Barbara Goelen, Fionna Campbell, and Dorian Leigh. The lack of including models from different ethnicity was deeply rooted in the system as designers were using only white women which ultimately became a name for ‘desirable beauty’.
- Supermodel Era
We all are pretty aware of the supermodel power in the fashion industry and the influence it has on the general public. The 1990s marked the era where Vogue introduced “The Big Five” Supermodels to the world: Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, and Christy Turlington. They were considered the queen of the 90s with their unique breed which today’s generation of supermodels such as Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Bella, and Kaia Gerber couldn’t beat. But adding to the pleasure, we were beginning to see more black women up in the forefront of the magazines and runaways. Alen Wek, a model from Sudan became an icon for the black women with darker skin tones who paved way for later-generation black models. Also in 1974, Beverly Johnson was the first black woman to grace the cover of American Vogue and later went on to walk for renowned designers such as YSL and Ralph Lauren. But amidst all this, the most problematic fashion show known as Victoria Secrets was rising with its beautiful, well-shaped angels which created a lot of controversy due to its portrayal of the perfect body being size 0.
- The dawn of body diversity models on the upcoming brands and runaway show
With Rihanna introducing her Savage X Fenty line and Beyonce her clothing line Ivy Park, Victoria Secret saw a rapid decrease in sales and viewership. And it eventually came to an end after continuing for decades. Rihanna included models from all ethnicity, shapes, size, color and even featured LGBTQ+ models which gradually filled the market gap which Victorias Secret was lacking. It was a time when consumers were aware of the representation of what mattered the most and not visual pleasure. The size diversity went a notch higher with Fall 2017 where curvy models conquered the runaway. Even a problematic brand like Dolce Gabbana bought 27 curvy models on the runway which was a huge step towards the diversity on the runway.
- Insta worthy IT models
There is no doubt how heavily the fashion industry now relies on Instagram with designers showcasing their collection on Insta Live to Models building their own profile as ‘Insta Models’. Now the line has also blurred between men’s and women’s clothing with men like Harry Styles and Jaden Smith rocking in skirts and dresses for magazine covers. Brands are also bringing real people as models to advertise. We are in an era of relatability and how much relevant can you be through your brand. Insta IT model list is not complete without talking about the obvious model-celebrity Gigi, Bella, Kendall, and Cara who have almost made a world of their own in Insta outside the fashion industry.