beauty, body image

Consumers Demand More Realistic Images of Beauty

January 27, 2010 01:20 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Spain’s proposed ban on late night beauty ads coincides with fashion industry trends touting healthier, more realistic images of women.

Realism Meets Fashion

According to Advertising Age, the Spanish government is attempting to prevent eating disorders by banning certain beauty-focused ads before 10 p.m. The law has passed Spain’s lower chamber of parliament, and could likely be ratified by the upper chamber “within weeks.” It would limit commercials for “diet products, some beauty treatments and plastic surgery.”

Spain has been at the forefront of this issue, teaming with retailers Zara and Mango in 2007 to require that store mannequins be at least a “U.S. size 6,” according to Advertising Age. Madrid was also “the first city to ban ultra-thin models from its fashion week runways.”

The ban coincides with what appears to be a burgeoning trend in the fashion industry: more realistic images of women. This week, Germany’s best-selling women’s magazine, Brigitte, released its second issue featuring regular women instead of professional models. Both issues “have sold out on most newsstands,” Susanne Gundlach, Brigitte’s online fashion editor, told the Edmonton Journal.

The success of Brigitte’s tactic came as little surprise. Editors, including Gundlach, learned through research that readers were tired of seeing stick-thin models in the magazine’s pages. "Our readers have been complaining in recent years that they love the magazine, but they don't find themselves any more in the fashion pages," Gundlach said, according to the Edmonton Journal.

More proof of consumers’ weariness with the fashion industry’s perpetuation of so-called perfection was seen on The New York Times’ On the Runway blog last week. Below Cathy Horyn’s post on Golden Globes fashion, which quoted a stylist as calling actress Christina Hendricks “a big girl” and featured a distortedly large image of her, readers quickly posted disagreeable comments. The photo was promptly corrected by The Times and called an inadvertent error. The reference to “big girl” remained, however. 

Background: Body images issues persist, confound experts

Despite positive changes occurring in the fashion industry, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that body image issues persist in the U.S., and continue to challenge personal trainers and psychologists.

Ian Fagala, owner of Essential Fitness in Chesterfield, Mo., says he struggles with clients intent on “changing themselves into something created by societal pressure and the way the media portrays people,” the Post-Dispatch reports.

The media may play a role, but certain people may also be predisposed to body image issues. Clinical psychologist Dr. Randall Flanery “has studied body image for years,” but still has a hard time explaining why certain people are okay with their looks and others are not, according to the Post-Dispatch. 

In a column for The Daily Beast, Rachel Shukert wonders whether she was “born anorexic.” Shukert, who suffered from anorexia for three years, cites a “seemingly conclusive neuropsychological study” showing that 70 percent of anorexics displayed changes in the brain that “occurred in the womb and were not due to external or environmental factors.” The changes left them more vulnerable to eating disorders

“[W]hat we are learning more and more from research in this area is that some people are very vulnerable to anorexia,” Susan Ringwood, director of Beat, a UK eating disorders charity, told The Daily Beast, “and that [it] is down to genetic factors and brain chemistry,” rather than model-emulation or media influence.

Related Topic: Anti-anorexia campaigns in Europe

It seems indisputable that certain industries perpetuate eating disorders, perhaps influencing young fans. France, Italy and Britain have taken steps to combat such influence. Models participating in Italian runway shows are required to “present health certificates showing that they do not suffer from eating disorders.” In Britain, models coping with eating disorders must provide proof “that they are being treated” before gaining permission to walk in a British Fashion Week show, according to The Age.

Reference: Guide to Eating Disorders

The sites recommended in findingDulcinea’s Web Guide to Eating Disorders discuss symptoms, treatments and emotional support. You'll realize how common eating disorders are, and how close help can be.

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