Fashion is often seen as a shallow and superficial interest, as it has always been concerned with looks and appearance; the artistry of designers has always been undermined slightly by the unattainable standards the industry promotes. Ever since I was in my early teens, fashion and beauty are things that have interested me greatly and always been a part of my daily life; but it can be a draining process when the industry itself is constantly trying to convince you that you’re not thin enough; not pretty enough; not good enough. Fashion magazines constantly inundate us with unachievable standards which aren’t real, but are built with airbrushing, filters, FaceTune, and perfect posing – something which has translated into social media, especially on platforms like Instagram. Female celebrities are constantly being ridiculed in the tabloids for their bodies (as shown when actress and presenter Jameela Jamil tweeted a picture of such a tabloid article and cited it as part of the reason she started the ‘I Weigh’ campaign – and if they’re not being shamed for being too fat, they’re being shamed for being too skinny). Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common in the UK, with the charity BEAT estimating that around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder.
My own interest in fashion is constantly challenged by feelings of self-consciousness. I become bored by wearing the same style of clothing all the time, but battle with The Fear when it comes to trying new things, in case they don’t flatter me. As a teenager I wore skater dresses, shift dresses, baggy shirts and jumpers because I refused to wear anything that showed or emphasised what I saw as my ‘problem area’: my stomach. I was interested in music and drama and often took part in plays or shows, where every time I was put into a costume that was different to my usual style and comfort zone, I would balk and inevitably give a worse performance. Yet, even when dressed in my usual style, hiding my physical insecurities, it still didn’t give me any self-confidence. I was hugely interested in fashion, beauty and clothes and would constantly notice trends I didn’t allow myself to wear, and I grew increasingly bored of constantly wearing the same, stereotypical things.
Fashion is supposed to be fun, clothes are supposed to be an expression of who we are, not just a way to hide our insecurities; there isn’t supposed to be a strict set of rules as to which body type can wear which styles of clothing. As I grew into a young adult, I began to try new styles and silhouettes, and grew more confident as a result. Five years ago I never would have dreamed of even looking at a bodycon dress, and now they have become my go-to outfit for a night-out – even though I am still self-conscious about my stomach and the size of my thighs, the parts of my figure I do like – my waist, my hips, my bust – are emphasised and I feel better about myself. The baggier shapes I favoured as a teenager, I realised, had only served to make me look wider than I am, whereas the figure-hugging silhouettes I now favour emphasise the fact that I do have an actual shape. I have even taken to wearing crop tops, so long as whatever I’m pairing it with – jeans, skirt, trousers – is sufficiently high-waisted, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do. Trying new styles increased my confidence massively.
Right now is the best time to branch out in your style; the fashion industry is changing in a way I never thought it would – more people are speaking up against body shaming for whatever reason, and there are accounts cropping up all over social media which celebrate different body types to those which we usually see on the covers of magazines or on the runways. Jameela Jamil’s ‘I Weigh’ campaign is one, but there are many others like it, from YouTuber Em Ford’s @mypaleskinblog where she promotes skin positivity and talks openly about her acne and her journey to self-love, to official Anastasia Beverly Hills make-up artist and influencer @alyssamarieartistry , who promotes plus-size fashion from brands like Fashionnova and receives an outpouring of compliments from fans on every post in response to her positive attitude, to recent Cosmopolitan cover model Tess Holliday’s self-explanatory @effyourbeautystandards. A handy list of more of the best body-positive accounts on Instagram can be found in the Evening Standard. More brands than ever are offering petite, tall, and plus size collections, though there is still a long way to go – the standards of what constitutes ‘plus-size’, for example, have recently and rightfully come under fire, most notably concerning online giant Boohoo, and the choice in these sections in most retailers, I would say, is generally poor compared to the choices offered in ‘regular’ sizing. The more this is called out, however, and the more that influencers and celebrities endorse self-worth and body positivity for all shapes, sizes, and skin colours, the more the industry will be required to be inclusive and represent everyone in order to guarantee its continued success.
People will always love to give their unwarranted opinions on what certain body shapes
should or should not wear, particularly over social media, where they can hide behind a screen. But I’ve learned over the course of my twenty-one years that their opinions are just that – their opinions, and that I am happier when I ignore them and wear what makes me feel confident. I am able to enjoy shopping and trying new things and often find myself pleasantly surprised by the way a new trend suits me (my recent example being wide leg trousers – thinking my legs are already wide enough, thank you, I had thought I would hate them, but when I tried a pair on, I loved them).
There are no rules to fashion or beauty. Designers are constantly trying to innovate and take risks with new shapes, materials, silhouettes – and what fun would an interest in fashion be without the ability to follow suit? My advice to anyone would be this: don’t listen to any so called ‘rules’ of fashion. Don’t let anyone else’s opinion dictate what you can and can’t wear. Wear what makes you happy, and try whichever new trends you want to. You never know, you might surprise yourself – I know I did.