Bodies aren’t fashion trends

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This article discusses disordered eating and negative body image and may be triggering for some readers. The Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-875-6213. 

Mild panic has overtaken the internet recently, with fashion blogs declaring low-rise jeans and other Y2K trends cool again. With this trend shift comes the concern that toxic early 2000s beauty standards will resurface too.

First, nothing says we must conform; we get to choose to wear a trend or not. However, when certain trends are closely associated with certain body types, it perpetuates the harmful idea that bodies should “fit into” clothes instead of clothes fitting bodies.

While a preference for curviness may have offered some relief in recent years, really, “skinny” has never been “out”—at least not in the same way as “fat.”

Thinness has been reinforced as the standard in everything we’ve seen growing up. Disney princess movies with tiny protagonists and fat villains associate thinness with moral goodness; our childhood idols invariably occupy thin bodies. 

Another problem: men aren’t platformed in the body positivity movement. 

There are reasons for this issue, including the intersections between female objectification and fatphobia, and the idea that a woman’s value comes primarily from her looks. Nonetheless, tropes like the fat male comic relief caricature are equally harmful to men struggling with body image. 

We’ve come a long way since the last time low-rise jeans were fashionable, but all bodies still aren’t represented. We need to take bigger strides towards representation that doesn’t tokenize fat people or define them by their size.

For those of us without the resources for a pet plastic surgeon, body parts aren’t accessories to take on and off as trends change. In fact, body types should really have nothing to do with clothing trends, and in no world should the ‘in’ fashion determine which bodies are desirable. 

Though harmful messaging is pushed on us to a large extent online, we’re also responsible for where we put our attention and what we demand of our social media. The more we engage with content that idealizes thinness and erases other body types, the more of it we see. 

Whichever body type is most unattainable at a given time often correlates with the beauty standard to create a false sense of exclusivity and make insecurities profitable. Accepting “thin is back in” means backtracking and ignoring the reality that thinness was never unfashionable.

Disordered eating is a health subject we often overlook, though it affects many of us. Promoting and making light of an unhealthy relationship with food is unacceptable—or at least it should be.

For some reason, disordered eating was openly promoted in a recent episode of The Kardashians that followed Kim as she underwent drastic measures to lose weight to fit into a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe. 

“Skinny” and “healthy” or “fit” are often wrongly conflated. Of course, we should all strive to be healthy, but that doesn’t have to mean looking like an Olympic athlete. 

Countless people have talked about the trauma of growing up during a time when extreme thinness was hailed as perfection, and anything less wasn’t good enough. We should do everything in our power to avoid imposing the same toxicity on new generations. 

To break the cycle of bodies going in and out of fashion right along with clothing, we have to detach clothing trends from body types. That’s hard to do when the fashion and entertainment industries are built on a thin ideal, but we have to try.  

—Journal Editorial Board

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