Is Vogue Still Setting Unrealistic Body Standards or Breaking Them Down?

Vogue’s “What’s Changing About Fashion’s Relationship to the Body?” featuring Kim Kardashian who talks about the negative comments she has heard about her body both in person and on social media.

One of the most prevalent issues within the fashion industry is its lack of diversity. Lately, I have been seeing more and more online content discussing this topic. Among this content is a Vogue video I found on Youtube titled “What’s Changing About Fashion’s Relationship to the Body?” The three minute video stars pop culture phenomenon Kim Kardashian alongside other successful female-identifying models of various races, nationalities, sizes, and ages. There are various shots of the models throughout the video as they offer overlapping commentary on their personal experiences loving and owning their bodies. Of course, the video is well-directed and entertaining through its editing and background music. It captures the challenges of finding self worth and confidence in an industry that has set impossible beauty standards not only through discussion but through visual cues. We see scenes of women exercising and weighing themselves whilst hearing the models talk about the negative body shaming they have faced. Historical female sculptures are shown in a probable effort to depict the everlasting beauty standards for women. Vogue clearly wanted to promote body acceptance through this video though there are several ironies that belittle its goal which commenters are not afraid to share. 

Screenshot of a woman weighing herself on a scale while models talk about the body shame they have received.

First of all, Vogue is a major contributor to the beauty standards set by the fashion industry. They have taught women that in order to be pretty and fashionable, they must be unattainably skinny and have flawless skin. Many commenters on the video echo this feeling as they reveal Vogue is in fact partially responsible for making them feel uncomfortable with their own bodies. One commenter points out that while the magazine is trying to reverse some of its past mistakes by capturing different bodies, it is not enough. If they want to change the narrative, they have to do more. The company definitely has the power to do so as Vogue is the epitome of fashion for many people. Vogue thinks so too as the “About Vogue” reads “Vogue is the authority on fashion news, culture trends, beauty coverage, videos, celebrity style, and fashion week updates.” They could use their power for good and create a new standard that every body is beautiful. 

The video was not received well not only because it was created by Vogue but because it featured Kim Kardashian. Like Vogue, Kardashian herself has set unrealistic body standards. While Kardashian just as rightly deserves to own her body like anyone else, commenters take issue with her being in a video alongside other women who have battled the beauty standards, not created them. Kardashian readjusts her pose in a short clip and asks if  “this looks good.” Kim Kardashian trying to look her best in a video promoting body authenticity and acceptance makes Vogue’s intentions seem fake. They could have easily made this video without Kardashian, which would have generated more positive reception. Instead, they likely added her to reach a larger audience and generate more profit. It seems like Vogue’s real goal was to appear politically correct whilst making money. Yet, they do capture many other models besides Kardashian who have faced struggles loving their bodies. But does this diverse cast of models appear on the runways too?

Another commenter who claims to work in the modeling industry argues that this diversity in the video is nonexistent in the actual industry and only appears in the media. I find this fact unsurprising as it’s easy to create the false appearance of something. Despite all the pushes towards diversity, the fashion industry is changing at a slow rate. Vogue doesn’t completely overlook this notion, writing that “body acceptance is a long and winding road” in the description box. They may be trying to suggest that the industry has a long way to go before it is inclusive. Nevertheless, it’s probable that the diversity on screen is mostly absent in real life. 

The video sparked major debate among viewers for good reasons. Others interested in social justice would likely agree with me and the other commenters. It is hard for an audience to watch a video produced by a company that lowered their self-esteem in the first place and celebrate them. Although, I believe Vogue had good intentions. They are making an effort to rebrand themselves and pave the way for increased body diversity in fashion. Obviously, it will take more than a three minute video to achieve this goal and after a bit more research, I found other online content that Vogue has published surrounding body inclusivity. However, none of it avoided criticism including their March 2017 cover on Modern American Women that was criticized for not being diverse enough. It featured seven light skinned models including one plus size model. If they have faced this kind of scrutiny before, I have to wonder whether they expected the same comments or praise for their efforts to celebrate body diversity. Did they want to be celebrated for including models of all backgrounds instead of the usual suspects like Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid? Are they trying to forget their damaging past? Perhaps, by continuing to produce more inclusive content, they hoped to show their commitment to body diversity. Nonetheless, this video, various articles, and magazine covers act as baby steps towards a future with representation for all shapes and sizes. Just like many other companies in the fashion industry, Vogue has a long way to go with much more to learn. 

References

Torgerson, Rachel. “Vogue’s ‘Diverse’ Cover Slammed for Not Being Diverse Enough.” Cosmopolitan, 9 February 2017, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/fashion/a8696839/vogue-march-2017-cover-controversy/.

One thought on “Is Vogue Still Setting Unrealistic Body Standards or Breaking Them Down?

  1. I really enjoyed reading this analysis and it connects very well to our topics of body positivity and fat studies. This video exemplifies how the body positive movement is more and more focused on promotion and thinner women and using singular tokens to prove diversity. I did find it very odd that Kim was in this video. She is the standard today that many people aspire to with unrealistic body proportions. To promote true diversity, they need to expand their acceptance into all aspects of Vogue and modeling. Seeing one person who is not white or extremely skinny does nothing to the younger generation when they are constantly bombarded online by the opposite beauty expectations. It is just like when you see thousands of positive comments on your Instagram and there is one negative one. You overlook the positive and remember the negative. We see the body positivity movement, but we don’t actually hear it and adopt it because so many aspects of society are rejecting body variety.

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