Fashion magazines and body image

Fashion magazines and body image

Leaf Greener is a fashion writer, stylist, creative consultant, and founder of LEAF WeChat magazine, and writes a column on Fashion Statement every month. Check out her studio’s website at www.leafgreener.com.

According to late 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, our body is a tool by which we can exercise our will to power. In the 21st century, the era of capitalism, it’s clear that the body has more value than ever before: it’s become the most attractive consumer good of our time.

But how does one place value on someone’s body? And how do we determine which body type should be most valuable or influential? It’s not an easy thing to answer, but in our increasingly diverse society, I’ve noticed that influential body types are now coming in all shapes and sizes.

With her ample bosom and belly, the Palaeolithic goddess of fertility Venus of Willendorf’s stoutness was a symbol of security and success in her time. Today, Kim Kardashian is our version of the goddess. Kim K is an example that curvy girls can be winners, too. Instead of hiding her body behind thick clothing like some other heavy women do, Kardashian shows it off in body-hugging outfits. Form-fitting Balmain dresses have become her uniform, alongside other breast- and hip-accentuating styles that echo Grecian aesthetics. Even if she wears an oversized T-shirt, she pairs it with a Prada girdle. She also wears nude colours with a shiny finish, much like a second layer of skin, to create the illusion of nudity. One might question where her body ends and where the clothing begins?

On the flip side, we have the opposite of curves and prominent sexual features, which is highlighted by the look of androgyny. In many ancient civilisations, the androgynous body was highly valued because it was seen as an ideal amalgamation of two contradictory forces – the masculine and the feminine. In the 90s, Kate Moss waved the banner of androgyny. Now we have the likes of boyish British supermodel Cara Delevingne, and Jaden Smith wearing a skirt for Louis Vuitton women’s campaigns. Androgyny is as relevant today as it was when David Bowie sashayed around as Ziggy Stardust.

Today, we have vastly contrasting ideas of what is seen as an ideal body type. Kim Kardashian and Cara Delevingne are polar opposites, yet they are both seen as desirable and sexy.

In 1985, artist Barbara Kruger created the graphic artwork Untitled (Your Body Is a Battleground). In this compelling and impactful image, a beautiful woman with sexy lips is divided into positive and negative exposures. The work hints at the aesthetic codes imposed on the female body by the creative class. In the 80s, they were embodied by healthy and sexy supermodels. Now this aesthetic has returned, reincarnated in Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, whose healthy bodies appear on the cover of high-end fashion magazines and expensive campaigns, as compelling and impactful as ever.

Photo: Imaginechina

According to late 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, our body is a tool by which we can exercise our will to power. In the 21st century, the era of capitalism, it’s clear that the body has more value than ever before: it’s become the most attractive consumer good of our time.

But how does one place value on someone’s body? And how do we determine which body type should be most valuable or influential? It’s not an easy thing to answer, but in our increasingly diverse society, I’ve noticed that influential body types are now coming in all shapes and sizes.

With her ample bosom and belly, the Palaeolithic goddess of fertility Venus of Willendorf’s stoutness was a symbol of security and success in her time. Today, Kim Kardashian is our version of the goddess. Kim K is an example that curvy girls can be winners, too. Instead of hiding her body behind thick clothing like some other heavy women do, Kardashian shows it off in body-hugging outfits. Form-fitting Balmain dresses have become her uniform, alongside other breast- and hip-accentuating styles that echo Grecian aesthetics. Even if she wears an oversized T-shirt, she pairs it with a Prada girdle. She also wears nude colours with a shiny finish, much like a second layer of skin, to create the illusion of nudity. One might question where her body ends and where the clothing begins?

On the flip side, we have the opposite of curves and prominent sexual features, which is highlighted by the look of androgyny. In many ancient civilisations, the androgynous body was highly valued because it was seen as an ideal amalgamation of two contradictory forces – the masculine and the feminine. In the 90s, Kate Moss waved the banner of androgyny. Now we have the likes of boyish British supermodel Cara Delevingne, and Jaden Smith wearing a skirt for Louis Vuitton women’s campaigns. Androgyny is as relevant today as it was when David Bowie sashayed around as Ziggy Stardust.

Today, we have vastly contrasting ideas of what is seen as an ideal body type. Kim Kardashian and Cara Delevingne are polar opposites, yet they are both seen as desirable and sexy.

In 1985, artist Barbara Kruger created the graphic artwork Untitled (Your Body Is a Battleground). In this compelling and impactful image, a beautiful woman with sexy lips is divided into positive and negative exposures. The work hints at the aesthetic codes imposed on the female body by the creative class. In the 80s, they were embodied by healthy and sexy supermodels. Now this aesthetic has returned, reincarnated in Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, whose healthy bodies appear on the cover of high-end fashion magazines and expensive campaigns, as compelling and impactful as ever.

If you could have a completely different body, would you want one? Increasingly, society is becoming more diverse and more willing to accept people of all shapes and sizes. So remember, regardless of what body you have, you will always find a group to belong to. And the way you carry that body will resonate with others that are in your group and outside of your group. Just look at Kim K, Cara and Gigi. Believe me, as long as you love your body, there are no limits as to how far your messages will carry.

For more riveting articles by our columnist check out The Fashionista: The Era of Social Network Imagery

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