By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the “stressed, depressed, but well dressed” tank tops at Forever 21 and the “cute but psycho” shirts at Brandy Melville. Recently, there’s been an ongoing trend to glamorize mental illness in the fashion industry. You may think it’s a joke, but I don’t think it’s funny or chic. Companies that produce these clothing items normalize mental disorders, giving the public the wrong impression that it’s socially acceptable to make light of such grave matters which affect the lives of many.
Case 1. Urban Outfitters t-shirt: “Eat less”
Case 2. Aesop Tank-top: “I thought I was bipolar. Turns out I’m an asshole”
By making a reference to one aspect of bipolar disorder such as rapid mood swings, it wrongfully represents those who have the condition. What if the shirt’s saying was “I thought I was deaf but I’m just a really bad listener”? By no surprise, it would never be printed on a shirt. Fashion brands like Aesop that carelessly print whatever they find trendy without thinking about the repercussions
Case 3. Brandy Melville t-shirt: “Cute but psycho”
It’s not cute to be psychotic, and I don’t think it should be branded as such. Many young women wear and post pictures of their outfits on social media platforms. It’s not only a harmful degradation of the mental illness — it gives other people the power to start labeling young women as being “psychotic.”
To make a joke of mental illness is one thing, but to put it on a t-shirt is another. Both shouldn’t be tolerated. As a society, we are becoming more and more aware of varying mental states and the ways it can be treated. We need to be more mindful about the way we throw around these medical terms: “Everybody’s a bit depressed during midterms.” “I like organizing my pens and pencils because I’m a bit OCD.” These are real terms used to describe real situations people with mental illnesses face.
Fashion is essentially a communication tool. We should be sensitive to not only the things we say to each other but what we put on our bodies. When fashion brands start to normalize a certain way of talking about societal issues, it’s our responsibility as consumers to take a step back and think about what we are communicating by wearing the clothes they sell.