Is it Fashion or Are They Just the Beauty Standard?
When you think of this generation’s fashion icon, who comes to mind?
To my surprise, one of the most popular answers to this question is none other than supermodel Kendall Jenner. Known for her “model-off-duty” look, people praise Kendall for her “practical” outfits. People find her style to be rather attainable, bridging the gap between a celebrity hotshot and the average consumer. The real question is, does Kendall’s outfit actually look good or is it just because she’s the beauty standard?
This isn’t a Kendall Jenner hate article (though it’s starting to sound like one). It’s a critique on how we view fashion on different body types and our positive fashion bias towards society’s current preference of a thin and slim figure. Countless models and influencers are praised for their outfits, when the underlying compliment is for their bodies.
Back in 2020, this topic took social media by storm with TikTokers, such as @senorapattinson and @sanrizzle, making videos comparing celebrity outfits on their own bodies. The influencers’ point was clear: just because a person of today’s ideal body standard looks good in an outfit doesn’t mean the outfit itself looks good.
I found myself reflecting on how I perceived outfits on social media and realized I too was guilty of this bias. Often the first thing I notice when an influencer posts an outfit is them before the outfit itself. Take Oliva Rouyre, the YouTuber turned model and actor, pictured below.
Olivia gives off an effortless, girl-next-door vibe in this simple outfit. Her picture racked thousands of likes on Instagram and probably got added to countless “Style Inspo” Pinterest boards. But, when I dissect the outfit, I don’t think there is a much style happening here. It is a white crop top and baggy shorts that may or may not be flattering on the average person. The difficult truth of the matter is this same outfit, pictured on a person a couple sizes up, would not get the same attention.
When the topic of skinny bias interfering with how we perceive trends came to prominence in 2020, it garnered mixed reactions. Some felt the criticism was putting people down for being “skinny.” I’ll admit that I think the conversation around the topic and the verbiage used was not as inclusive as it could have been. In fact, words like “skinny” and “fat” carry unspoken judgment by nature.
The key point that got lost in this controversy is that we, as a society, value beauty standards immensely. And, the weight we place on those standards influences––consciously and subconsciously––our perception of style. There are hundreds of influencers of smaller builds who have incredible fashion taste. Likewise, there are hundreds of influencers of bigger builds who have equally as incredible fashion taste. Size does not equate to style, but our minds sometimes trick it to. This can cause us to overlook fashion on diverse bodies and preserve fashion’s size-exclusive status quo.
Moreover we play ourselves by subconsciously linking thin with stylish and attractive because we ignore the role body types play in how clothes look. We put minimal effort into dressing for our particular body types. Clothes that fit slimmer bodies better might be hailed as stylish and set trends that in reality do not flatter most people. For example, which rise of jeans look best on us depends on our bodies’ proportions and frames. One of my favorite recent trends on TikTok is influencers showing how to dress for a certain body type. The still from a TikTok below shows outfits for girls with a slimmer build but thicker legs. We can see how different rise jeans complement her body.
Body types are so much more complex than “thin” or “big” and it takes time to figure out what silhouettes are most flattering. Automatically praising a look because it looks good on a slimmer person ignores the diversity and creativity that makes fashion exciting. When we look at celebrities and influencers, we should give credit where credit is due. Kendall Jenner has had some incredible fashion moments––though we should keep in mind she has an entire styling team behind her. So does Olivia Rouyre; she is an influencer for a reason.
The point is, it is our duty to detect implicit bias when it comes to fashion. Then only can we make fashion a little more inclusive and a little less complacent in furthering “skinny privilege.”