Will we ever get past the fashion industry's unrealistic body standards, and learn to love ourselves?

Image credit: Georgie Hunt

When my friend Ellie Williams decided to create a magazine with a focus on ethical fashion and body positivity, I knew I wanted to get involved. I’ve always enjoyed fashion, keeping up with new collections of my favorite designers, and the changes in style over time. But I recognize, however, the importance in acknowledging that fashion is more than just pretty pictures, people, and clothes. It portrays an image of idealized beauty, showing people what is supposed to look good. Part of this is a concept of the body beneath the clothes it is wearing. The depiction of a body that is ‘right’ comes with the implicit corollary that those that do not resemble this paragon of physical perfection are in their own ‘flawed’ ways, ‘wrong’.

We are all aware of the skewed and narrow portrayal of beauty in films and magazines, but awareness doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect us: just because a person knows something doesn’t mean that the message hasn't been internalized. At Garbage Magazine, we want to communicate that while the kinds of men and women who are hired to tell us what is fashionable and gorgeous might be beautiful, so are other people, and it’s worth acknowledging. The psychological effects of being marginalised in the media can damage self-perception, making someone feel lesser. By showing a wide range of people in our photoshoots, we want to show that there is no one standard that everyone has to meet in appearance.

We also want to encourage body positivity, by recognizing and celebrating all kinds of beauty in our photo campaigns. I had the chance to do a photoshoot for our most recent clothes sale, and apart from being lots of fun, and all the strange looks and enthusiastic compliments from tourists we got while strutting and posing down the street, Ellie also had us girls who modelled answer questions about what beauty meant to us, what made us feel beautiful, and what our favourite feature about ourselves was. These were really difficult and frankly uncomfortable questions to answer. When I was trying to write out responses, I kept self-censoring so I wouldn’t come off as arrogant, conceited, or too self-hating. I had to craft what would be deemed an acceptable, not vain and preferably not shallow answers to these questions.

The trouble I had in answering these questions made me think about struggles with self-esteem that most of us go through. We want to make people understand that it’s normal to have self-doubt, but that it’s okay to feel good about yourself. There’s nothing arrogant about being comfortable in your own skin. Corny though it may be, confidence is what’s beautiful, and so at Garbage, we adopt a body-positive ethos that encourages this amongst our readers.

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