Skinny never left

Naima Yasin

Copenhagen, Denmark

A Love Letter to Fashion

We have moved past the positive progression within the fashion and modeling industries and have landed straight back at the skinny idolisation of the 1990s and 2000’s era of ‘’heroin chic’’.

Lowrise jeans and the increasing popularity of the Miu Miu ultra mini skirt and exposed mid-sections have everyone agreeing that skinny is certainly back, but, how can skinny be back when it never really left?

In the supermodel partying era of the 1990s, being thin meant working hard and playing equally as hard, often spending the weekends in a haze of alcohol and drugs. As social media rose to dangerous dominance, Tumblr became the new skinny-inspo site, with ‘pro-ana’ and eating disorder content reigning. So, what of today?

The body-positive movement has, for some years, risen into popularity in the fashion world, something that almost everyone could appreciate. While it took far long to begin seeing any kind of change, things definitely did begin to convert. However, we are going back in time…or are we? Did we ever leave the thin-loving aesthetic?

In hindsight, we have realized that the content swirling around social media sites in the early 2010s was deeply problematic and that doing one too many lines a week can be incredibly dangerous for our physical and mental health. But one could argue that our current relationship with our bodies and aesthetics may even be more damaging? Let me tell you why.

Todays’ current relationship with our bodies is smothered in all the loveliness of wellness and a calming, clean lifestyle of control. A quick search of #cleangirl on TikTok reveals a world of the classic euro-centric beauty standard, slim white women with straight hair doing natural-looking makeup and cooking ‘clean’ meals. While there is nothing immediately wrong with the clean girl trend at first glance, the complete dominance of this trend across all social media platforms is a cause for concern. It doesn’t take long at all for a perfectly innocent lifestyle, designed to slow down and nurture our lives, to quickly become a screen hiding a negative control and obsession with our bodies. Moreover, if there is a clean girl then that also means there is a ‘dirty girl’, and no one wants to be her. The dangers are hiding behind the positivity. When natural hair, acne, fat bodies are equal to ‘dirty’ bodies, then how have we changed anything?

"No one wants to see curvy women."

On the other hand, we also have those with power in the industry continually refusing to face these problems and, even worse, honoring people who have been so violent with their language about women’s bodies. Just weeks ago Vogue announced alongside The Met Museum that the theme for the 2023 Met Gala, the most hotly anticipated fashion event of the year, would honour the late Karl Largerfeld. Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty will look back at the designer's impact on the fashion industry through the years and his design process. Over his 65 years in the industry Lagerfeld built up rather a reputation, and not always a good one. He was notoriously outspoken about his beliefs that runway models should always be able to wear sample-size garments, meaning they shouldn’t go above a UK size 6 which is a US size 2. "No one wants to see curvy women," he told Focus in 2009. He continually defended the obsession with thinness in the industry calling fatness “dangerous and very bad for the health” while also saying during his time at Chanel that the brand representing larger sizes was a “bore” and “ridiculous”. In addition to this, he attacked supermodel Heidi Klum for being “too heavy” and said that Adele was “a little too fat.” He was also anti-same-sex marriage and disapproved of the #MeToo movement. Could this exhibition honour his genuinely impressive art which cannot be denied while also quickly touching on these problematic remarks? Of course, they could, but it’s doubtful that they will.

Sticking with The Met Gala, cast your minds back to May of this year and Kim Kardashian squeezing into one of Marilyn Monroe’s most famous, and precious, gowns. As much as we’d love to forget that whole exploit, it’s important to remember an aspect many glossed over. Speaking to reporters at the star-studded event, Kim rather proudly remarked that she had lost 16 pounds in just weeks in order to fit into the archived dress. “I said, ‘Give me like three weeks.’ And I had to lose 16 pounds down today to be able to fit this. It was such a challenge. It was like a role. I was determined to fit it.” said Kardashian, adding, “Since I haven’t eaten carbs or sugar in about three weeks, we’re eating a pizza and doughnut party back at the hotel.” What is perhaps most disturbing about this moment is that Kardashian is set on saying that she didn’t starve herself, instead she simply “would wear a sauna suit twice a day, run on the treadmill, completely cut out all sugar and all carbs, and just eat the cleanest veggies and protein. I didn’t starve myself, but I was so strict.” Has a slight whiff of clean girl doesn’t it? ‘It can’t be bad for me, look I’m helping my body!’.

"Dear fashion world, please make sure that your responsibility is not going back in time but moving us forward."

Possibly the most recognisable runway trend from recent seasons is the Miu Miu ultra mini skirt. Earlier this year it was seen worn on plus-size model Paloma Elsesser (who looked amazing) but there was one big problem. The Miu Miu skirt, which retails for £780, only goes up to a UK size 14, and the average size in the UK is a 16. The skirt worn by Elsesser on the cover of I-D magazine was commissioned specifically for her sizing, proving that the brand can do it, but simply don’t. Why, though? At best it’s lazy, at worst it’s purposeful exclusion.

Skinny isn’t back in, it never left. Brands, corporations and celebrities simply capitalized on the body-positive idea in order to make them look ‘good’ and we all fell for it.

I will end my love letter to fashion by wondering if the body positivity movement had any influence at all? If it has failed, it is because it puts all the responsibility for feeling that positivity on the individual, rather than working on the fatphobia, sexism, classism and racism that led to the often violent relationship we as individuals have with our bodies. I am sad that I allowed myself to actually feel hopeful that the world was changing. I have never been able to answer whether I am into fashion or not, as it has always been a world that has never welcomed someone my size or ethnicity. Hospital admissions for people with eating disorders has risen almost everywhere. We are living in a time where the mental health state of young people is getting worse, so let's make sure that the responsibility of the world is on everybody’s shoulders. Dear fashion world, please make sure that your responsibility is not going back in time but moving us forward.

Fashion [X] is a new cultural platform that examines the fashion industry from a social, political, economic and creative point of view, giving a voice to people representing the new era of fashion and creates space for experiences continuously overlooked.
The platform is developed by the Swedish Fashion Council in partnership with SALLY by EY Doberman.