Should the Fashion industry be blamed for low self-confidence?



There is a continual blame game that is pushed onto the fashion industry. Often telling the public that the fashion industry is to blame for perceptions of women, and telling young children that the only way they can be perfect is to be thin. But can we put all of the blame on the industry and does the industry provide self-confidence too?

In a world full of pressures, it is simple to see that many young girls and boys face living up to those pressures. Children and young adults face the idea of perfectionism, which is the most damaging pressure within society. This can be continually impacted through the use of social media and the fake-reassurance that life is easy and perfect.

Statistics from youngminds claims that: 1 in 10 children now suffer with a diagnosable mental health disorder – that it 3 children in every classroom. With half of all mental health problems manifesting by the age of 14, with 75% suffering from mental health disorders by the age of 24.

Additionally, statistics from b-eat state that more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, 11% of those are male.

So why do many people blame the fashion industry for the statistics on mental health and eating disorders?

There are many reasons why the industry can be blamed. Looking back at the 90’s and 00’s fashion era we can see the trend of “super-skinny” or more overtly named “Heroin chic”. With the idea that fashion is an industry that it is at the forefront of the future, and the epitome of what is cool, they herald new trends and the industry.

It could be seen in a way that the fashion industry sees weight as a measurement of wealth. Those that buy designer clothes, join an exclusive club where only the super wealthy, and super thin can be part of.

But this is an overtly dramatic and damning way to see the fashion industry and the high-end fashion labels.

Alexandra Shulman, soon to be ex-Vogue Fashion Editor, stated in 2015 to ITV that:

"It's easy to say that a skinny model is responsible for encouraging young women to feel bad about themselves, but I absolutely strongly believe that that is not the case. I think it would be very unfair to say that a model who is extremely skinny should not be on the catwalk because someone will attach their own feelings about their self-image, and possibly problems they've got with an eating disorder, to that girl."

She continued by stating that her point was that it is not the generality of looking at a model that is the tipping point, it is the self-image and perception that that said person has when they focus their self-identity and feelings onto the said model.

But there has been a distinct change in one area of the industry. In 2015 France led the industry by passing a law that would make sure that models in France would have to provide medical certificates of health before being allowed to work. This was issued to combat the promotion of unrealistic ideals of beauty.

Frances minister of Social Affairs and Health, Marisol Touraine stated that; “Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies lead to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour.”

However, France is not the first country to introduce this legislation. Similar laws have been in effect throughout Italy, Spain and Israel. These legislations make sure that there is a minimum BMI for models to work.

Although, this legislation has been under scrutiny. With many studies stating that BMI is not an accurate measurement of predicting health. Stating that is not a reliable measurement for general health. The BMI verification ignores that state of the individual by means of a simple measurement.

The fashion industry can be blamed for a negative self-image. But there is work that is being done that will change the face of the fashion industry.

Models of Diversity is an organisation that is beginning to shape the change to the industry. The organisation provides the promotion of equality and diversity for the public benefit through the fashion, beauty and media industries. They want to show the diversity of the industries where people of minority ethnic origin, older people, people with disabilities and non-binary gender people can be represented.

But on the other hand, the fashion industry can provide a sense and mitigating factor to self-confidence and self-love.

It is becoming more apparent that designers and student fashion labels are beginning to use the public, rather than paid models. This is adding to the diversity on the catwalk, and casting agencies are street-casting people to be faces of campaigns and labels. This therefore is providing a sense of community and similarity within the fashion industry.

Along with this there are apparent changes to the face of models. With this, there is a change in diversity in the industry. Last year a model took the world by storm, someone who wasn't the same as other models. Mariah Idrissi, the first hijab-wearing model is now modelling for the likes of retail giants H&M. 

Scouted by Road Casting London, Mariah is now a public speaker and full-time model. She is the perfect example of how the fashion industry is changing, and how she is providing a sense of confidence and esteem for Muslim girls. 

It isn't just models that can help to instill confidence in young girls and boys across the world. But the fashion itself can provide confidence for many. 

Proven through statistics fashion can provide benefits to confidence and self-reassurance. The phenomenon “enclothed cognition” was first adapted through the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Showing how two factors can change the psyche of a person.

In an experiment for the theory, two sets of people were sitting the same test. One set were given a lab coat while sitting the exam, the others did not. The results stated that those who were wearing lab coats had increased attention and those that did not have the coat saw no difference. This therefore proves that fashion can provide a self-esteem boost for many, and can provide confidence for the individual.

There might be scientific evidence for how fashion can add to confidence. The fashion industry can be blamed for embedding low self-confidence in many young children, but the fashion industry is also providing diversity and confidence for many.