Why Fast Fashion Cannot be Body Positive
A wardrobe that helps you to feel good about yourself, fits well, expresses your own unique style and lasts. You cannot get that from a fast fashion brand.
I truly believe that fast fashion brands -that is, brands which produce inexpensive clothing at break neck speed by mass market retailers following the latest trends- cannot actually BE body positive -that is embody the idea that everyone, no matter their size, age, race, ability, number of limbs, amount of hair etc. should be able to have a positive body image- in so far as the brand still fits this definition of fast fashion.
1: Capitalism & Marketing
(This part isn’t exclusive to fast fashion, rather it’s inclusive of most brands in the beauty and fashion industries)
The fashion and beauty industries have, for decade, made their livings off of creating and/or perpetuating the insecurities of their customers, mostly women but it reaches everyone. This was the norm for decades, until the body positivity movement -which one could argue started in Victorian England- became mainstream and un-ignorable in the past decade or so. Recognizing that said movement could negatively impact their sales many brands decided to ‘join in’. Suddenly ads turned from all thin, mostly white models to models of many (not all) shapes, sizes and shades. While acknowledging that more inclusive and diverse job opportunities is a good thing, suddenly changing a decades long narrative from negative to positive without acknowledging the damage caused by the same brands, without them doing any work to counteract said damage they’ve only changed superficially for monetary gain and actually continued to do damage. Now, we, the consumers, are still suffering our insecurities, dysmorphia and negative body image, which are being compounded by guilt for not suddenly doing a 180, like the ads, and feeling good about our cellulite, stretch marks and all the things that separate us from airbrushed models.
2: Selling Every Trend
The fast part of fast fashion about the speed with which they can fill their stores with new clothes and accessories. Some brands are able to adapt a runway look and have it in store in 14 days, a process that used to take months. And an industry that used to have two seasons a year, one for cold weather -fall/winter- and one for warm weather -spring/summer- has, in some instances, increased to 52 ‘seasons’ a year. That’s enough new clothing for a runway show every week. That’s bad for a myriad of reasons, I hear you say, but it’s not anti-body positive, right? Wrong!
Body shapes go in and out of style and speeding up clothing trends, I think, speeds this up too. Now, this may be a moot point because the idea of body shapes being in or out of fashion is just so ludicrous no matter at which speed they are moving between those two designations. But, fast fashion participates in and perpetuates this and found a way to make it worse. Ugh
Also, it’s my personal belief that one of the best ways to feel good about your body is to clothe in pieces that express your own personal style, which is hard to do while following trends. Your personal style doesn’t change every week, it probably doesn’t change every year or maybe decade. I feel the best when I where the clothes I love so much that it doesn’t even occur to me that someone else might think I look ridiculous, but I feel overwhelmingly self conscious when I try to follow a trend I don’t really like, or wear something I bought on a whim because it looked cool in the store but in the cold light of day away from a carefully curated display looks silly. And there are a lot of those lurking a store that produces new clothing every week.
Another, really easy, way to make me feel self conscious is to wear something that doesn’t fit. Either it makes me feel like I’m being stared at because I’m wearing something too big or too small, or it makes me feel like my body is the wrong shape. This is particularly apparent when I try to buy fitted pants…last time I did that I tried over 100 pairs over a week of mall searching, eventually I found a magical store that had a magical pair of pants that were a perfect fit…for 2 months, until I gain 1 pound. So, I’ve given up fitted pants, but I digress.
Why is this relevant to fast fashion? Because big brands sell a few styles of anything to millions of people, there is NO WAY the sizes they offer could fit all those customers without being tailored. So, people should tailor their clothing, right? Yes but who is going to pay 60$ to tailor a 40$ pair of jeans that they will wear 7 times before they fall apart or go out of style? No one.
And so, when it’s so unlikely that you’d fit in the clothes on the shelf the brands make it even harder to find a piece that will fit by messing with the sizes. They are continually moving all the sizes down one because it’s been proven that when we go shopping and fit into something a size smaller than expected we are more likely to buy it. Ugh. That’s how the size 00 came into being.
To counter all this, one of the best ways to feel good in your clothes and, hopefully, therefore your body is to invest (either time or money or both, this is not only available to the rich) in pieces that express your own unique style, which you will love no matter the current trend, and are tailored to your shape (with a little wiggle room).
And that, my friends, is why fast fashion brands cannot be truly be body positive.