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Friday, October 17, 2014

Beautiful Lies

"Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are."~Markus Zusak

Why is the tall, thin woman considered to be the pinnacle of beauty?

This has been drilled into our consciousness from the beginning of our lives via advertising and editorial photos and every kind of media imaginable. Why? It's not some genetic pre-set. It's not because tall thin women produce better babies and thus we have the ideal hard-wired in our primitive brain. They're not  necessarily smarter, better at sex, or healthier. None of the above.

The sad truth is that it's because mass manufactured clothes are more likely to fit and look better on a tall thin woman. Or, at least they're more likely to look better in a photograph. Manufacturers hire advertising agencies to sell their products; the advertising agency hires tall, thin women to model those products solely because even if the clothes are complete schlock, it's easier to manipulate those clothes on a tall thin woman and end up with a good photo. Which is what sells clothes. Hence, the last century of the tall, thin woman being idealized.  

As if this weren't bad enough, those photographs are always manipulated, now more than ever via photoshop, so that the already tall thin woman can be stylized into a kind of homogenized, bland 'perfection.'  So at this point even the tall, thin model who posed for the photo probably feels 'imperfect.' 

The point of breaking down this obvious chain of logic is so that the next time you're sat in your comfy pj's and see an ad featuring the standard, impossibly perfect, tall, thin woman you can remember all this and not get sucked into comparing yourself with something that doesn't exist for one thing, but also is an 'ideal' that came into being by default, and has nothing to do with any real aesthetic. It's just about selling clothing, period.

Beauty product manufacturers have a slightly different approach. Paula Begoun, who wrote The Beauty Bible, debunks most of the fairy tales told to sell skincare products at extraordinary prices.  We buy it (they hope) because we're made to feel not good enough as we are. We can be perfect as soon as we purchase x,y, and z…and continue to use it for the rest of our lives, or at least until they come up with the 'new' and 'improved' version, which will also include a price hike that's in accordance with inflation…Most of this stuff contains so little of the 'magical' ingredient(s) that it doesn't really affect the state of your skin. Anyway. You get the idea.  

Next time you're out and about, look at people. Really look. You'll see that what's attractive isn't about a size, shape, skin or eye color; it's not about a brand of clothing or a fancy haircut. What is attractive is good health and attitude radiating from a person. Someone who takes care of themselves- which means self respect. And, as I'm fond of pointing out, we can also enhance how healthy we look by wearing colors that flatter our coloring, and wearing clothing design lines that flatter our specific shape. 

So the takeaway here, hopefully, is a reminder to stay grounded- enjoy the pretty pictures, but remember why they are the way they are, and don't allow it to affect how you perceive, dress, or treat yourself. 

Happy Dressing!