I had the pleasure of speaking with Alison McGill for Brides to discuss size inclusivity as it relates to wedding attire. As well as the importance of size inclusivity and what it means to me. 

“In the case of bridalwear, stores have to carry more sizes and styles of wedding and bridesmaids’ dresses in-store as samples. This is critical so anyone over a size 12 can try on purpose-designed pieces with their bodies and proportions in mind.”
“For a brand to be size-inclusive, it means that they have adopted ‘design thinking,’ which is a human-centered approach to fashion tackling problems like restrictive beauty standards geared towards size 12s and below. Size inclusivity in clothing options and in promotional images not only allows people to easily imagine themselves in a wedding gown, but it has also been proven to positively shape one’s self-perception.”
“Limited clothing size options might just seem like an inconvenience, but it can have a disastrous effect on body image. This kind of marginalization is easily internalized, causing people to consider their bodies unworthy—subsequently impacting their mental well-being and self-esteem. Growing up watching 90s and early 2000s runway shows made me feel othered as I certainly wasn’t seeing my body type reflected as the pinnacle of high fashion or beauty. This personal experience, plus my research as a fashion psychologist, has made me acutely aware of the positive psychological impact that media representation and size-inclusive offerings can bring.”

Please take a read of the full piece here and hear what other fabulous creatives have to say on the matter.

If you ask anyone in fashion ‘Who is Fashion Week for?’ they’ll give you the same two-word answer: ‘The Buyers’ and to some extent that is true. However, with each season as Fashion Week becomes more and more consumer facing, with the advent of see now buy now, live posting and live streaming we’re all being roped into the weird and wonderful bi-annual festivities. Like with anything that we’re intensely exposed to there’s a subsequent psychological impact and we’d be silly to think that the current Spring 2019 shows are not affecting us even in some implicit way.  

Michael Kors, Photo By: Sonny Vandevelde / Indigital.tv

Fashion Week Psychology

Tome, Image Source: Vogue Runway

Fashion Week Psychology

Brandon Maxwell, Photo By: Monica Feudi / Indigital.tv

So far, with New York Fashion Week wrapping up and London Fashion Week being underway we’ve seen the emergence of some interesting trends including; Printed Headscarves courtesy of Michael Kors, Laquan Smith and Kate Spade; Tie-Dye showcased by Prabal Gutung, Tome and Eckhaus Latta as well as statement Canary Yellow pieces as seen in the Brandon Maxwell, Oscar de la Renta and Pyer Moss shows.

Making A Statement

Speaking of Pyer Moss, the fresh-faced founder Kerby Jean-Raymond decided to make a statement at his show by creating a $125 sweater branded with the demand ‘Stop calling 911 on the culture’. Now this is by no means the first time we’ve seen the runway become a political stage, even for Jean-Raymond who intertwined Fashion with Activism for his Spring 2016 Menswear though the medium videos, music and posters with quotes from Black Lives Matter activist MarShawn McCarrel. 

Fashion Week Psychology
Image Source PyerMoss.com

What this is, is the first time we’ve seen a direct call to action against modern instances of violence against ethnic minorities – in particular Black people, in the form of hoax and extraneous calls to the authorities. Despite there being many quibbles about the wording of Jean-Raymond’s slogan tee as well as the associated price tag one thing that can’t be denied is that a standpoint was made, and a message that often gets ignored by mainstream media was delivered on a global stage.

The Veil of Racism

Slogan tees are just one of the many ways that brands have chosen to deliver messages about the current state of race relations, yet one of the most visible ways of delivering this message is through a designer’s choice of models. Whilst you may be thinking that model selection is essentially ‘not that deep’ the representation or lack thereof of a particular sub-group on a mass platform like fashion week has a strong impact on said individuals. In the 1903 book ‘The Soul of Black Folk’, W.E.B. Du Bois discusses “the veil of racism” and amongst many things, the veil is symbolic of the way Black people are prevented from seeing themselves as they really are, outside of the negative vision of Blackness created by racism and exclusion. This theory is backed up by results from Implicit Association Tests which reveal that black people are more likely to associate fellow Black people with negative and unfavourable characteristics. So, why do these results occur and what does this all have to do with fashion? Well according to researchers, witnessing the continued underrepresentation of one’s ethic group causes group members to feel devalued within society and in turn, can negatively impact upon their self-worth. This is why representation on mainstream platforms like the New York, London, Paris and Milan runways is so important as seeing ethnic minority individuals hailed as symbols of prominence and beauty will serve to strengthen the self-image of all ethnic minorities.

It’s too soon for stats for Spring 2019 but if last season’s diversity report is anything to go by then the future is looking bright.  The Fashion Spot’s statistics indicated that the Fall 2018 shows were the most diverse to date. In New York 37.3 percent of models were non-white. In London, 30.03 per cent of models at London Fashion week were non-white, a 3.6 per cent increase from the season prior with similar increases being reported at both Paris and Milan.

Naomi Chin Wing

Duckie Thot

Adut Akech

According to psychologists Taylor and Lee, “examining how minority groups are portrayed in media can provide information of how a minority group is viewed by society at large”. The impact of fashion is often downplayed but if the research is anything to go by the more we become witness to positive representations of minorities through the likes of models like Slick Woods, Naomi Chin Wing, Duckie Thot and Adut Akech the closer we can get to lifting the veil of racism and seeing not only ourselves but each other in a better light.

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Racial representation in the media and the psychological effects of misrepresentation

In my household we play a special kind of drinking game. You need two things to play this game, a glass of your favourite alcoholic beverage, (in my case rosé) and a TV. The game takes place during the advertisements and there’s one and only one rule: When a Black person appears on the screen you have a sip. Suffice to say, 3 hours into the game everyone is stone cold sober, disgruntled and just plain old fed up. If you change the rules slightly so that you only drink when you see a Black Woman, well let’s just say your wine would have matured…considerably.  

Now before you start screaming the names of Chiwetel, Viola and Kerry here are some figures to prove my point.

Across all media domains the amount of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) models has not grown in proportion to the BAME population which, as of 2011 makes up 14.1% of the total UK population – a 5.3% increase from 2001. Only around 5.3% of UK adverts feature a BAME individual, this figure decreases to 3.3% when only considering BAME persons with leading roles (Clearcast-Sweney, 2011). In the US just under 3% of all spending on advertising goes towards media directed at Black audiences (Nielsen, 2013). During 2014’s spring and fall periods, out of 730 fashion and beauty advertising campaigns featuring 1105 models, just under a mere 5 % of those were Black (Forbes, 2014)

​Researchers have argued that failing to see a representation of individuals belonging to your ethic group may cause group members to feel devalued. More recently, Dabiri’s (2013) article entitled “Who stole all the Black women from Britain?” appears to illuminate the aforementioned sentiment. Whilst there is the opportunity to turn to media channels that cater specifically to minorities, more research needs to be conducted to further asses how this pigeon-holing is being internalised by ethnic minority media consumers.

Moreover, some researchers have demonstrated that when BAME models are featured it is often in stereotypical, derogatory and in some cases dehumanising manners. Milkie (1999) suggests that minority individuals simply resist media images that exclude or negatively portray ethnic group members. However, as Knobloch-Westerwick and Coates (2006) have outlined, it appears that this resistance often evolves and manifests into negative feelings, intentions and behaviours. 

In the Qualitative Research study “If I’m not in it then I must not be what’s hot” one Black woman reveals the psychological impact of racial representation within the media.