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Scrolling on your Instagram feed you have probably noticed that, instead of the usual model-look bodies, an increasing number of women are showing their stretchmarks, cellulitis and that they have gained a couple of pounds. All of this is part of the Body Positivity Movement and on social media, many brands are sponsoring it. But are they doing it well?  And most of all, how is it impacting the way women choose to buy products?

Moved by these questions, I decided to carry out a research to understand what young girls think about Body Positivity and if the movement may influence them to buy certain products from certain brands. I was particularly interested in including the beauty industry in my study as it is the one that benefits the most from the desire to look beautiful and attractive.

From a young age, as women, we are constantly reminded of “the importance of beauty” and how essential it is to be viewed gorgeous and feminine. In other words, how important it is to be skinny, athletic with possibly long hair and no imperfections of any kind. 

I think you know what I am talking about and I think you have noticed how this type of beauty is strongly shown in the media. We constantly see these model-like girls who, let’s say it, do not represent real-life women. I have observed that it is strongly highlighted the so-called “thin ideal”, the ideal slim female body and there is so much content related to “thinspiration” that is any visual or textual image intended to inspire weight loss.

The thin-ideal that makes us dissatisfied

If we are constantly bombarded by these images, how could we not be influenced by them? The constant glorification of these types of beauty has led to an internalisation of the “thin-ideal”. As a consequence, we tend to compare ourselves to the beauty portrayed in the media and, noticing that we are not like the standard, we then become dissatisfied, and we do everything in our power to become like the models. 

Thankfully there has been a strong desire to differentiate the bodies shown in the media and to destroy the unrealistic way of how women should look. Several beauty brands are now increasing the number of media contents related to Body Positivity, focusing on including diverse body sizes and appearances. The issue, however, is that the majority of beauty brands are still showing certain standards that are not realistic! They might show diverse body sizes but not the so-called “imperfections” that come with them. They still filter the models shown.

Young girls want authenticity

The results of my research did not strike me at all. I discovered that modern female consumers do not believe in the majority of those brands. They do not consider the modern beauty brands authentic, real or moved by any desire to change the current society in a more inclusive and acceptive community. Young girls do not believe those brands anymore but above all, they don’t trust them. They don’t trust them because they still behave like all the other ones: they still choose to show certain prototypes, they still edit the photos and hide the imperfections.

As you may know, the loss of trust is not a good thing for a brand. No trust means no loyalty and no desire to buy. As I found in my study, even if young girls believe in the Body Positivity, they do not want to buy from brands that pretend to believe in it. Showing some sort of fake Body Positivity content does not make any difference. Beauty brands should do better.    Maybe, they could take a leaf out of this pandemic reality where dark circles, pimples and grey hair are on the agenda.

I’m sure I can speak for us all when I say my screen time has significantly gone up throughout the pandemic. As much as I don’t like to admit it, it’s the result of mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. However, research suggests that the app may contribute to adverse psychological outcomes and poor appearance-related self-perception or as some call it ‘influencer envy’.

The rise of technology has meant the ability to manipulate the way we look has become effortless. Subsequently, new generations are exposed to much more than just airbrushed photoshoots in magazines. A few scrolls down our feed and most of us will see Instagram models, influencers and even peers who perpetuate an unattainable standard of beauty whether it’s “knowing your angles”, a face filter or smoothing out your skin. Apps such as Facetune allow physical features to be manipulated entirely with the click of a few buttons, removing imperfections to whiten teeth, slim waists and reduce sizes to be accepted as beauty ideals.

Comparison Culture

Social Comparison Theory’ suggests individuals drive to evaluate their progress and in the absence of objective standards, people compare themselves to others to know where they stand. However, on Instagram, we can compare ourselves to these edited pictures or individuals with cosmetic surgery (without realising). You may think you easily spot editing; however, only 60%- 65% of the time people recognise edited photos.

A debate has arisen about whether it should be compulsory for manipulated faces and bodies to be labelled as edited on Instagram. This has been proven somewhat controversial- what is your take? On the one hand, it creates a warped sense of beauty, especially for vulnerable women with lower self-esteem. However, is it right to police people’s bodies, especially when it may make the poster feel more confident? Researchers found that viewing an idealised image from social media had a negative influence on women’s body image, no matter if it came with a disclaimer or not. Although, disclaimers lead viewers to form a less favourable impression of the poster. This suggests it may do more harm than good as the posters emotional wellbeing may lower with no effect on the viewer.

A rise in cosmetic surgery 

Evidence suggests social media pushes us to take part in life-threatening beauty trends in the interest of acceptance and social compliance in society, affecting emotional wellbeing. WomensHealth found that those in their 20s desired the fox eye effect of having eyes stretched upwards and back (as if pulled in a secure high ponytail) more than any other age group. This leads to surgery involving implanting dissolvable threads under their skin to hoist it up or Botox to raise their eyebrows. This was most likely the result of repeated exposure to this popular beauty trend and wanting to look more like models such as Bella Hadid. It seems women persist in internalising these beauty ideals as a model for their own comparisons. Consequently, steps need to be taken to help those affected by idealised images on Instagram.

With that Being Said Positive Psychology Can Help…

Positive emotions broaden momentary ‘thought-action repertoire’ (so, like how joy sparks the urge to play), which widens an individual’s mindset. Having an open mind while scrolling down the gram means you are more receptive to different information types. Putting you in an excellent position to judge whether the image is altered and whether or not you should engage in social comparison. These actions then become internalised and lead to feelings of acceptance.

In a 2020 study, women either observed ‘Instagram vs reality’, ‘ideal’ or ‘real’ images. Viewing the ‘Instagram vs reality’ and ‘real’ images whilst identifying the ‘ideal’ images as fake, disrupted the ‘social comparison process’ and reduced body dissatisfaction. This research suggests Instagram can enhance self-esteem with the photos associated with hashtag trends such as #instagramvsreality and #nomakeup as they promote self-acceptance. 

“If positive psychology teaches us anything, it is that all of us are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all. No one lacks it all.”

– Christopher Peterson

Therefore, follow some ‘real’ accounts representative of yourself to minimise the risk of engaging in unhealthy social comparison. 

Here are my recommendations for excellent reality-checking and body positivity accounts: 

1.  @danaemercer

“Reminding you you’re special.”

2. @planetprudence  

“Helping you see that your thoughts aren’t alone.”

3. @celebface

“WELCOME TO REALITY.”

4. @stephanieyeboah

“Self Love Advocate”

5. @hi.ur.beautiful 

“Here to remind you that there is no bad way to have a body.”

So what’s stopping you from using Instagram as a tool to foster an appreciation for the full spectrum of beauty!

Fashion is a reflection of society and current events, and therefore fashion trends can reflect much of what is going on at the time. Our purchasing decisions can also be influenced by popular figures such as celebrities and other high-profile individuals. However, with today’s society being surrounded by social media, there is a new factor to consider when looking at what impacts fashion trends – influencers. 

The Rise of Influencer Marketing 

Research into consumer behaviour has highlighted how over the last few years, influencer marketing has become increasingly popular, and now represents a specific type of social media marketing. In one study, 92% of consumers stated that they trusted influencers more than advertisements and celebrity endorsements. Considering that the term ‘influencer marketing’ only came to exist in the last decade, it has seen quite a substantial boom. Just one reason for this is that consumers view influencers as more relatable than celebrities. When looking at the key demographic of teens, 60% said that they follow advice from influencers over celebrities, and 70% said that they also trust influencers more. Through social media, we are able to gain a glimpse into their everyday lives, and for those that consistently interact with their followers, there seems to be less of a social divide between influencer and follower.  

 

The Psychology of the Influencer Effect

This increased trust in influencers has been the subject of much psychological research. When focusing specifically on fashion influencers, Chetioui and colleagues (2020) found that the perceived credibility of an influencer was the strongest factor that affected an individual’s attitude towards them, closely followed by expertise and trust. Interestingly, this research also not only suggests that fashion influencers affect our attitudes toward a brand, but that they also create purchase intentions. Research from the visual content firm, Olapic, even found that 31% of consumers purchased a product or service based on an influencer’s post. 

So, how can we connect the prediction of the latest fashion trends with this boom in influencer marketing? Simply put, if influencers have the power to create purchase intentions, they can create the latest trend. For example, everyday leather was an unexpected 2020 fashion trend driven by influencers and was quickly made to be a part of our wardrobes. Fashion trend forecasting can be defined as the prediction of the mood, behaviour and buying habits of consumers during a particular season, and ultimately, influencers play a substantial role in all of these factors. We cannot understand trends without looking at the impact of influencers. As a result of social media, consumers are also contributors; we get to create and define our own styles, and if we have a large enough following, perhaps even define the latest trend.

The Rise of Fast Fashion

Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this position of power is its impact on fast fashion. Research conducted by the Fashion Retail Academy revealed that more than half of shoppers believe that social media influencers are the cause of the rise in fast fashion. Given that sites such as Instagram are now one of the top sources of fashion inspiration, with nearly a fifth of people using it to find the latest trends, this should not be a surprise. Influencers are rarely seen sporting the same outfit and with the ease of buying through affiliate links and swiping up on stories, the fashion industry has become more fast-paced than ever.

Positive Influencer Impact 

Yet still, we shouldn’t allow our perception of influencers to be skewed. It’s not rare to see negative portrayals of influencers in the press, but research has demonstrated that they can actually have a positive impact on purchasing decisions. For example, Lim and colleagues (2017) found that compelling social media influencers have a positive impact on consumers’ purchase intentions. Although this positive impact is dependent on the influencer themselves, ultimately, they have the potential to advocate positive buying behaviour (such as sustainable fashion consumption for example). 

Overall, it is clear that social media influencers have a unique and personal connection with their audiences and that this has an impact on purchasing decisions. We can also see their role in predicting the latest fashion trends, and despite the possible negative connotations around the word ‘influencer’, there is the potential for a positive impact. It’s always important to do your due diligence and place your trust in the right people. 

What do you think of when you read the word embodiment? You might be familiar with the term if you do Yoga, or if you take part in anything within the health and wellness field. Embodiment, however, is for everyone. Embodiment is you

It’s the whole of you, and it’s the quiet space that gives you the opportunity to choose how you respond to your day-to-day responsibilities and the things that you do for yourself. I believe that by practising embodiment we can have a better relationship with our clothes, from the purchase choices we make to the longevity of our connection to them. Here I will explore the main tools of embodiment (which you have access to right now) plus how to harness the benefits for your wardrobe. 

Mark Walsh is the Co-founder of EFC (Embodied Facilitator Course) and he says that embodiment is “how we are…our manner of being…the context for which we feel, we relate, we think, for which we perceive the world and for which we take action.”

So with that in mind, how can we put embodiment into practice? Some tools to consider are:

Attention 

What we focus on could be considered as what we find important or interesting. In some ways, it could align with your personal values. For example, if you value quality time with friends, you might stop what you are doing and focus your attention on them if they call you. When I consider for myself where I might feel attention in the body, I am drawn to my face and my shoulders.

Intention 

Something that we want and plan to do. Being clear about our intentions and following through with them is good self-care. I notice a warm sensation in my chest when I think about the word intention.

Posture 

The way someone holds their head, shoulders and back, or how one holds themselves when sitting, standing, etc. Remembering to stand up tall, with your shoulders rolled up, back, and down plus holding your head high is a quick and easy tool to become mindful of your posture. For me, going inward to feel where my tailbone is helped me to readjust my posture.

Breathing

The inhale and exhale of air. Even just one big, mindful breath a day can create positive ripple effects. Try focusing your attention on the space between your upper lip, and the place where air is inhaled through your nose. Notice the air-breathing in and falling out. At the time of writing this, I am noticing my forearms, feeling the rise and fall of my breath through them.

Movement

To change position, whether it’s fast or slow, free in its style or learnt actions, moving with intention or attention can refresh the mind and get you out of any sluggish or stuck states. When I think of the word movement, I notice my hips, my knees and my shins wake up. 

Did you notice any parts of your body while reading this? The act of noticing is simple and it’s also enough. We are so used to tools and strategies being very much based in the mind, quick in pace with an expectation of some sort of productive result. What I’m discussing here is a softer, quieter approach to life. One that will give you the value of its meaning and encourage you to stick with it. 

So what does this have to do with fashion?

Well, by engaging with any or all of these tools, you might start to notice little shifts. You might look out of your window and notice something that you’ve seen a million times before, but now see in a different light. Or, you might look in your wardrobe and notice an item of clothing that you haven’t worn for a while. You might pull it out, and recall a bracelet or a scarf that you think would go well with it. The beauty really is in not knowing what could come up for you by creating this headspace, and just being open and receptive to whatever does.

Most importantly, this headspace allows for a calmer sense of being, and when we feel this way we have better access to really choose our choices

Other benefits of embodied practices: 

  • Helps us get into the here and now.
  • Allows us to be more flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing moments of our days. 
  • Improves relationships.

So before you make plans to check out the new Spring 2021 arrivals, try out some of these tools or grab that old bag of clothes from underneath your bed and see if you can see anything old in a new light. #slowfashion 

Girls in pink, boys in blue; it’s hard to believe that these dated notions were once deeply embedded in the fabric of our society. But as time evolves, so does fashion.

A look back in time

Gender fluidity and its expression through clothing is not all that new. Research claims that the earliest cultures simply regarded cross-dressing as one variation in human behaviour, whereas men and women belonging to indigenous tribes often dressed the same.

Throughout history, menswear exhibited heavy hints of femininity while women only cross-dressed under disguise until they publicly began embracing androgyny in the 20th century. During the early 1700s, it was normal for men to wear high-heeled shoes with silk stockings, while long-haired wigs were customary among wealthy men. 

Before the 20th century, women were shamed for cross-dressing in men’s outfits. It wasn’t until the 1920s that women’s clothing finally gained liberation and did away with tightly laced corsets, bustled skirts and puffy sleeves. Women began embracing the androgynous look, also known as ‘La garçonne’, revolutionised by Coco Chanel who paved the way for women’s trousers through her masculine-feminine aesthetic. In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent furthered the cause by introducing ‘Le Smoking’, a tuxedo look for women that became an embodiment of sexual empowerment

Thereafter, women weren’t questioned or penalised for wearing trousers again. Women are now revered as ‘power dressers’ for donning sharp suits and enjoy the freedom of easily switching between both masculine and feminine styles. However, men haven’t enjoyed the same level of acceptance and freedom for embracing femininity.

Tipping the gender balance

Alok Vaid-Menon

The gender non-conforming writer and performance artist is often trolled for their feminine fashion on social media. In their pursuit to #DeGenderFashion they stated that: “Moving beyond the gender binary means that we appreciate how everyone — regardless of their identity — is hurt by gender norms that value people for an ideal of what they ‘should be’ not for who they ‘actually are’.” 

Billy Porter

The American actor dubs himself as a “walking piece of political art”, shares a similar sentiment. He wishes to break the narrative that finds femininely styled men to be repulsive. He rested his case by adding: “I’m a man in a dress and if I feel like wearing a dress, I’m going to wear one.”  

Is the idea of gender non-conformity really that far-fetched? Studies of the collective unconscious, theorise that either sex is inhabited by the opposite sex up to a point. For a man, this represents the female personification of his unconscious and for the woman, a male one. Suggesting that these qualities don’t just exist innately but extend to our outward projections as well.

Fashioning fluidity 

Today, the dated heteronormative approach to fashion is slowly changing and a more inclusive, gender-fluid ideology is taking its place. Brands like Telfar, Gucci, Harris Reed, Nicopanda and Rad Hourani are already making non-conformist fashion mainstream. While fashion weeks are also playing catch-up as they slowly adapt to showing a gender-fluid format. 

Last year, Harry Styles graced the cover of Vogue in a Gucci jacket and dress that garnered mixed reviews. As a reaction, Vaid-Menon took to their social media to state that trans folk of colour don’t receive praise for doing the same thing every day, but they were equally appreciative of the cover being “a sign of progress of society’s evolution away from binary gender.” 

The Gender Fluid Fashion Report states that there has been a massive uptick in search interest for fashion items that have been mainly spotted on both men and women in the past year. The interest in these items spiked due to pop-culture phenomena, including celebrities like Styles.

Gender is no longer just limited to male and female — or pink and blue — but is now a spectrum of non-conforming identities and fashion is beginning to reflect that.  

When discussing female empowerment, the feminist movement and its success in improving women’s wellbeing within patriarchal societies, the impact of clothing and fashion might be pretty low on the list. However, as we have highlighted on this platform, clothing can play a pivotal role in driving political conversations, in forming group dynamics and just generally improving the confidence of women the world over. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have identified 4 garments that have all positively impacted the lives of women in one way or another.

Boots

Fashion Psychology
Image Source: WashingtonPost.com

The ones we hate to love, high-heeled boots. No one will deny that high-heels are a health hazard. ‘As early as 1881, a British physician reported an occupationally related backache caused by “the wearing of high-heeled boots, which necessitates the continuous action of the muscles of the lower part of the spine, in order to maintain the proper balance and erect position’ (Linder, 1997). Despite the associated pain, women continue to wear high heeled boots for one reason; they make us feel powerful, or if you’re Elle Writer Estelle Tang, they make you feel like a “Powerful Witch”. In a survey conducted by MIC respondents noted that heels helped them to “flip a switch” in their minds that took them from “girl” to “woman.”

Psychologically speaking, it can be the case that high-heeled boots evoke a sense of power in women simply due to the fact that it makes them appear taller. Indeed, in US presidential elections the taller candidate is always more likely to win because we simply process taller people as being more authoritative (McCann, 2001). Interestingly, studies have also found that powerful people overestimate their height. If by adorning those few inches you can be perceived as more powerful, feel more powerful and even be more likely to win an election then as the saying goes: no pain, no gain.

Slogan T-Shirts

Fashion Psychology
Image Source: Essence.com

For years, slogan T-shirts have allowed women to literally wear their hearts on their sleeves and take centre stage in many political spheres. As highlighted by Phyllis Martin in her 2004 book ‘Fashioning Africa: Power and politics of dress’, clothing has always had the capacity to “be threatening to observers and even dangerous for wearers. As sensibilities about gender, sexuality, age, and status converge, the dressed[…]body may be a site for contestation”. From ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Time’s up’ women have being utilising clothing in the form of Slogan T-shirts to ignite social change for several years.

British fashion designer Katharine Hamnett is often credited as one of the first to create a politically charged slogan T-shirt. When meeting the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 she unzipped her jacket to reveal a shirt with the anti-nuclear sentiment that read “58% don’t want Pershing”. Since then, several female fashion designers including Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney have all created slogan t-shirts that allow women to express their political viewpoints.

Sadly, a study by NatWest found that when voicing their opinions, a fifth of women have been negatively described as ‘opinionated’, while one in 10 has been called ‘feisty’ or ‘vocal’. These perceptions can often negatively impact a women’s confidence, forcing her into silence. Luckily, Slogan T-shirts can lift the burden of vocalisation by speaking for women in a way that cannot be misinterpreted or go unnoticed.

Bras

Fashion Psychology

A controversial entry on the list, bras has often been seen as an antithesis of female liberation; an instrument created to contort women’s bodies for the male gaze. When digging a little deeper though, you’ll find that bra-burning is less of a feminist staple and more so a trope pushed by anti-feminist media. According to author of Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism W. Joseph Campbell stated that the during the event in 1968 when the burning happened, bras certainly weren’t the only garment thrown into the fire.  “Invoking bra burning was a convenient means of brushing aside the issues and challenges raised by women’s liberation and discrediting the fledgling movement as shallow and without serious grievance,” Campbell wrote.

When looking at the history of bras you’ll find it has always been routed in providing women with increased comfort and support during times of increased activity. The first bra patent was granted to Mary Phelps Jacob in 1914 in New York who, upon fashioning a bra made up of handkerchiefs and ribbon celebrated the fact that she could “move more freely”. Whilst studies have shown that bras, particularly ill-fitting ones can cause back pain, not wearing a bra when exercising means that your back, neck muscles, and trapezius (a major muscle in the back) are also going to have to work a lot harder to balance out your weight. Similarly, Livestrong reported that ‘sports bra helps minimize the movement of your breasts, which can help to reduce pain and discomfort caused by stretched skin and ligaments caused by working out’. 

The number of women playing sports regularly are increasing and after Nike’s recent impassioned ad featuring Tennis Champion Serena Williams, we’re sure these numbers will continue to climb. There’s no denying that bra’s, particularly Sports Bras have played a significant role for women in this arena.

Shoulder Pads

Fashion Psychology
Image Source: TheDollsFactory.com

During World War II the epaulettes that graced the shoulders of soldiers manoeuvred their way into the fashion industry as women donned shoulder pads as symbol of solidarity with the brave fighters abroad as they contributed to the war effort at home. In post-War times, psychological research has found that shoulder pads have a positive by-effect for working women. In the 80s-movie classic Working Girl, Melanie Griffith’s character dons larger than life shoulder pads to legitimise her new position as a respected business woman and thus the era of power dressing was born with designers such as Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana showcasing the style on the runway. In the 80s and during its revival in the early 21st century, shoulder pads were the clothing equivalent to the ideology of ‘leaning in’ – taking charge and embodying power in male dominated industries. But why do we associate shoulder pads with power?

Broad shoulders are typically associated with males, with studies showing that men with broad shoulders are not only perceived to be more masculine but they also possess higher testosterone levels (Kasperk et al, 1997). As shoulder pads broaden shoulders, when wearing them women can also be perceived as possessing more masculine traits. It’s certainly true that women should not have to ‘man-up’ their wardrobes in order to level the playing fields. Shoulder pads could lessen the impact of the negative stereotypes that some men hold of women when applying for roles in traditionally male-dominated workplaces.

Did we miss any wardrobe staples? Let us know in the comments

Header Image Source: Variety.com

Whilst scrolling through some photos recently, I came across a picture of myself wearing traditional Punjabi dress. I was instantly taken aback by the beauty of the look; the colours, the print, the fabric, everything was so glamourous. So, why was my subsequent feeling one of discomfort and awkwardness?

Feeling  disconnected

I am a third-generation British Asian woman and have had a great affiliation with fashion from a very young age, which ultimately led me to become a Personal Stylist. As a creative, I have a great appreciation for the rich beauty of South Asian clothing, yet the thought of putting one of those outfits on can often fill me with dread. This feeling of disconnect has dazed me for many years because surely, one would assume that I would feel more comfortable in my ethnic clothing than those of the western world. A 2003 study of Bangladeshi girls, actually showed that their mental health improved when wearing their traditional clothes more frequently, so why has that not been the case for me?

Growing up, I was always dressed in western clothing. Punjabi dress was almost exclusively reserved for special occasions, such as weddings and birthdays, and this was pretty much the case for all of the other Asian people around me too. This meant that not only was I used to wearing western clothes and therefore more comfortable in them, but the only regular exposure I had to them was from my grandparents. Girls on the TV, in magazines, my friends and older cousins were all wearing western fashion so I was naturally more inspired by that. I wonder whether this lack of exposure and infrequency of being dressed in traditional Punjabi clothing as a child was an attempt by the second-generation migrants to give us, their children, an even better chance of ‘fitting in’.

Style personality 

For me, there has certainly been an element of embarrassment of being seen in Asian clothes as a result of just wanting to fit in. I remember having to go into the petrol station on the way to an event once, I felt mortified by the looks and stares that I received because I was dressed so differently. This may have simply been intrigue on behalf of the onlookers and not necessarily malice, but nevertheless, as a teenager, I was conscious of the fact that I stood out.

Additionally, as a result of being inspired by and exposed more so to western fashion, my natural style has never really aligned with Punjabi fashion. Have you ever put something on and felt like it was wearing you? That’s your style personality speaking up and telling you that this piece of clothing or accessory just isn’t ‘you’, and that is how I’ve generally tended to feel in Punjabi clothes. Asian clothes are by definition extremely flamboyant, with beautiful bright colours and heavy detailed embroidery but I personally prefer muted colours and little to no embroidery, something which is frowned upon in my culture. Many a time I have been chastised for wearing ‘old women’ colours and not looking like the youthful newlywed that I was.

What the future holds

On reflection, I think my discomfort is a result of my confused cultural identity as a third-generation migrant. I have assimilated to British culture which has had an impact on the way that I relate to my Punjabi ethnicity. I have struggled to combine the two cultures from fear of being too Indian for the white folk and too English for the brown folk. Luckily, I see changes happening in both worlds, whereby diversity is becoming increasingly accepted in Britain and Asian outfits with western influence are becoming increasingly desirable within our communities. Hopefully, with time, we will live in a world where wearing whatever you want, wherever you want will be fully embraced.

Moving forward, I plan to follow the influence of bloggers such as Anjli from Anjli’s Lookbook and Meera Pankhania who celebrate both cultures by combining western prints and styles with desi fabrics and accessories. They create looks that appeal to a new generation of British Asian woman with the help of labels such as The Naked Laundry who create versatile and intermixable crop tops that can be worn as lengha or sari blouses as well as with your favourite pair of jeans. Brands like this create the opportunity for us to blend our separate cultural wardrobes seamlessly and guiltlessly.

To anyone else feeling uncomfortable in or distant from their ethnic clothes, I would like you to know that you’re not alone, you are part of a whole new generation of women who belong to more than one culture and that is a beautiful thing. On reflection, my advice would be to just follow your gut and wear what makes you feel good. Although it can be difficult to ignore comments from more traditional members of your family, with regards to the colour or style of your outfit, it’s the only way to remain authentically you. These comments often come from people of a different generation who don’t necessarily understand your experiences as a British Asian woman in the 21st century. As uncomfortable as it is, you’re actually blazing a trail for other younger girls who feel exactly like you.

As fashion trends get increasingly laid-back to suit our isolated way of life, unisex styles have found the perfect opportunity to make a comeback.

Men and women have probably shared a fragrance, moisturiser or hair product more than once during their lifetime. But why should finding common ground be limited to the beauty cabinet alone, when it can easily extend to our wardrobes as well? 

 The middle ground

A bunch of brands set out to answer this very question when they launched a series of matching unisex loungewear late last year. Brands like ASOS, Ace and Prince and Les Girls Les Boys, were quick to offer an array of colour co-ordinated genderless styles during stay at home orders that didn’t take long to start trending on social media. 

Although it could be tempting to view the conscious coupling of matching loungewear sets through a heteronormative lens, unisex fashion speaks to a larger movement at hand — a younger generation who are actively ripping up the gender binary.

 Addressing the de-gendered generation

A study found that Gen-Zers aren’t keen on defining themselves through a single stereotype but rather as individuals who experiment with different ways of being themselves. Retail insights echo this as 56% of Gen-Z consumers are reportedly shopping outside of their assigned gendered area. But unisex fashion hasn’t exactly been all-inclusive.

Most genderless styles today are largely skewed towards men’s clothing styles. As demonstrated with the matching loungewear sets, oversized shapes and boxy silhouettes have become a low-risk choice for fashion brands to place their bets on. 

Designers Stella McCartney and Regina Pyo have also introduced unisex capsules on their online retail platforms, but are playing it safe with masculine separates. Feminine styles like skirts and dresses or even details like frills and ruffles have yet to become commonplace in unisex representation. Even today, most fashion e-commerce sites continue to divide their merchandise under the binaries of men and women.

 The promising road ahead

But fashion weeks have never been one to turn down an opportunity to break gender-norms. The Autumn/Winter 2020 menswear shows were full of effeminate looks. Designers like Gucci, Loewe and Ludovic de Saint Sernine chose to dress their male models in frocks, metallic gowns, skirts and diaphanous tops

As the pandemic brought to light how outdated the old format of fashion shows were, a group of independent designers, executives and retailers from around the world teamed up with The Business of Fashion to put forth a proposal for #rewiringfashion. The proposal included a plea to combine men’s and women’s fashion weeks and de-gender them. With over 2,000 signatories, changes were immediately afoot at London Fashion Week when the British Fashion Council announced that they would merge womenswear and menswear into one gender-neutral platform. 

Across Europe, brands like Prada, Peter Pilotto and Gucci have independently opted to go gender-neutral as well. 

As fashion progressively blurs the lines between male and female, it begs the question: Whether the future of fashion will be separated by gender at all.

With over 50% of UK adults owning a pet, there is no doubt we are a nation of animal lovers. Why is it, then, that a certain number of us willingly wear clothing made from animal fur and exotic leather? Fur has a long history in fashion, from its function in the earliest hunter-gatherer communities to the status it has gathered over the last 100 years. 

However, the 20th Century conservation laws protecting animals triggered a change in peoples’ perceptions of fur garments. The ‘Dumb Animals’ campaign launched by Lynx, showcased blood-covered coats referencing the animals sacrificed for fashion and with that, the modern anti-fur movement was born. 

The fashion industry at odds

The real fur debate has split high fashion into two camps, with big names on both sides. Heritage brands like Hermès and Louis Vuitton present fur on the runway each season, while Gen-Z favourite Gucci went fur-free in 2017. Individual consumers also have varying views about the ethics of wearing fur, and because opposing groups exist in society, fur consumption is classed as a controversy. People who are pro-fur argue that wearing it is a personal choice, while those against fur feel the use of animal skins for luxury is unnecessary and immoral. So, how can psychology help to explain these differences in opinion?

Psychology’s role in the faux fur movement  

Studies show that ‘fashion leaders’ are more open to using exotic leather for clothing than ‘fashion followers’. Fashion leaders tend to prioritise individuality over political correctness, so admit to liking leather apparel despite how they might be perceived. On the other hand, teenagers who worry about how their peers see them have negative feelings about fur consumption, compared to those who are more independent. So, it seems those who subscribe to social conventions and uphold shared morals are more likely to oppose wearing fur and exotic leather. 

The messages we interact with can also impact our beliefs on this issue. Psychologists asked fashion consumers to either read positive information describing fur as fashionable, or negative information emphasising furs association with animal-rights issues. Those who read the pro-fur message displayed more positive beliefs about fur clothing, while those who read the anti-fur message reported more negative beliefs. These attitudes had a direct effect on how likely individuals were to want to buy real fur in the future.

It may seem obvious that our beliefs are shaped by what we read and watch: consuming animal welfare advertising may naturally make you inclined to oppose the use of real fur or leather. However, it is interesting that fashion itself can potentially improve how people perceive animal fur. We already know that those at the forefront of fashion generally hold positive beliefs about exotic skins. 

So, high fashion involvement consumers possibly reinforce their beliefs by regularly engaging with fashion media promoting fur, leading them to consume it. Yet as modern fashion consumers become progressively more conscious of ethics, it could be that we see a shift towards anti-fur beliefs and a decrease in demand from those with high buying power. 

But what are the implications of all this?

The Fashion industry

The main takeaway is the power brands have to influence their consumers with the messages they spread. Pro and anti-fur brands alike can harness this to align their customers’ beliefs with their own to increase the desire for real or faux fur

Animal-welfare organisations

Emphasising the social implications of consuming fur and exotic leather may make shoppers more conscious of how their purchases are perceived, and so more likely to go faux. 

Consumers

It is important to be aware of the information we read. Engaging with both sides of the debate means we can recognise our own feelings on this issue – without influence from the industry or our peers – and make purchases that reflect our true values.