Why Body Shape Guides Are Detrimental
I have been wanting to write a piece about the dangers of body shape guides for a while and I am finally getting to it now because of a horrendous conversation I over heard in a fitting room recently. I promise I wasn’t eavesdropping; those walls be REALLY thin.
So, a few weeks ago I was left dumbfounded by a conversation between a group of young girls who were trying on new outfits. One of the girls was on a mission to get a new pair of jeans however they HAD to be high-waisted because she was a “pear” shape. She casually stated “Even though they are uncomfortable, they are what suit me best... (incoherent mumbling)”. Her dear friend responded, matter of factly, “Get them in black ‘cus they will make you look slimmer”. Another girl complained about how she wasn’t able to wear dresses in summer because of her “apple” shaped body, which as she explained “was a bummer”. They all agreed.
This whole conversation left me feeling speechless even though I remember being a teenager and knowing exactly what my body shape “flaws” and “assets” were. And this is all thanks to decades of “dress to your body shape” being everywhere! A magazine is pretty much incomplete with out a section telling us what to wear according to our body shape. First and foremost, this concept equates us to fruits and inanimate objects. Shocker, anyone? “If you’re a pear, don’t wear pencil skirts. If you’re a ruler, wear push-up bras. If you’re an apple, don’t wear shorts”. They use damaging labels, clump women into categories, dictate rigid rules and make women feel weird about their size. Yes, these guides may be helpful however, many women may feel conscious wearing something they “shouldn’t”. For example, I tend to wear high waisted jeans to make me look taller since I’m 5’3 BUT I also wear baggy boyfriend jeans that make me look plumpier but I do it anyways because I can.
These dress guides can ultimately take away self expression and the fun of styling your own outfits. In order to build your own personal style, it is important to experiment with different cuts and styles to figure out what works for you. Dressing according to your body type and following strict rules can ruin this process. For example, I spent most of my teenage years in skinny jeans because they were slimming. I had a huge fear of palazzo pants because I felt it would make me look fat but I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and now it’s one of my favourite looks. More so, no magazine can predict how you rock an item of clothing. Dressing well has a lot do with how you feel and carry yourself and a measurement chart can not asses that.
In addition, these guides don’t consider what you would LIKE to wear but what makes you look “better”. And really, we all know “better” means slimmer, taller and more/less curvy. This concept feeds into the societal norm that looking slim means you are attractive, which some brands are slowly starting to shift away from. Yes to #nobodyshaming. The main objective of dress guides is to manipulate or minimize the body. Which is fine to an extent, but it can also cross a line where it can become unhealthy and detrimental to how someone views their own body size and shape. This makes women more critical and obsessive over their appearance, as if we don’t have other issues already (thanks society). Think this isn’t a problem? The weight loss industry makes $586 billion world wide annually on products that RARELY work. This is just one industry that makes money off our insecurities due to these norms and expectations.
A great example of how negative this concept can be is an article called “Finding the Right Swim Suit for Your Body”. They decided to use real women that they came across on a beach instead of models. For some insane reason, they told a cheerful, thin woman in a bandeau top that she shouldn’t wear that style because she was shaped like a ruler. Instead they gave her a push-up bikini and proudly exclaimed “FIXED”. Now, please tell me what needed to be fixed? What is so offensive about having small breasts? That woman had every right to be proud of her body and work what she wants, how she wants.
So this is why I have an issue with dress guides based off our body shapes. Wear clothing that you like and feel proud of, whether it happens to follow a guide on your body shape or not. Ignore negativity. End body shaming. Dare to be different. Challenge yourself. These body shape rules lead to everyone chasing the same beauty ideal and it is time we put an end to it. We are all unique and different and we should be proud of it instead of hiding it.