Am I happier because I’m thinner, or thinner because I’m happier?

Looking in the mirror, I feel happy with my new body shape. But thats not what body positivity taught me to do

The first time I felt body euphoria was in an Old Navy dressing room. The floor was sticky with inexplicable customer gunk, a toddler was sobbing in the next stall and I was wearing jeans five sizes smaller than usual.

I gaped at my reflection in awe. It’s not just that the jeans fit; I could also assure my collarbones, which had been hidden under layers of fat and tissue for so long that I forgot I had them. My jaw line was more pronounced, and my belly didn’t jut out the style I recollected it to.

I had lost more than 100 pounds, and I could see the difference right there in the mirror.

With euphoria came guilt. It upset me that I liked my new reflection so much, because I didn’t know why I was happy with it. For years, I had subscribed to the notion that defining women’s worth by their weight was a feminist cardinal sin. Like countless others, I had found self-love and adoption in the arms of the body positivity movement.

It offered me a welcome respite from the stress of constantly looking at myself with a critical eye, as well as a counterattack to the once predominating idea that dishonor gets bodies in shape( it doesn’t ). So why was I so happy at the sight of my new, thinner shape?

I lost more than 100 pounds in two parts over 18 months, during two big stages of my life. The first occurs when I ran from a depressed, overworked college student to a emphasized, fully utilized adult. I replaced meals with coffee and eat once daily- usually the easiest thing I could pop into the microwave after a 12 -hour day. On top of my 9-5 task, my four-hour daily commute constructed finding any time for myself nearly impossible.

My body responded to my new environment by shedding 50 pounds, but even then I knew my weight loss wasn’t healthy. My stress had reached a peak, and all I could do was shrink in the face of it. I had no time for physical activity, and if I was lucky enough to get a day off, I was too depleted to move anyways. The stuff I devoured could scarcely be called food; I feed quick meals rife with saturated fats and sodium that just made me more sluggish. Research backs this up: stressful tasks lead to poor eating, junk food makes us depressed and failing mental health becomes a roadblock to improving health.

I bristled whenever someone congratulated me on my weight loss. To accept outsiders’ compliments on my weight loss was to betray the body-positive ethos I had adopted.

And then, just as easily as I had adopted it, I threw that life away. Less than a year into my first full-time job, I discontinue to travel Europe for five months. Suddenly, I had a limitless resource of something I hadn’t had my entire working life: time. I could expend all day walking, climbing or hiking in a different country. I could stroll through local marketplaces, relishing the hues and odors of the displayed fruits and vegetables, to pick foods that induced me happy and gave me the energy I needed to keep exploring. Regular physical activity, a Mediterranean-style diet and liberty to do as I pleased altered me, and I lost another 60 lb.

When I came back home to the US, my family and friends were shocked by my dramatic transformation and my weight loss was only part of it. Yes, I was smaller, but I also seemed happier. I was more confident and said stuff like:” You know what would be so fun right now? A bike ride .” I even got a cool haircut. My new body was a reflection of the new life I was living.

One of the biggest alters my friends noticed is how experimental and colorful my manner sense had now become, are comparable to when all I wore was an ensemble of leggings and a T-shirt. Being more confident assists, but buying cool clothes is just easier the less fat you are. Albeit I’m still a solid sizing 14, but the realm of possibilities for my wardrobe has vastly expanded from the ironically slim size-2 0-and-up rack I used to shop from. I can set more care into my appearance and feel more secure in the way I present myself to the world because I actually have options.

There’s just one thing, though. My new commitment to health has also bordered on obsession at times. I don’t want to fall back on my old habits, so I pore over the ingredients in everything I eat. I work out regularly, sometimes to the point I can barely move my muscles the next day. And when I can’t bring myself to push my limits again- only one extra define of crunches or lunges- I feel like I’m failing myself.

Maybe getting healthier has made me happier, but being so preoccupied with health can be my downfall. Orthorexia, ailment eating influenced by an preoccupation with “healthy” foods, is one symptom of the larger problem diet culture was born from. Being perfect is a never-ending game of moving goalposts, and we’re compelled to spend the rest of our lives chasing after it.

I’m still plus sizing, but I have become a more” socially acceptable” fat girl worth catering to. For once, I feel like my body has the right to exist because there’s less room for me to take up. Is that anything to be happy about? All I know is that I own a pair of jeans that fit, and I’ll stop to admire my reflection when I wear them.

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‘They have you in a cultish grip’: the women losing thousands to online beauty schemes

It sounds too good to be true earn money selling makeup on social media. And for many, it is. What really happens when you join a multi-level beauty business?

When a Facebook friend told Lindsay about a “genius” business opportunity in January 2015, the Manchester-based NHS laboratory assistant was already struggling for money. She had spent the last two years caring for her elderly father, and the stress meant she frequently missed shifts at work. Unwell with chronic fatigue syndrome and struggling to pay the household bills, Lindsay was instantly curious about her friend’s offer.

” I hardly had any money coming in, and I was looking at everything, doing all the maths, and there only wasn’t enough ,” Lindsay says now from the red brick terraced home where she lives alone with her dog, Freya. The Facebook friend- who Lindsay has never fulfilled, but added on social media because they were both fans of the musician Jean-Michel Jarre- told her she could earn between PS50 and PS500 a month if she signed up to a beauty marketings business called Younique.

” I guessed even if I stimulate PS100 a month, that’s something … I don’t have a big craving, so my food merely costs PS20 a week at most, if I’m splurging out a bit ,” Lindsay says. Though she is just 36 years old, she strolls with a cane and has a full head of grey hair. Her illness- which is characterised by extreme tiredness and joint pain- entails she fights to maintain her home. Paint is peeling from the walls, and an old mattress sits in the hallway.

After receiving her monthly paycheck, Lindsay clicked on the link sent over by her Facebook friend and signed up to become a “Younique presenter”. Founded in September 2012 by an American brother-and-sister team, Younique is a direct sales beauty company. Presenters sign up via the website and purchase products that they then sell on, earning a cut of the profits. Though there is no membership fee, members must regularly buy stock to retain presenter status. Lindsay paid PS69 for a starter kit, and then another PS125 to become a “yellow status” presenter. Younique has eight different presenter statuses- whites, the people at the bottom, earn a 20% committee from their marketings, while ambers, the next up in the scale, earn 25%.

This commissions-based model is somewhat similar to Avon, the 133 -year-old company that recruits” Avon ladies” to sell beauty products door-to-door. Yet unlike Avon dames, Younique presenters buy and sell through social media- usually Facebook.” We are the first direct sales company to market and sell almost exclusively through the use of social media ,” Younique’swebsite reads, adding that its founders, Derek Maxfield and Melanie Huscroft, made the business to ” uplift ” their members.” Derek and Melanie firmly believe that all women[ the company targets females] should feel valued, smart-alecky, and empowered through the chance for personal growth and financial reward !” the website says. But in her three years as a Younique presenter, Lindsay lost approximately PS3, 000.

From 2015 to 2018, Lindsay spent PS40 to PS60 every month on stock to retain her yellow presenter status. Though she initially made some sales at research hospitals where she worked, Lindsay was let go from the NHS in spring 2015 because of missed shifts caused by stress. She had been caring for her mothers since 2011- her mom passed away from cancer in 2012, while her father had Parkinson’s and suffered from three strokes before his death in 2018. Though she stopped stimulating Younique marketings after losing her job, Lindsay wanted to retain her presenter status because she was planning to go to university and hoped to be able to sell to fellow students. Meanwhile, Younique maintained fostering her to buy stock.

” They would email saying,’ You’re in danger of your account being suspended ‘,” she says.” They were worded in such a way to tell you,’ Oh, you only need to spend so much to keep yourself active .'” Lindsay says she didn’t notice how much fund she was spending on stock because it was a slow” drip, drip, drip” of payments.” But then you look at it all together. I could have saved up, I could have done roof repairs on the house .” In 2015, Lindsay attended a Younique training session in Glasgow where she was told not to” come with excuses” about being unable to sell products.” It was made clear to me at that point, I had no get out clause for not constructing sales .” Unsold makeup now sits in Lindsay’s car, in her closets, and in a large plastic receptacle in her living room.


Younique is not just a direct sales company- like Avon, it is also a multi-level marketing scheme( MLM ). Multi-level marketing is a business strategy where revenue is generated from both product marketings and forced recruitment of new distributors. A Younique presenter can earn money by selling makeup, and also by persuading other women to join the company. Structurally, MLMs are akin to pyramid schemes- once someone signs up under you, you become their “upline” and take a portion of their earnings. If they sign up people beneath them, you also take a cut of those profits- a handful of people at the top get rich from thousands at the bottom.

Over the last five years, MLMs have become increasingly popular in Britain. The Direct Selling Association( DSA ), the only recognised UK trade body for the sector, estimates that approximately 400,000 people in the UK are involved in direct selling, although many do so on a casual basis. Forever Living allows women to sell aloe vera-based drinks, gels and beauty products; Arbonne consultants sell skincare; Herbalife representatives flog weight-loss products; Juice Plus reps sell diet drinks; Nu Skin offers creams. Haircare MLM Monat is currently recruiting” EU Founders “.

Social media means MLM presenters now sell to- and recruit from- the entire world. On Facebook, posts from uplines like Lindsay’s friend promise “rocking” marketings, “instant” pay, and the chance to run” your own business “.

” The main distinction between MLMs and pyramid strategies is MLMs actually have a product ,” says Daryl Koehn, a prof of business ethics at DePaul University in Chicago.” In pyramid schemes, you’re just selling the opportunity to make money .” Yet Koehn argues that even when MLMs have products, they become pyramid schemes if there is a high cost of entry or if presenters build up inventory they can’t sell.

In 2011, Jon M Taylor, an employee at the US Consumer Awareness Institute, compiled a short ebook on MLMs for the Federal Trade Commission. ” After read these chapters, the reader may wonderif it is appropriate to refer to MLM, with its inherent flaws, as a’ business’ at all ,” he wrote.” Some who are familiar with MLM’s abysmal statistics feel it is more appropriate to refer to virtually any MLM as a scam .”

In theory, anyone can sign up for an MLM. In practice, Koehn says the model appeals to” people who have fewer opportunities “. Like Lindsay, many people who join MLMs have disabilities, or poor health, and are unable to work full-time. Those who sign up are taught to target new and single mothers.” We were encouraged to pick on stay-at-home mums, people who had just lost a job ,” says Rachel( not her real name ), a former Forever Living” business proprietor” in her late 40 s. She was recruited to Forever Living in 2016 as” a freshly single mum very willing to try anything to make a living for my kids”, who were seven and nine at the time.

Rachel’s upline, a “trusted friend”, told her to write a list of everyone she knew and “profile” them, listing their aspirations and weaknesses.” You’re encouraged to find out what it was they actually want in life and then use that to promise that[ Forever Living] would fulfil their want ,” she says. She was also given a recruiting script that included phrases such as” lifestyle-changing opportunity”,” control your own destiny”, and” earn in excess of PS40k a year “. She was told to avoid the word “job”, partly because 9-5 chores were presented as negative by the company, and partly, she believes, because Forever Living did not offer the consistent wage, paid holidays and sick pay that a traditional chore would.

It took six months for doubts to emerge, when she realizing that the praise she initially received from her upline (” You’re wonderful. You’re perfect for this job ,”) was just a standard script used for all new recruits. Still, she bided with Forever Living for nearly two more years.

” They said your business is a rollercoaster, you just have to stay on it while it goes up and down ,” she explains,” But actually, it just went down, down, down .” Rachel’s uplines said her mindset was to blame when business was bad- connecting her to seminars and success narratives, and telling her that she had to attend online training sessions or she would fail.” There was a lot of emotional blackmail ,” she says.” I would feel really guilty if I didn’t attend fortnightly meetings .” She says her upline encouraged her to “stay away” from people who criticised the company, including her own family.” They said if you don’t work on your mindset, your business will fail ,” she says.

‘ I was sucked in. I believed everything they said. And I wasn’t making any money .’ Photograph: Ilka& Franz/ The Guardian

Rachel had joined the company just after splitting from her husband, and says that Forever Living provided a new world for her to occupy. She was in multiple Facebook groups where women vied to sell products, shared advisory opinions and scripts, and formed friendships. She was told to be ” a product of the product” by buying Forever Living products for personal use.” I set all of my passion and all of my period- oh my goodness, the amount of day ,” she says now.” I altogether gave up other things. And I wasn’t making any money .”

After quitting, she was devastated over the friendships she lost- many of her Forever Living colleagues blocked her on social media when she left the company, and the isolation entailed she suffered a ” mild depression “. She also still struggles with guilt from signing up a handful of women beneath her.” I have since apologised to them all. Some of them are still trying to offload products that they’ve got hanging around their house. I feel really awful. But I also think, I can’t stay guilty forever, because I was sucked in. I believed everything they said .”

Rachel felt trapped:” they have you in this grip, this cultish grip ,” she says. “Cult” is a word that every woman I speak to for this piece uses to refer to their time in an MLM.Many sell” mindset develop” sessions to their presenters.” Never let anyone say to you that you won’t succeed ,” reads a slide from a presentation Rachel paid PS30 to stream.” The greatest comeback is to SHOW them your success .”

Fiona, a single mom of two from Merseyside, lost more than PS1, 000 selling Arbonne cosmetics in 2016. She says her upline, a local woman who she satisfied while working as a teach assistant in a school, pressured her to “prey” on new mothers in soft play areas; after she persuaded another single mother to join, she was told to pressure her into buying more products.” It didn’t feel right ,” she says. Fiona’s upline also told her to take out a credit card to buy stock- she is still paying off the debt.

During her 10 months at Arbonne, she was encouraged to set an alarm for 6.40 am so she could listen to a motivational talk devoted live by an upline.” It’s like brainwashing ,” she says, explaining that, like Rachel, she was told to become a” product of such products” by buying Arbonne for herself.” It’s really easy to get depicted into it, especially because at the time, as a single mum, I wasn’t seeing an awful plenty of other people .”

Members are encouraged to influence others by inflating their success on social media.” There’s a lot of lies ,” Lindsay says,” We were told if you’re going somewhere nice, post it with,’ Thanks to Younique, I’m staying here .'” Rachel says people who were struggling would post pictures of cars, spas, and prosecco to appear as though their business was flourishing. Fiona says people were even encouraged to post pictures of their children if they were home sick from school, adding captions like,” So grateful I have a home-based business which allows me to carry on working while I care for my kids .”

Despite the social media scripts and many motivational sessions, Rachel says she never received any financial educate or recommendations from Forever Living. It was only after she did her second year’s tax return that she realised she hadn’t made a profit and decided to quit.” You’re not coached on how to manage your finances because if they did that, people would realise they weren’t making any money .”

A UK spokesperson for Forever Living says via email thatthe company offers financial train through an independent accountancy company intermittently throughout the year.” The Forever network has been constructed over 40 years through collaboration, support and family values ,” they said.

” Forever does not condone pressure of any description, misrepresentation of lifestyle, the business opportunity or promises of income levels, the company has clearly defined escalation procedures to deal with any such allegations .” An online company policy handbook lists prohibited activities for Forever members, and refers to the DSA’s dispute handling service. The spokesperson adds that Forever representatives are” prohibited from placing orders until 75% of previous stock has been sold “. This is done on what the company call a ” self-certifying ” basis, ie the seller tells them they have sold or used at least this much stock.

When asked about Fiona’s experiences, an Arbonne spokesperson based in Northampton says via email that their sales scheme is” not a pyramid strategy; it is a standard, legal marketings strategy “.” Arbonne upholds the highest standards of integrity and we do not condone deceptive, unethical or illegal practises of any kind ,” the spokesperson says.” Our Business Ethics Standards Team( BEST) conducts regular training sessions with Arbonne Independent Consultants, continuously monitors their business practices … and takes immediate action if questionable activities originate .” They add that any unethical or improper behaviour can be reported at Fiona says she was not made aware of this reporting procedure.


If Lindsay was at the bottom of the Younique pyramid, then Lisa was at the top. The mom of three lives with her husband and children in a spacious semi-detached council house in a cul-de-sac outside of Halifax. A confident 36 -year-old, she is immaculately put together, with sleek long black hair and stylish, minimal makeup. She first heard about Younique in 2014.

” Because I have three children, I needed a undertaking that would fit around them ,” she says from her living room- there are professional portraits of the children on the walls, a bookcase full of sports trophies, and, on the table, a feel pencil suit her daughter recently made at school. Lisa joined Younique on the first day of its UK launch and went on to earn more than PS6 0,000 before she quitted in 2018.

” It was quite strange because I immediately had 38 people in my team ,” she says, explaining she had recruited 12 of these people, and the other 26 were people they in turn signed on.” We’d all joined on the same day but suddenly I was in charge .”

While white and yellow Younique presenters only earn commission from their marketings, after recruiting five women, members reach pink status. Pink status presenters earn 25% from their marketings plus 3% committee from marketings made by females beneath them. By the time she left Younique, Lisa had reached the highest level, black status, and had more than 3,000 people beneath her. She calculated that 95% of her fund was earned from commission on other women’s sales.

” I made a lot of a money, a lot of money to me, and it meant I could stay at home with my kids ,” she says, adding that she also felt a boost in confidence.” I ran from not being able to pick up the phone to an unknown number to talking on stage in front of thousands of people .” Lisa frequently spoke at Younique training sessions and conventions.

Yet although Lisa feels Younique changed her life, her perspective changed in 2018. Lisa says that during a Black Friday sales month in November, she slowly realised people felt pressured to buy stock they couldn’t sell.” The leaders would always say nobody’s forcing anybody to buy anything, but if you’re recruiting women who’ve lost a circle of friends because they’ve had children, or they haven’t got self-confidence, they’re going to buy to be part of a group .”

Kirsty, a 27 -year-old from London, tells me:” I got suckered in to Younique due to the promise of’ sisterhood’ being so strongly pushed on to me. I suffer with bipolar so I don’t really make a lot of friends that easily ,” she says by telephone. A Facebook friend told her she would have access to a group chat of 300 people who supported each other.” That was appealing ,” she tells me. Yet Kirsty speedily saw the group chat “toxic”. ” One female said her husband was telling her to get a regular task because they were losing money, but the group was bizarre, telling her he was controlling and abusive ,” she alleges.” It also got actually bitchy- one daughter wasn’t inducing enough marketings and they made her feel bad in front of everyone .”

Ironically, while women are often drawn to MLMs to make friends, they often end up with fewer than when they started.” One of the issues with MLMs is that you’re told to target your friends and relatives ,” says business prof Koehn.” People are trying to monetise social relationships .” Rachel lost friendships because she” pestered people every five minutes” to sign up for Forever Living. She was told that if someone said ” no”, she should write their name in a volume called ” no for now” and ask them again in a few months.” Because I was encouraged to pester people every five minutes to sign up, friendships disappeared .”

But confederations built within the business are also fragile- often falling apart once women quit.” Some people blocked me immediately ,” says Lisa of her decision to leave.” We spoke every day and all of sudden, we can’t be friends .” Rachel was particularly affected when she discontinue.” That was the thing that really got me in the end ,” she says.” I guessed I’d stimulate friends and then when I did leave, I had nobody .”


When so many women feel exploited by MLMs, why have these companies not been held to account? In America, clothing MLM LuLaRoe is currently being sued by Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson, who says that” LuLaRoe tricked customers into buying into its pyramid scheme with deceptive asserts .” LulaRoe said during a statementthat the claims are completely without merit and that the company will oppose vigorously against them.In July 2017, the Chinese government shut down hundreds of multi-level marketing companies, which it described as” business cults “. Yet in the UK , no authorities are currently investigating them.

Mumsnet decided in 2017 not to allow MLMs to advertise on the parenting site.” We was just thinking about it long and hard because we know that home-based, flexible possibilities are very popular ,” says founder Justine Roberts,” but many Mumsnet users have posted about what they see as MLMs’ invidious marketing techniques and the effects on vulnerable someones, and we came to the conclusion that business models based primarily on recruiting have too much potential to be exploitative .”

Elsewhere online, hundreds of ordinary people are now campaigning against MLMs on social media.” I think the authorities are doing an perfectly embarrassing chore at governing MLMs ,” says John Evans, a 39 -year-old from Sussex who runs the 11,000 -member Facebook group MLM Lies Exposed. He was inspired to start the group after a friend tried to recruit him to an MLM. When Evans criticised the MLM model, his friend stopped speaking to him.

” MLMs are extremely clever at manipulating people. There’s lots of psychology involved ,” Evans says.” The people who sign up lose money, but they’re not stupid. They’re victims .” Evans says he has seen countless horror tales in the five years he has run his Facebook page.” Some people are thousands of pounds down from these companies and they end up in the sunk expense fallacy where they just maintain plugging away, maintain urgently trying to dig themselves out of this financial hole ,” he says.

Evans is particularly concerned when MLM reps stimulate false medical asserts about products on social media. A representative for Trading Criterion explains MLMs become an issue for the body if a company breaches consumer protection regulations, by, for example, attaining misleading asserts about products. In 2017, Trading Standards Cornwall shut down the business of former Miss England finalist, Charlotte Thomson, who had been selling weight-loss coffee Valentus, saying the product wasn’t licensed for the UK market. Thomson said she was ” devastated” and stopped selling the product. To date, Trading Standards has not looked into any MLMs on a national level.

Evans and others would like to see MLMs better regulated to ensure companies are open and honest when recruiting presenters. A spokesperson for Younique said that Lindsay, Lisa, and Kirsty’s experiences” do not accurately reflect those of our hundreds of thousands of Younique presenters around the world , nor our organisation’s values most fundamentally “. The company says it does not allow us presenters to attain” improper asserts” about earnings or products, and has a team of compliance officers to ensure all presenters abide by company expectations.

” Younique presenters are not required to build product inventories at all ,” they go on.” Additionally, we aim to safeguard our presenters’ fiscal security by enabling unused products purchased by them within the prior year to be returned for a full rebate should they wish to terminate their relationship with the business .”

Younique, Arbonne, and Forever Living are all members of The Direct Selling Association( DSA ). I put the claims in this article to them, including accounts of uplines constructing false claims about earnings and pressuring downlines into buying stock, and the DSA says they are investigating the allegations. Susannah Schofield, director general of the DSA, warns that people should” beware of individuals making outlandish claims about direct selling being a chance to’ get rich quick’- anything that lookings or sounds too good to be true probably is “. She adds that direct sales is “an effort-based” business. ” And with anything in life, if it’s valuable you’ll have to work at it to achieve success. Most people working in direct selling are good at what they do, and find the extra few hundred pounds a few months they make an extremely useful addition to their family’s income. There are not many ways of earning that sort of money from home, on a highly flexible basis .”

Lisa now works for another MLM, but merely sells products and refuses to recruit unless someone approaches her directly and asks about the business. “‘ It’s incredibly hard to get a job after being a stay-at-home mum for eight years, network marketer for four ,” she says.

Lindsay works at McDonald’s, though struggles to get frequent shiftings. She lost her Younique presenter status in July 2018 because she couldn’t afford to buy any more stock. She feels unable to sell the old stock she bought back to the company because it is scattered around her home.” I’m alleviated that I get out, but I’m angry that I still assure people recruiting ,” she says. She now sells handmade fabric cushions and lavender pouches on online marketplace Etsy, and is currently applying for Personal Independence Payments.

” It actually builds me angry with myself ,” Lindsay says, when I ask about the money she lost.” I’m annoyed with the person that got me into it, but I should have done more research. I always thought I was too smart for that sort of thing and I got so altogether taken in .”

* If you would like a comment to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in publish, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for publication ).

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What a waist: why the corset has made a regrettable return

On the red carpet, on Instagram, even in Mothercare corsets are everywhere. What is behind the disturbing tendency for waist educate?

What could be more enjoyable after giving birth than slipping into some high heels and squeezing your postpartum body into a corset? Last week, Mothercare was accused of pandering to the pressure on new mothers to lose their pregnancy weight and remain “sexy” by selling a corset, modelled by a woman wearing patent leather platform stilettos.” I’m very anxious for women who are getting the wrong message ,” Jacqui Tomkins, the chair of Independent Midwives UK, told the Times.” It’s saying the most important thing is for you to be back in shape, looking like Kim Kardashian. That worries me .” The company has since removed the product and image, but is still selling a lace-print band, described as a “tummy tucker”, to be worn around the stomach, which it claims” assistances with slimming down “.

Despite this furore, the corset has been creeping back into fashion for some time. In 2016, Prada revived the garment in a more utilitarian style, worn loosely laced over thick tailoring and sweaters. This style, while still designed to bring attention to a trim waist, was not rooted in old ideas of ” sexiness “. But for autumn/ wintertime 2019, fashion designers showed a more traditional style, with a return to full corsets and wide, waist-cinching belts.

And on social media, this traditional silhouette has an even tighter grip. There are more than a million posts on Instagram with a” waist educate” tag. Many are niche corset-enthusiasts- a culture that could come under the categories of retro style, body modification, fetishism or cosplay- but the trend for an exaggerated hourglass figure has also turned waist train mainstream.

Kim Kardashian in a corseted dress at the Met Gala. Photograph: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/ WireImage

Katie Thomas, a corset decorator who set up her company in 1999, says corset culture and waist trainers are completely different marketplaces. She remembers the garments that were supposed to aid weight loss in the 80 s and 90 s.” It’s sad that 30 years on, women are looking for quick weight loss, and that’s what the waist trainer marketplace is trying to capitalise on ,” she says.” It is selling women false hope .”

Corsets, she says, are” different because we’re not focused on losing weight, it’s just about emphasising your body shape and celebrating the curves you have. I wear a corset every day because I like the shape it gives me. We have a lot of transgender clients who want a more feminine figure .”

The look got a huge boost when Kardashian wore a corseted Thierry Mugler dress to the Met Ball in May. The dress, designed to look like wet skin, contained a corset made by the corsetier Mr Pearl, who has long attained corsets for Mugler, as well as other decorators including Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood( he also wears a corset and has a reported 18 -inch waist himself ). Thomas has noticed a recent flurry of interest since Kardashian’s corseted dress, but she supposes the more traditional corset is” always going to be a niche item” with, she says, a close-knit and friendly community. The fad for waist trainers, however, has been growing more for the past few years.

Kardashian, whose body shape has probably had the biggest impact on the extreme hourglass “ideal”, has long been a promoter of waist-trainer bands on her Instagram account, as have her sisters Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. These bands are essentially wide, elasticated belts that cinch you in and claim to lead to a permanently slimmer middle.

Carmen Dell’Orefice wearing a corset in Vogue, 1947. Photograph: John Rawlings/ Conde Nast via Getty Images

” Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner said it was their secret to an hourglass shape ,” says Chloe Lawrence, a beauty blogger who started waist training a year ago. She started wearing a tight-fitting band around her midriff for an hour a day, running up to eight hours.” It was very uncomfortable and caused me a lot of pain ,” she says. “[ I had] shortness of breath and pain in my stomach when the trainer was off .” She says she didn’t notice any real change in her shape.” It runs while you are wearing it, but as soon as you take it off, your waist just goes back to normal. I sometimes wear it under a dress as a corset for that specific time. But for long-term, this does not work .”

Few items of clothing come with as much baggage as the corset. The modern view is that they are little more than an instrument of torture, devised to oppress girls. The truth may be more nuanced. Corset-type garments- known as stays- took off in the 16 th century, and were mainly designed to create an upright posture. In the 1800 s, however, they became an essential part of women’s way, and also tighter and more constrictive. But in her 2001 book The Corset: A Cultural History, the manner historian Valerie Steele says the detrimental health effects- they were blamed for organ failure and spinal deformity- of wearing a corset were exaggerated, and that only a minority of women ” tight-laced” to create an unnaturally tiny waist.

They would have built life more difficult for many women, though, constricting the ability to move or sit comfortably, and even obstructing basic functions such as eating and breathing. In May this year, the actor Elle Fanning fainted at the Cannes film festival and later blamed it on her Prada 50 s-style dress, nipped in at the waist, being too tight. Kardashian had to travel to the Met Gala standing up in a vehicle, holding on to a pole, and said she wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom. But Thomas says she doesn’t discover her corsets restrictive.

Elle Fanning in the Prada dress that stimulated her faint. Photograph: George Pimentel/ WireImage

Although 19 th-century women’s rights campaigners set their sights on dress reform, and Coco Chanel helped liberate girls from the corset, Steele argues it never actually went away.” The corset did not so much disappear as become internalised through diet, exert and plastic surgery ,” she writes. Corsets dedicated style to waistbands; sashes devote style to shapewear such as Spanx, launched in 2000; and now waist trainers have taken off.

Waist trainers and more traditional corsets are widespread on social media because they are a perfect fit.” We know that women’s bodies are the subject of scrutiny and control ,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, a dietitian, exercise physiologist and writer of the book Body Kindness. Social media reward anything” that is unusual or unique. The thin ideal is so rare and impossible to achieve, and this is another level of that. The image on Instagram of somebody with a tiny waist and giant boobs is exotic, almost a fantasy. You get rewarded for participating in this uniqueness or rarity .” Likewise, she says,” Some people might be grossed out” by the artificiality of the seem,” but it doesn’t matter because it still drums up a reaction .”

The company Waist Train UK has more than 14,000 followers on Instagram and claims its products can ” curb cravings as the body adjusts to eating smaller portions during meals “. Some, such as the Kardashian-approved US brand Waist Gang Society, have hundreds of thousands of followers.

Yet the idea that you can simply squeeze your waist into submission, says Scritchfield, is a myth. There are also welcome to be dangers to waist trainers. Wearing one all day could lead to skin problems, if it scratches or causes sweating. Some waist trainers claim to raise the body’s temperature to encourage weight loss during workouts.” Where it creates your body temperature, if you’re not drinking water, you could get dehydrated ,” she says, adding it could even lead to heatstroke.” They can constrict your breathing, which isn’t helpful. They can induce your organs feel constricted. Besides the physical inconvenience and pain it can cause, I think that there is emotional ache when you don’t get the result you expected .”

Bella Hadid in a corseted catsuit. Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/ Rex/ Shutterstock

For postpartum women, the corset seems to be a new low. The style commentator Caryn Franklin says it defines” unreasonable expectations. It is also normalising the idea that somehow the body getting back to its pre-pregnant state is a more focused achievement than the achievement of pregnancy and childbirth .”

The return of the focus on the waist is, she says,” the last place left to exploit. The waist has pretty much been left alone, while there has been huge focus on faces, lips, hair, breasts and latterly, thighs and buttocks .” She is less concerned with the corset’s appearance on the catwalk because she has seen it resurface several times in the nearly 40 years she has been working in fashion.” A plus about fashion is you set something on for fun to present yourself in a certain way and make a statement, and then you take it off ,” she says. The tendency for waist train, she says, feels different- it requires a desire to change your body.

That the Kardashians are the prime drivers, she adds,” doesn’t sit well with me. The Kardashian industry is built on the performance of femininity, where they present as hyperfeminised and hypersexualised. It’s all about appearance, and the normalisation of cosmetic surgery within that family means that they’re presenting an idea of femininity and making money out of the unachievable bodies they have crafted for themselves .”

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‘We are who we are’: what these 100 -year-old women teach us about beauty

A glimpse into the lives and rituals of centenarian females, whose beauty is rarely acknowledged

This piece was part of the GroundTruth Project series Emerging Photographers .

When I started shooting this story, I wished to talk about elderly women’s conditions in general, but I had no clear notion about what angle I was going to take. I took pictures of nothing and everything surrounding these centenarians from the Monteregie region in Quebec, Canada. But one thing maintained occurring: every single woman I photographed wanted to bridegroom herself to make sure she would look good in my paintings. This is how it became a story about beauty.


I became interested in the efforts that these women set( or didn’t set) into looking beautiful, and these new challenges that they face in their old age. I asked them about youth, ageing, feminism, sexuality, charm, appearance, love, and I documented their beauty rituals.

Visiting Marie-Berthe Paquette, the woman in the first photograph, was an unbelievable sight. She likes to be the center of attention and is willing to do just about everything to build her audience burst out laugh. Every hour I visited her, she told me funny stories, sing and danced. In her portrait, she is dancing in a sexy and provocative style for the sake of her audience( myself and two family members ).


” I personally find myself beautiful, and when I don’t, I do my best anyways! I like to have my hair neatly styled and wear garments, jewelry and other accessories. I’ve always paid attention to my appearance. In fact, I’m known as la fra” che ( the trendy dame ).” Marie-Berthe Paquette, 105 years old, in Montr e al, Quebec .

. ” I actually care more about beauty today than when I was young. I like to dress rather well, in fairly, simple and convenient dresses. I put on foundation and fragrance in the morning, lipstick after each dinner, and I go to the hairdresser’s every week. I’m also careful not to eat foods that are either too rich or too sweet. It’s important to not let oneself run. I used to enjoy wearing necklaces, but I can no longer attach them, so I gave up .” Solange Racine, 101 years old, in Granby, Quebec .

To me, the third photo( below) is particularly touching. Laure Saucier, the centenarian in the picture, was very sick and weak but also very peaceful and serene. She didn’t have the energy to move or talk, and even though she used to be a very stylish female, I doubt she cared about the style she appeared any more. But even though Saucier seemed distanced from the physical world, her daughter, Lise Provost, continued to make sure that her mother looked good: that her nails and hair were done and she had jewelry and lipstick on. She knew this used to be important to her mom and wanted to honor her. Since they couldn’t communicate verbally any more, these rites were their way to stay close together.

Through these portraits, shot in 2016, I want to question society’s obsession with youth and beauty standards, and to devote a voice to these women whose beauty is rarely acknowledged.


” She was very stylish and competitive. She was in love with my father and I suppose she worried about not being good enough. She always wore lipstick, blush, high heels, earrings, perfume and curled her hair. She’d rub baby oil on herself and bought Madame Avon’s rejuvenating creams. In the evening she went to bed with cotton strips wrap under her chin and fastened on the top of her head, hoping to lift and tauten her chin and cheeks .” Lise Provost( right) talking about her mom, Laure Saucier( left ), in Acton Vale, Quebec . Saucier passed away in 2016 at 101 years old .


” I definitely find myself as ugly. Beauty fades as we get older. Our noses and ears get bigger, our gait changes, we get hunched backs. Some are worse off than me, but I’m not beautiful at all. Still, I enjoy life and I look forward to the future, even if it’s a short one when you’re 100 years old .” Jeannette Ballard, 100 years old, in Granby, Quebec .


” When I was young I had long hair, nice legs and curves. Young dames today all strive to be skinny, but I think that real beauty is natural beauty. We are who we are, and that’s all that matters .” Anne-Marie Pronovost, 100 years old, in Sutton, Quebec . Pronovost died in 2017.


” The term beauty invokes great classic French writers, and music. When I was young, I always had my nose in a book and I wrote. I don’t mean to brag, but people jealousy my writing abilities. I like Mozart a lot, but it’s Beethoven who really constructs my heart sing .” Madeleine Beaugrand Champagneage, 102 years old, in St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec . Beaugrand Champagneage passed away in 2017.


” Even though we constantly told her that she was beautiful, my mommy had always find herself ugly. She often said that she had a monkey face and that she didn’t like her plumpness. My mother regularly dieted. There were stretchings where we ran without potatoes, bread or desserts. She also tried different weight loss pills. She wore waistbands and corsets that she’d buy at Mrs Dinovitzer’s store. I think her weight had always been her biggest fixation .” Provost talking about her mom, Saucier .


” When I was young, like all women, I wanted to be attractive. I curled my hair, wore the beautiful outfits my mama attained for me and suffer under high heels. Still, I never wore makeup; I felt like it was fake. I married my husband because he was handsome, which I ended up regret. He wasn’t a very good partner and I aimed up kicking him out. Rather than maintaining physical beauty, which is vain, I advise young woman to cultivate the beauty that surrounds them. You can tend a garden, describe, play music, etc. It’s important to be kind, independent and constantly educate yourself.” Beaugrand Champagne .


” As a young lady, I could not afford to be frivolous. We were poor and had to work all the time. We had to had participated in day-to-day chores, pick the raspberries, take care of the newborns, cook, help with the harvest, do housework and bathe the children … and all of that without energy. We didn’t have time to think about beauty .” Solange Racine, 101 years old, in Granby, Quebec .


” My husband was a very good-looking man. He had beautiful curly hair, and was nicknamed ‘ Willy la coche ‘( Willy the good-looker ). It was very important for him to be always well garmented. When he went out to work at the lumber camp, he’d sell his suit and buy a brand new one when he returned. On the other hand, he was a flirtation and a bit fickle: he loved all women and drank too much. But it’s important to be able to forgive .” Anne-Marie Pronovost, 100 years old, in Sutton, Quebec .


” Of course I’d rather be good-looking rather than ugly! But back when I was young, I couldn’t be bothered with beauty. It was vanity. It was a sin. What really mattered was the family, putting food on the table and making sure that the children were bathed and clothed. I am blessed because my daughter is the one now taking care of me. She welcomed me in her home 20 years ago and I am still there. Family is all that really matters .” Isabelle Gagn( left) Z, 103 years old, in Clermont, Quebec , with her daughter( right ).


” I’m a very rational and level-headed person, and I’m not very sensitive to beauty or art. I come from a very poor household. Spending fund at the hairdresser’s or on unnecessary beauty accessories was altogether out of the question. I merely sewed by necessity. For instance, I built dress for my sisters utilizing cotton pouches that had been used for storing sugar. Still, I’ve always paid a particular attention to my hair .” Alida Provost, 101 years old, Granby, Quebec . Provost passed away in 2016.


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Violating news: why does Hollywood gloss over the world of magazine journalism?

While Steven Spielbergs drama again venerates the men who report the news, cinema still portrays magazine offices as the realm of shallow, shameful women

As a magazine journalist, it’s hard to escape the feeling that people consider feature-writing a lesser art than hard news. You only need to look at the comments section below any lifestyle article( be it on travelling, manner, beauty or family) for confirmation (” How is this news ?”) And it seems that film-makers tend to feel the same. Steven Spielberg’s The Post is the latest in a long line of heavyweight movies that pay homage to the noble art of news reporting.

The BFI compiled a list of 10 great movies about journalism that encompasses news novelists, Tv anchors and even a crash-site photographer- but no magazines, unless you count La Dolce Vita’s celebrity gossip. In general, films about publication journalists tend to be relegated to the chick-flick spike pile.

Take The Devil Wears Prada. A woman accidentally falls into a job at Vogue( I entail, we’ve all been there, right ?) despite a clear disdain for style and anyone who cares about it. She’s scornful, sloppy and merely, well, Anne Hathaway-ey. Eventually the title perverts her, and she replaces her boyfriend and friends with Dolce& Gabbana chain-belts and a 10 lb weight loss.

Then there’s Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. The plot hinges on her undertaking as a publication novelist- she longs, poor dear, to write about politics and war. It’s like whining because you want the pet shop where you work to be a hedge fund. Instead of handing in her notification and finding employment on a news team, she strikes an unlikely bargain: if she writes one more agonising article about dating( not hiding her contempt from her editor) she’ll ultimately be allowed to write about what matters.

While news writers in cinemas aren’t always likable, at the least there’s a spectrum, running from screwball joker to heroic examiner to peddler of false headlines. Magazines tend to simply has become a emblem of everything that was shallow and shameful. And it’s hard not to feel there’s a gender bias, with women in vapid publication roles and men taking the positions of power in papers.

In reality, there’s far more crossover: celebrity rumor is often reported as news, while it was a publication- the New Yorker- that played a major role in outing Harvey Weinstein. There are other films that nod to the wider world of feature journalism- Almost Famous, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas- but it’s rare to see person working in a magazine office. When you consider how the industry is struggling, with big brands closing and sales figures on the wane, you’d think it would be rife with stories.

There have been interesting documentaries about publication journalism, most notably The September Issue. Filmed at American Vogue it contained all the usual tropes seen in chick flicks( bitchy editor, ridiculous scrutiny of models) but was also able to turn up a gem, in matters of Grace Coddington, the charmingly dishevelled creative director who was shown standing up to editor Anna Wintour and designing some truly beautiful photoshoots.

The truth is that publication journalism is not a career you fall into. If you don’t want to do it, Meryl Streep won’t insist you accompany her to Paris fashion week. There’s no job security, little fund, even less glamour and most of what you do will be rend apart by the “not-news” people( despite them having chosen to read it ). To imply that everyone in the industry got there by accident and/ or is desperate to leave as soon as possible to become a war reporter is insulting as well as unimaginative.

Of course, it’s not cinema’s chore to induce publication writing seem a nuanced career. Films aren’t designed to be an accurate reflection of life- that’s the job of journalism- but it “wouldve been” refreshing to ensure a drama in which publications mean more than a token job for women. You could guarantee a good write-up.

Read more:

Violating news: why does Hollywood gloss over the world of publication journalism?

While Steven Spielbergs drama again venerates the men who report the news, cinema still portrays magazine offices as the realm of shallow, shameful women

As a magazine journalist, it’s hard to escape the feeling that people consider feature-writing a lesser art than hard news. You only need to look at specific comments segment below any lifestyle article( be it on travelling, way, beauty or family) for verification (” How is this news ?”) And it seems that film-makers tend to feel the same. Steven Spielberg’s The Post is the latest in a long line of heavyweight films that pay homage to the noble art of news reporting.

The BFI compiled a listing of 10 great movies about journalism that encompasses news novelists, TV anchors and even a crash-site photographer- but no publications, unless you count La Dolce Vita’s celebrity gossip. In general, films about publication journalists tend to be relegated to the chick-flick spike pile.

Take The Devil Wears Prada. A woman accidentally falls into a undertaking at Vogue( I entail, we’ve all been there, right ?) despite a clear disdain for way and anyone who cares about it. She’s scornful, sloppy and merely, well, Anne Hathaway-ey. Eventually the title perverts her, and she replaces her boyfriend and friends with Dolce& Gabbana chain-belts and a 10 lb weight loss.

Then there’s Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. The plot hinges on her job as a magazine novelist- she longs, poor dear, to write about politics and war. It’s like squeaking because you want the pet shop where you work to be a hedge fund. Instead of handing in her notice and finding a job on a news squad, she strikes an unlikely deal: if she writes one more agonising article about dating( not concealing her disdain from her editor) she’ll ultimately be allowed to write about what matters.

While news writers in cinemas aren’t always likable, at least there’s a spectrum, running from screwball joker to heroic examiner to peddler of false headlines. Publications tend to simply has become a symbol of everything that is shallow and shameful. And it’s hard not to feel there’s a gender bias, with women in vapid magazine roles and men taking the positions of power in papers.

In reality, there’s far more crossover: celebrity gossip is often reported as news, while it was a magazine- the New Yorker- that played a major role in outing Harvey Weinstein. There are other films that nod to the wider world of feature journalism- Almost Famous, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas- but it’s rare to see someone working in a magazine office. When you consider how the industry is struggling, with big brands closing and sales figures on the wane, you’d think it would be rife with stories.

There have been interesting documentaries about publication journalism, most notably The September Issue. Filmed at American Vogue it contained all the usual tropes seen in chick flicks( bitchy editor, ridiculous scrutiny of models) but was also able to turn up a gem, in the form of Grace Coddington, the charmingly dishevelled creative director who was shown standing up to editor Anna Wintour and designing some truly beautiful photoshoots.

The truth is that publication journalism is not a career you fall into. If you don’t want to do it, Meryl Streep won’t insist you accompany her to Paris fashion week. There’s no job security, little money, even less glamour and the majority of members of what you do will be rend apart by the “not-news” people( despite them having chosen to read it ). To imply that everyone in the industry got there by collision and/ or is desperate to leave as soon as is practicable to become a war reporter is insulting as well as unimaginative.

Of course, it’s not cinema’s undertaking to induce magazine writing seem a nuanced career. Films aren’t designed to be an accurate reflection of life- that’s the job of journalism- but it would be freshening to find a drama in which publications mean more than a token task for women. You could guarantee a good write-up.

Read more:

If plus-size modelling is glorification of obesity, I’ll eat my hat | Arwa Madhawi

According to some journalists and doctors, permitting curvy girls on the catwalk is irresponsible. When will we stop this oppression of the thin minority?

We need to talk about fat privilege. Its not fashionable to say this, but OMG thin girls are in danger of becoming an subjugated minority! While society used to have an unhealthy preoccupation with skinniness, the tables have turned and were now seeing a widespread glorification of obesity.

Take, for example, the death of the diet. For decades, counting calories has been an integral part of the western girls way of life. Lately, however, it has become deeply uncool to admit you might be trying to lose weight and everyone is now practising clean feeing instead. Even Barbie no longer wants to be thin; Mattel started selling a curvy Barbie last year. Then youve got the fashion industry. Earlier this year, British Vogue set Ashley Graham, a plus-size model, on its encompas a historic first. And now weve reached a point where people are actually starting to procession bigger bodies on the runway. A recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit catwalk show featured models of diverse body types, including plus-sized models.

Naturally, some misguided buffoons have tried to see the positive side. Indeed, Sports Illustrateds editor MJ Day said that some people in the audience were endeavoured to tears because they assured themselves represented on the runway, which they never thought they would. However, once you get past all the touchy-feely stuff about breaking down stigma and democratising fashion, you start to realise just how dangerous inclusivity and body positivity can be. Yes, really! As Soraiya Fuda, a columnist for Australias Daily Telegraph, pointed out, in a piece that speedily went viral, Sports Illustrateds move to parade curvier women on the runway[ is] irresponsible. Because proving women that you can wear a swimsuit at different sizes is basically a slippery slope to an obesity-triggered death.

Dont believe me? Various physicians have chimed in to subsistence Fudas argument. Dr Brad Frankum, the president of the Australian Medical Association in New South Wales, told the BBC that if we send very overweight or obese people down the catwalk modelling clothes, what it is saying, in a manner that is, is that we are celebrating obesity. I think that is dangerous because we know it is a dangerous health condition.

Of course, pointing out the dangers of obesity tends to inspire a predictable counterargument that society skews far more towards fat-shaming than the celebration of obesity. A 2016 study for LighterLife found that virtually 40% of obese adults in the UK have been mocked by strangers, for example. The argument is also often stimulated that stigmatising obesity can have a hugely detrimental impact on peoples physical and mental health. One analyse, for example, found that people who think they are overweight are more likely to stress-eat in response and become even more overweight. Recent surveys also show that fat-shaming by physicians is rife and damages the physical and mental health of overweight people. In some instances, obese people even avoid trying medical help when they are ill because theyre afraid of disrespectful treatment.

I dont believe a word of it, however. Ultimately, I think that we need to forget the facts and focus on the real issue: political correctness! As Fuda explains in her column: Weve worked our society up to have a heightened sense of sensitivity around overweight issues where the word fat is now frowned upon. In turning it has created a taboo look-away culture in dread of offending person even if the intention is to urge them to seek help. Political correctness is so pervasive that, tragically, it has even stopped Fuda from saving her fat friends from themselves. She admits that Im guilty of turning a blind eye when a friends says, Im so fat. I only stay where you are denying that they are but maybe a bit of truth can lead some people on the right way of weight loss. Too many people are risking their lives with weight-related problems.

I truly have to praise Fuda for the courageous route in which she looks away from grammatical norms and focuses in on truths the PC brigade would prefer us to avoid. Shes right! Obesity is far too serious a matter to treat sensitively. Whats needed is a little tough love. In fact, Im going to go so far as to say that , not only should the fashion industry prohibit anyone over a sizing 8 from its catwalks, it should stop inducing plus-sized apparel altogether. Admittedly, companies arent actually attaining many clothes for larger women at the moment: plus-sizes make up only 16% of all apparel sales, which is very low considering 67% of women in the US wear a size 14( UK size 16) or above. However, making any sort of plus-sized garb is irresponsible. If we send very overweight or obese people down the sidewalk wearing clothes, what it is saying, in a way, is that we are celebrating obesity. And thats obviously very dangerous as Im sure many doctors would agree.

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If the average girl is ‘plus-sized’, why doesn’t our manner reflect that? | Erika Nicole Kendall

Americans have much larger body sizes than previously thought, yet you wouldnt know that by looking at clothes available in your local mall

Americas streets are full of what the fashion industry labels plus-sized females far more than we previously thought. Thanks to a new study, we now know that the average female is around a sizing 20. Not, as previously believed, a sizing 14. That means that the disconnection between the clothes in store windows and the bodies of women strolling past them is greater than we had ever assumed.

Despite this, major manner brands still refuse to accept the bodies of their clients. The only manner brands that want to acknowledge the size of the freshly minted median female are plus-size brands, which are marginalized in the market, as if they catered to a fringe and not, in fact, everyday Americans.

Designers still opt to create artificial cut-off phases in their line, sizes beyond which they refuse to accommodate. Thats because they know that sizing, much like a specific brand, is aspirational. It plays on the insecurity of the audience to present an ultra-thin model wearing a high-end brand. Its not enough for the audience to say, Wow, that seems unbelievable on her. It is intended to stimulate the audience say, I want to be her.

With that passion comes the desperation of drastic weight loss attempts, starvation tactics, rumors of torturous workout regimen from renowned models, and the embarrassing narratives of the individuals who try to imitate them to no avail. Because the healthy track toward weight loss isnt sexy or doesnt result in 10 pounds lost in 7 days, its never the track choice. As a outcome, we so rarely consider successful permanent weight loss.

This is the cycle that designers send us into coveting everything about a woman strolling down the runway, tormenting ourselves to try to be like her and then shaming ourselves for failing miserably.

Thankfully, there is a new crop of designers who recognize not only the manner needs of the average female, but the emotional requires, as well. The manner label Lane Bryant, for example, has eagerly picked up the slack. Their ad campaign No Angel, which featured women with a variety of body shapes, was a nod to the difference between the average woman and Victorias Secrets Angel models.

Designers such as Monif C and Whitney Mero encourage women to celebrate the gloriousness of a curvy body , no matter where their curves may be. And activewear brands such as Rainbeau Curves and Lola Getts Active are providing the support of dependable activewear while also encouraging their clients in positive, shame-free ways.

The fashion industry is ignoring the needs of the average female because theyve operated, for far too long, on the assumption that the average female didnt want to be average she wanted to be a remarkable catwalk-ing beauty.

What they didnt expect was the number of brands who would swoop in and depict the everyday female that her median body is beautiful, even if merely another kind. Her median body is and can be remarkable. And, if the fashion industry cant figure that out, theyll be left in the dust.

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Two models, one aim: to free women from fashion’s weight tyranny

As London fashion week opens, Rosie Nelson and Jada Sezer have joined a Womens Equality party campaign to tackle the use of tiny clothing sizes, underweight models and the resulting crisis of eating disorders

Grains for breakfast, veggies for lunch, smoked salmon for dinner. No wheat , no dairy , no sugar; 45 minutes of exercise every day. Its a draconian and unbalanced regime even for someone with a sensible reason to lose excess weight. If youre a 21 -year-old who weighs eight stone, its clearly both unnecessary and profoundly unhealthy. And yet this was Rosie Nelsons daily intake and expenditure of energy for four months back in 2014, as a result of a visit to one of the countrys most powerful modelling agencies.

Nelson had started modelling work at the age of 18, when her body was still developing. When she moved from her native Australia to Britain, her aim was to continue. And the agency in question liked her looking except for the fact that she was, they said, too big. Specifically her hips, which were around the 37 – or 38 -inch mark, but needed to shrink to 35.

I ask Nelson , now 24 and still modelling, what that moment felt like. You get sucked into thinking that what they say is the only way to be, she replies. They control your life. Theyre getting you your jobs, theyre you with your income, and you become like a slave to it. The industrys so devouring that you forget about the real world. In the real world Im incredibly thin, but in the modelling world Im still too big. So when they asked me to lose weight, I accepted it. But worse was to come. Grains ate, exercise taken, social life shunned, she slimmed her hips down to 35 inches and went back to the agency.

They said, merely lose more weight get down to the bone, recollects Nelson. They pressed on my hips and I merely sat there believing , no, I cant. I cant physically lose more weight. I was in shock. I didnt know what to say.

It turned out to be a pivotal moment. In its aftermath, Nelson chose she couldnt return to her previous weight-loss programme, which she describes as a horrible routine of basically killing myself.

She started working with smaller bureaux, where she was encouraged to remain at a healthy weight. At the same day she began to speak and be talking about her experiences, committed to raising awareness of the potentially destructive power the fashion industry exerts. Thats why, after a days work, she has joined Sophie Walker, leader of the Womens Equality party( WEP ), and Jada Sezer, a plus-size model on the verge of launching her own clothing range, to talk about WEPs forthcoming campaign, which will operate on social media under the hashtag #NoSizeFitsAll.

Jada Sezer, pictured in 2013, was the face of London Fashion Weeks first plus-size demonstrate. Right, Rosie Nelson in her ultra-thin days. Composite: Rio Romaine and politenes Rosie Nelson

For Walker, whose organisation has existed for a little over a year and is committed to change through cross-party collaboration, we are in the middle of a public health crisis that includes 1.6 million sufferers of eating disorder, 89% of them women and girls, and brings with it an economic cost of 1.3 bn a year in lost productivity and healthcare bills. WEPs campaign, which is backed by industry commentator and professor of diversity in fashion Caryn Franklin, will focus on what Walker believes is at the root of the problem: the sample sizes used by the fashion industry.

These tiny, tiny little clothes, tells Walker, are such that normal-sized females have to starve themselves to fit into them. And were not talking a three-day soup diet here, which would be bad enough; were talking weeks and weeks and weeks of systematic malnutrition, for which young woman are paid to fit into these tiny little sizes. And so the first part of this campaign is to say that we think that by this time next year, when London Fashion week kickings off, the British Fashion Council should have in place a system whereby the designers showing in London must show at least two sample sizes, one of which must be more than a UK size 12.

In addition, WEP is calling for legislation that will require all models hired or rehired by agencies to have a minimum body mass index( BMI) of 18. 5; any lower, and they will have to see a doctor from a listing of accredited medical experts to be signed off as healthy. This, tells Walker, would bring the UK into line with law in France, Spain and Italy. She deems it candidly embarrassing that we havent done this yet. Her partys campaign also calls on UK fashion magazines to feature at least one editorial piece per issue that includes plus-size models, and for body image to become a compulsory part of personal, social and health education at school.

Sophie Walker, head of the Womens Equality party, is resulting the campaign against tiny, tiny little clothes. Photo: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

How likely does Walker suppose a change in legislation really is? She points to the fact that her party is the only one to run across political divides to attain change, and to what happened when she ran in the London mayoral race, suggesting that it led proud feminist Sadiq Khan to launch a gender pay audit in City Hall. He stole the policy because he was worried about losing the votes. Her party, she argues, can bring its thousands of members and registered supporters to the table the campaign will mobilise them to write to the British Fashion Council in support.

Does she worry that one plank of their demands the insisting that models BMIs be monitored will seem to some as if females are once again being medicalised or placed under enforced scrutiny? You think thats not already happening? tells Walker. What were doing is the first step towards liberating females from that scrutiny. We have all lived with that pressure all of our lives.

I have been everything from a sizing eight to a sizing 18, and I can tell you at every point in my life which sizing Ive been and when. We live with this. And I am 45 years old. I have been living with it for 30 years and Im tired of it. Im assuring it happen to my children, Im assuring my daughters my seven-year-old and my 14 -year-old under the same pressures. She adds that there are daughters in her younger daughters class who talk about their thigh gap its most important space that indicates ones legs are thin enough to be considered attractive. What we are doing here is about removing that scrutiny , not adding to it. We are creating a situation where women can be healthy and work, rather than being paid to be unhealthy and contribute to this awful public health issue.

The images that bombard women and girls are nothing new. For as long as there has been mass media, idealised pictures of the human body( generally, thin women and muscled men) have pervaded cinema, television, newspapers and magazines sometimes attempting to sell customers products, sometimes simply illustrating a tale. But in persons under the age of the internet, tells Sezer, an additional layer of imagery has appeared not courtesy of businesses advertising their wares, but produced instead by the individual, via such platforms as Instagram or YouTube. Often, she tells, such images are Photoshopped, or highly selective and yet they are presented as authentic everyday life. In that category one might set extreme clean feeing and hardcore exercise regimes.

Mark Fast Catwalk demonstrate at London fashion week in 2010. Photo: Yui Mok/ PA

Yet Sezer also believes that social media has brought much that is positive, and can be utilised as a force-out for good. Now 27, she was doing a masters degree in child psychotherapy when she realised that she was drawn to finding out the root causes of peoples absence of trust and flipping it on its head and telling, you can do anything you want. The immense popularity of her own Instagram feedled to her being signed to agency Models 1 and becoming the face of London Fashion weeks first ever plus-size show.

She stuck to modelling for the following two and a half years, including a stint in New York. It was there, she tells, I became actually flat, and stripped back of everything. I felt like Id made a glass ceiling, and I felt like they werent pushing the boundaries fast enough, they werent assuring a gap could be broken into. She was also segregated, a plus-size model restricted to working with plus-size brands. I felt, surely thats not right? When I got into modelling, I didnt even know I was a plus-size model. I had no perception of what my body looked like. Returning to live in London, she began to develop other strings to her bow, running as an ambassador for the charity Young Minds, and designing her own range of clothes, Sezer, which will launch online this month.

Both Sezer and Nelson are realistic about the fashion industry, and the routes theyve sought. Sezer accepts that, in New York, I didnt feel like I could be as much of an activist. I didnt feel like I had much control. Youre a model. You do as youre told … youre being hired to look beautiful on decide, and thats it. Nelson acknowledges that the bigger bureaux are the ones that get you the greater chores the high fashion, the Top Shop, the H& M. Does she feel that shes lost something? Definitely. I definitely would have had better clients being with a bigger agency, because they have the contacts for it. So I have potentially ruined my career by not being a slave to the industry. But I opt my own health and happiness over my career, which is the best decision I could have made.

Sezer ascribes the continuing power of such agencies to the ingrained notion that they are capable of induce would-be models dreams come true. But, she tells, its a flawed notion, because the agencies themselves are always chopping and changing, telling their charges to alter their appearance according to their latest guess of what will appeal. And, as she points out, agents have a role to play, but theyre the middle human between the designer and the model. If a decorator is creating such a small sizing, then agents can only give them the models that fit into their sizes.

Which brings the debate back to the issue of the sample size, which all agree trickles down into the wider way and retail culture. Dedicated that womens bodies are so various, why has its dominance persisted for so long? Walker highlights the fact that weve collectively bought into the myth that creative integrity is dependent on the fantasy of a tiny female. Which to me is like saying that the tobacco industries were presenting a myth of the wild west, and that actually it was nothing to do with them that we all got lung cancer.

And, adds Sezer: If you look back at the history of way, the majority[ of decorators] were men, and it was their ideal of what beauty was. And that oozed down into being these frail, almost boy-like figures.

What does Walker hope will happen now? Her aspiration is that the landscape will have changed by next years London fashion week. She is soon to approach Sadiq Khan to ask that, if it doesnt, he should be withdrawing LFW funding. Shes also writing to Maria Miller, chair of mothers and equalities select committee, to consider holding a public hearing with those fashion designers to explore why they believe that their success is so intrinsically linked to an unattainable level of thinness in women.

And underlying all this activity is her notion that the fashion industry, quite apart from its ethical responsibilities, has allowed itself to be constrained by its own rules, and is thereby marginalising a potentially huge market.

She is determined that the campaign represent a step change, in which the onus is no longer on women and girls to resist the messages that surround them, but on the disappearance of the messages themselves.

The previous work thats been done to contest this has been a very gentle, softly-softly approach, and there was a lot that had to be done in terms of raising awareness, she tells. All of those campaigns are valid and important, but now were at the point where weve got to say, enough: the commission has got to stop.

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