TW: Discussion of body image and body dysmorphia
Growing up in the early 2000s was fun for a plethora of reasons. Moon Boots, magic sand and Barbie dolls dominated my childhood. But, like most women who grew up during this time, there are also not-so-fond memories of strict body standards being inflicted onto us at a young age. As someone who did not fit into these standards, a common suggestion was made by my family members: put on some shapewear. It seemed like the magic solution, flattening my stomach and making me appear as someone I wasn’t. For myself, shapewear is attached to horrible memories of trying to run away from the body I had and trying desperately to maintain a standard of beauty I did not meet at an age when I shouldn’t have even been cognizant of the shape of my body.
The only relief in this phenomenon is that as the internet age dawned upon us, standards began to shift. More women started advocating for themselves, taking ownership over their bodies. It became fashionable to embrace your curves rather than smooth them away. Shapewear found itself fading into obscurity, to be found in the clearance section of dusty mall department stores. But what we forgot is that women’s bodies are treated like objects by our society as a whole. They are not meant to be embraced; they are meant to be shown. Much like clothes, women’s body shapes fluctuate in and out of trend. It was inevitable that, eventually, embracing one’s own shape would become uncool, no matter how many internet users welcomed the idea of body positivity or neutrality. Billion dollar industries, both in the fashion and diet world, rely on female insecurity.
It is difficult to understate the influence that the Kardashian family has held over the American conscience in the past 15 years. Love or hate them, they have spearheaded many trends regarding women’s bodies. They have been credited with kickstarting the “curvy trend,” (largely an appropriation of the hypersexualization of Black women’s bodies), which coincided with an uptick in women getting BBLs to achieve a bigger butt and a smaller waist. Now, the sisters are showing off smaller frames with less emphasis on their curves, a trend which has also come with the re-popularizing of early 2000s fashion. The fashion sphere was set ablaze, declaring that “heroin chic,” or the incredibly small frame that characterized models of the late 90s and early 2000s, had returned. Skims is a shapewear and loungewear brand created by Kim Kardashian in conversation with the emerging of these 2000s trends. It is a rebrand of shapewear for the modern woman, coming in sizes XXS to 4X, the brand’s tagline is “Solutions for Every Body.”
Here’s the thing. Bodies don’t need solutions. On its own, the Skims brand is aesthetically appealing and fits with many modern streetwear trends, but it insists on hanging onto the rhetoric that your clothes have to make your body look better. There is nothing wrong with wanting clothes which enhance your silhouette. Fashion is meant to be fun and allows individuals to show off parts of their body that they love. The issue is when the brand presents your body as an issue which its clothing can fix. Whether intentional or not, the Skims brand is basing a portion of its marketing on the insecurities of its customers.
The fashion industry and all those who are influenced by it have witnessed incredible progress being made to embrace the body that you have rather than forcing it into narrow standards of beauty which are constantly shifting. But, there is much work to be done before women’s bodies are not seen as a commodity. Those in the industry, especially people who influence it such as Kim Kardashian, must reflect on the consequences of their marketing and business ventures. While it’s fun to bring back bedazzled accessories and low rise jeans, that doesn’t mean we need a revival of the strict beauty standards that were imposed at the time. Some trends, like shapewear, should stay in the past. All sorts of body types have a place in the fashion world.
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