Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why "Dress For Your Body Type" Advice Is Problematic

At first glance, an article in Seventeen Magazine that instructs readers on what kinds of jeans to wear for every body type may sound progressive. "Look," you may think, "they're acknowledging that different body types exist!"

Well yes, they're not outright condemning body types that don't fit the beauty ideal, but if you look more closely, you'll notice that such advice usually encourages readers to dress in a way that makes them appear closer to that ideal. Too curvy? Wearing X will make you appear slimmer! Flat-chested? A Y top will make you look bustier! Too short? These pants will make you look taller! On and on and on.

It's a cycle, really. Girls who are too short, too call, too skinny, too curvy, too busty, too flat, etc. feel the need to dress in a way that will make them look "better" (read: closer to the ideal body), so these articles fill their need. At the same time, girls will see these ads and think "wow, I didn't realize there was anything wrong with looking too short," and start to feel like crap about themselves, hence creating a greater need for the ads.

Now, I get it, it's okay to want to wear clothes that look good on you, and clothes that will give you a little boost of confidence. But if magazines really want to empower teen girls, articles like this do just the opposite, and pages upon pages of articles ordering girls to wear slimming clothes, cover their acne, make their nose look smaller, de-frizz their hair, tone up their butts, and tell them pizza is the devil, are not going to counteracted by one small page telling them to love their bodies. Most, if not all, of the magazine needs to encourage self-esteem.

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