You are beautiful, don’t let anyone tell you different


Next time we compare ourselves in the mirror to a girl in a magazine, think again

300 years ago the ideal woman had small breasts, round hips and wide thighs. In 1920s America, the boyish figure with a small chest, round face and tiny lips was a model of beauty. Women tied their breasts with gauze to make their breasts smaller.

Apparently we don’t decide what beauty is, the culture around us does it for us, through social media, the movies and advertisements it produces. Ideals follow trends. Before we met her Kate Moss supermodels had curvy, healthy bodies, with breasts the same size as the average woman.

Then came Kate Moss with her her “strange” beauty, for the data of the time. She was small, extremely thin and charmingly imperfect. Thus, the new models increasingly began to look like post-adolescent girls, noticeably thinner and more fragile than the models we were used to. Within a few years women went from idealizing Cindy Crawford’s curves, to hungering for that super thin and fragile look they saw everywhere in advertisements.

Trends and Photoshop

Photoshop was released on February 19, 1990, just four months before Kate Moss first appeared on the cover of The Face magazine, and Photoshop went on to have as profound an effect on the fashion industry as Kate did on the looks of the models.

This point is a turning point in our cultural perception of beauty – the standards are now changing and our expectations are rising unreasonably. The skin looks like alabaster, the teeth completely white, the body without blemishes, not a wrinkle, not a single vein. Suddenly smiling faces don’t have natural laugh lines and bodies don’t have belly folds. The natural begins to seem unnatural to us. We forget what real bodies and faces look like.

Real skin with its real texture and realistic imperfections starts to look unattractive and we feel like the only people on the planet with cellulite, stretch marks and pores. Celebrities don’t have dark circles and wrinkles around the eyes. Apparently no acne scars either.

Of course, none of this is Photoshop’s fault. As a creative tool, Photoshop expanded the creative scope of a field that was previously just about capturing moments in time. The only problem with Photoshop is that it has made the line between fantasy and reality completely indiscernible.

We expect the celebs out there to be unreal beauty and perfection. And that’s how we got to the fact that the fake image looks more like the real one. And that our bodies are totally crap compared to the people in the magazines.

The other reason the fashion industry uses Photoshop

One of the things that is rarely mentioned about Photoshop in advertising and editorials is that it actually serves to draw our eye away from the model. Creating a beauty without flaws to notice the model becomes indifferent. It is so flawless that it becomes a blank canvas with no element to engage with. It only serves to draw our attention to the clothes she is wearing, jewelry or beauty products.

It is the same reason why the philosophy of “Supermodels» of the 80s that had their own audience is completely gone. Think models don’t smile on the catwalk anymore. The thinking is that any hint of character, personality elements or emotion takes the focus away from the clothes. The fashion industry needs charismatic models, but not so charismatic that their personality shines more than the brand they are supposed to represent.

Lawmakers are stepping in to regulate Photoshop overuse

Although most women today know that the images in advertisements are not entirely realistic, many do not realize the extent to which physical perfection is portrayed. Therein lies the danger. Without even realizing it, we expect flawless image from models and celebrities as well as ourselves.

Proponents of Anti-Photoshop culture have been trying hard for years to enforce regulations on its overuse, and it seems progress is being made. In America, The Truth in Advertising Act (HR 4341) promises to limit the use of Photoshop in advertisements and maintain a certain level of realism. In the bill’s introduction you read: “The spread of unrealistic body standards has been linked to eating disorders… [και] has a particularly devastating effect on the health of children and adolescents”.

In the UK, this image processing regulation has been in place for some years.

Director Jesse Rosten created a not-made-for-television commercial about the love affair between the fashion industry and Photoshop. His video parodies a typical beauty ad, featuring a new miracle beauty product that can be “applied” to achieve that perfect, almost unreal look.

The next time we compare ourselves in the mirror with a girl in a magazine, think again.

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