Why So Skinny?

Thin men and thin women have fashion. Walking down the street on the way to work, it is clear to see that every person has chosen to wear whatever article of clothing is fashioned on to their body at that moment. Not only have they chosen to wear these clothes, they have also chosen an identity – a way for others to perceive that identity. Continuing to walk down the street, there are advertisements hung from tall buildings in plain view for every person to see as they stroll to work. Ironically, the people in those advertisements are not goggled because of what the models are wearing, but for how they are wearing the clothes. It is the representation of thin in the media that reinforces the attractiveness of actually being thin.

Many manufacturers have begun to advertise their products as being healthy, associating them nonetheless with skinny models. For instance, in February of 2011, Pepsi came out with a new product called the “Diet Pepsi Skinny Can.” Jill Beraud, the Chief Marketing Officer of Pepsi said about the new product that, “Our slim, attractive new can is the perfect complement to today’s most stylish looks.”

The new product, shown above, is advertised as having zero calories, zero sugar, and zero carbs. This truly is the perfect complement to today’s fashion – thin. This picture also has a thin woman drinking the new product. Since the new product is featured with this thin woman drinking the “Skinny Can,” Pepsi simultaneously promotes the idea that if one drinks this good, then they too will be skinny. This advertisement also reinforces the idealities created by men and women about needing to be thin to appear attractive. The power of advertisements go far beyond the visual, in turn effecting people in many ways.

Indhu Rajagopal and Jennifer Gales (2002) examined media images and advertisements and the larger impact that they have on both men and women. The authors argue that media acts as a “barrier” for individuals who do not recognize their full potential in life because they are too focused on maintaining a good body as opposed to aiming higher and being successful for other purposes. Since “thinness” is typically the “only body type advertised,” the media now revolves around dieting tricks or trying to get fit. Rajagopal and Gales point out that women should know it is not their own body that is imperfect, but their interpretation and image of beauty that is imperfect. Men and women have been told to look a certain way and cannot be blamed for buying into the fantasies the media have planted in their heads.

For decades, designers have used the thinnest, most frail of women to portray their latest fashion. For just a few years, society has decided to conquer the challenge of becoming thin by incorporating healthy living into a daily routine. Within those few years, the fashion industry designed clothes for women to show off the thinnest parts of their bodies, i.e. hip bones, arms, legs. It is seen especially among young women who wear clothes that emphasize how small certain parts of their already thin bodies are. If the advertisements do not focus on how small one can be, the ad focuses on ways to become smaller.

TIME Magazine featured an online article titled, “How To Dress Yourself Thin,” that was inspired by the book, “How To Never Look Fat Again,” by Charla Krupp, best selling author of two style books. This online article featured photographs of women displaying unflattering parts of their bodies (i.e. upper arms, obliques – “love handles”, etc.) and ways to counteract those unflattering parts.

Picture 1

Picture 2

The above photos are examples of how TIME displayed those photographs of the women. In Picture 1, the woman is described as having larger upper arms. The upper arms, according to TIME, are a “common trouble spot among women,” (TIME) and that is why they chose to display this photo. Picture 2 counteracts Picture 1 by displaying the same woman, looking much thinner solely because her outfit is different. The billowy sleeves make her arms look thinner, not to mention that slouchy sweater that maker her entire upper body look more slim. Advertisements like this are being displayed all over the place. Advertisements that encourage both men and women to look thinner by presenting the models in a desirable way. The point of an advertisement is to draw the on-looker in somehow to draw them closer to wanting the clothes the model is wearing. Now, the clothes make the bodies of the models more appealing than do the clothes now. In this online journal from TIME, the advertisements purpose is to show women how they can look more attractive by appearing thin. Barbara Philips and Edward McQuarrie (2010) agree, saying that, “they [men and women] may ultimately find the images there unforgiving mirrors of the gap between the actual and ideal selves. When grotesque imagery is present so that men and women engage the narrative offered, they can use fashion ads to transport themselves to a storybook wonderland that invokes delight instead of despair” (Philips and McQuarrie).

Thin men and thin women have fashion. Their fashion is created and reproduced by the masses of people in society who desire to also be thin and beautiful. This desire stems not only from images of models that are shown in advertisements or on the runway, but in the way manufacturers have created products to encourage a healthier lifestyle, one that includes eating smaller amounts of food with less fat and less sugar in them. This clothing that replicates and reinforces ideas of thin are encouraged by many manufactures now, and can be seen in everyday life on people who are thin and on people who want to be thin.