Can Fashion Be Honest?

cindy-crawford_1424171624Such times we live in. When a celebrity’s photo is NOT Photoshopped, it makes the news and ‘breaks the internet’. And so it happened recently when former supermodel Cindy Crawford’s untouched photo was published on Twitter by British journalist Charlene White who assumed it was a deliberate statement by women’s magazine Marie Claire in one of their current issues.

The magazine later said it was an unused image from a 2013 shoot, and did not know who leaked it. They, however, called the image ‘real, honest and gorgeous’ and appeared proud of being part of its creation. The celebrity herself has so far made no comment about the photo leak.

The photo – with the 48-year-old Cindy posing in full supermodel mode wearing a bikini and jacket swinging about with her head to one side – has provoked a social-media storm about Photoshopping women’s bodies. While most people praised Cindy and Marie Claire for being bold enough to publish an image despite its ‘flaws’, those in the know pointed out that neither the celebrity nor the magazine had any role to play in the leak. They are part of the system, not the outliers of change.

The debate over ‘touched up’ images is as old as fashion photography itself. Those against the custom say that by promoting unrealistic bodies, the fashion industry has created generations of women with poor body image and encouraged eating disorders. In fact, several studies such as this one have found that a majority of women readers feel ugly, fat and depressed after reading beauty and fashion magazines. So much for that.

Those inside the industry, however, argue that unless an image is hauntingly perfect, it cannot hook a reader. To be luxurious and exclusive, one has to be unattainable. If models’ bodies and faces looked dimpled, scarred or flabby just like any regular woman, why would they still be aspirational? Or so goes the logic.

But the logic is flawed. Luxury brands have used older, ‘imperfect’ women and men in their advertisement commercials and have not, according to us, lost any of their aspirational value. It is quite possible to make a statement – even in the so-called ‘superficial’ fashion industry – without faking it. The human form can be beautiful in its natural state, without the help of software.

It would be interesting to see if the fashion media can dare to bare women’s bodies, wrinkles, freckles, bumps and all. With any luck, the next generation of young girls would not have to torture their bodies in the name of beauty.

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