Fashion’s Age-Old Problem with Beauty

By Helen Spencer

Magazines, the fashion industry’s gatekeeper have become the ringmaster of the modern age freak show, seeking to exhibit the thinnest and most age –defying beauties. Every time we hear the familiar crack of the whip and the call to ‘roll up’; we wait with eager anticipation for the latest freak to enter the ring.

Magazines and their readers engage in what is being described as hate-reading, something which resembles a sport, a vicious one at that. We are all guilty of participating in this activity, as it is the ultimate way to feel better about ourselves by pulling someone else apart, as it is a way in which we form our own identity and self –esteem through the process of othering. The behaviour pattern associated with hate-reading is far more detrimental than meets the eye as we internalise the messages we are engaging with and apply them to our own perception of beauty, creating a distorted view.

Fashion has popularised the quest of seeking to achieve an unrealistic sense of youthful perfection, which is often unattainable, not to mention demoralising. It also erodes a person’s self – esteem and confidence. Youth and beauty have become the marker used to form our self – worth and acceptance within society; this message is continually reinforced by the fashion industry.

The fashion industry’s attitude to aging still perpetuates the worship of the god of youth. Throughout history youth has been associated with attractiveness and fertility, where youthfulness gave connotations of vitality. However a shift in the later part of the century is evident in the way women have been portrayed in the media, using sex to sell fashion. Sex has become intrinsically linked with youth and perceptions of attractiveness, where aging people are not generally considered to possess these qualities.

Hannah Zeiling, researcher at LCF further discussed this relationship between age and beauty with Frances Corner: “Age, in particular the old age of human beings, is not commonly associated with beauty and similarly we rarely imagine that old age in people may also embody beauty”.  When will this attitude change? The answer is when we initiate it as readers. Change only will happen by action, the key is to be aware and conscious when you are engaging with media, especially fashion magazines.

Photo by Dimitri Veritsiotis/Getty Images

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