Just a few years ago, photoshopped images were something of a novelty. We published a list of sites where you could gaze at the multitude of ways that models were altered. The practice has now become so commonplace that there are websites devoted to pointing out all the mistakesmade in the industry.
Beyond the hilarity, I believe the practice is not helpful. A recent post pointed to research showing that images of models do have an impact on a person's self-esteem.
Of particular note is the advertising of Ralph Lauren. The absurdly thin images of women are so outlandish that a backlash has begun. Blogs such as Dr Eye Candy, and documentary filmmaker Darryl Roberts (see America the Beautiful) have called for a boycott on Ralph Lauren products - and the call is gaining attention.
We're going to pick three of Lauren's biggest stores and start boycotts--right at his stores, he says. We're going to take young girls that feel that they're ugly, or have eating disorders, to his stores ... so that they can explain to people who are attempting to go in there and shop, how their advertising affects them.
As you can see, Lauren's photos are ridiculous. Heads are wider than hips, suggesting an inhuman skeleton.
With the amount of imagery we are surrounded with, few will have the mental fortuity to consistently tell themselves they are looking at fiction.
I'm sure I can't be the only person to notice this, but these models (particularly the first one) bear a striking resemblance to Bratz dolls. These popular dolls have lollipop heads and extra long legs, and look like Barbie's angrier and bitchier cousin. Bratz peaked a few years back but have since disappeared due to a copyright infringement filed by Mattel
The French have looked at legislating against extensive altering, but the practice is so widespread that any law may well be unworkable.
The reality is that we are a culture that values outward appearance and youth over character and wisdom. This is what fuels reality TV and much of the entertainment that we consume. We cannot legislate against something that we desire so much. Perhaps our attachment to public figures (pun intended) is symptomatic of a deeply disconnected community. Recent research showed that celebrity-watching offered low self-esteem people an opportunity to reduce their self-discrepancies and feel closer to their ideal selves. (via Truth Dealer). Where reality is lonely, we look to fantasy to fill the gap.
Fashion trends come and go, as they have done throughout history. However what sets this generation apart is the astonishing reach and omnipresence of media imagery. It saturates every avenue of our lives, bombarding us daily until our ability to think critically has all but evaporated.
It's a good bet that the next fashion picture you see will have been substantially altered. It's a piece of digital art - not a real person.