This dissertation was conducted, in order to ethically analyse the use of fashion media, identifying potential and current effects it has on female adolescents, further this dissertation shall evaluate whether fashion media decreases body dissatisfaction. The role of the Fashion industry in increasing body dissatisfaction amongst females has long been a subject of debate, with research strongly suggesting that the portrayal of feminine ideals sets unrealistic and unattainable expectations for a large proportion of females, exposing them to images which has been digitally manipulated in order to achieve the ideal look. Additionally, social media usage has too been a huge phenomenon in which researchers have found there to be a true correlation between social media usage and increased dissatisfaction levels, implying social media to be an excessive influencer for body image concerns. Both primary and secondary findings have identified a need for significant change within the industry, resulting in altering the way feminine ideals are portrayed; this could be achieved through using a more diverse range of models; which further could eliminate set ideals for female beauty. The use of feminine ideals and ‘skinny’ models in fashion media has been considered within this dissertation, to be damaging to a female adolescents body image reflections, increasing body dissatisfaction. Further creating major discrepancies between fashions portrayal of feminine ideals and societies, allowing for increased levels of appearance comparisons.
In 2004, Dove conducted a pioneering study, allowing for an in-depth understanding into the beauty and well-being of women, as they believed the “idea of beauty was neither authentic nor attainable” (Etcoff. et al, 2004). They concluded that two thirds of their participants believed women are pressured into enhancing their physically appearance because of societies perception. Further, participants agreed that media sets unrealistic standards of upon women regarding beauty, stating that “images of women in the media are manipulated so dramatically these days that it can feel like beauty is less and less attainable” (Dove, 2014). Similarly, Girl Guiding (2012) conducted a study solely focusing on adolescent females, establishing whether media impacted upon their body image and further their satisfaction levels. It was established that 66% of respondents felt media’s portrayal of feminine ideals was a crucial influencer as to why young girls partake in dieting, likewise, Pretty as a Picture (2014) further stated how she experienced increased pressure to lose weight and change her physical appearance having viewed fashion images on media platforms. Further, NASW (National Association of Social Workers) states that one’s physical appearance is a key part of their self-esteem, additionally saying that low self-esteem has the potential to generate negative feelings which could result in a higher prevalence of depression and eating disorders (NASW, 2001).
Body image has been a widespread preoccupation for many years; with numerous reports concluding that countless individuals are experiencing body dissatisfaction (Franklin, 2007), however the shift of feminine ideals has changed considerably. Our ancestors believed prior to the 19th century that the ideal body type was one that was curvaceous, further stating it defined an individual’s class and wealth (Swami, 2016). Nevertheless, this image soon changed, and with the denigration of overweight women in 1990, this body shape was stereotyped as “unintelligent, greedy and unable to form romantic attachments” and by the mid 1990’s the feminine beauty ideal has become “synonymous with the thin ideal, which has remained at clinically underweight levels” (Swami, 2016).
In recent times, the fashion industry has experienced increased criticism regarding their usage of models and advertisement techniques, as many studies have concluded there to be a true correlation between media exposure and increased body dissatisfaction. Mary-Signe Chojnacki (2011) reported within her study, that fashion magazines “sell” body dissatisfaction to consumers, providing them with unrealistic images of women, further stating that beauty ideals, because of fashion media, has continuously got ‘smaller and thinner’, resulting in the increase of body dissatisfaction. Moreover, she states that fashion media displays happiness with thinness, thus suggesting women must replicate this image or in order to be content, which further generates emotionally unhealthy thoughts as women are being encouraged to attain an “unrealistic body shape and size” (Chojnacki, 2011).
Identifying the fashion industry as a key influencer for body dissatisfaction, Caroline Noakes MP (2015) created a campaign with the intent of banning catwalk models with for BMI of under 18. Similarly, a visual campaign created by Yves Saint Laurent was forbidden by Advertising Standards of Authority, deeming the images “irresponsible to their consumers”, suggesting a need for change. Moreover, Rivkie Baum (2015) stated that:
If fashion the industry demonstrated to young girls that fashion and the media accepts different bodies, it will ultimately play a huge part in re-educating young women about the relationship they can form with themselves, whilst increasing body confident.
Whilst fashion brands are increasingly becoming more aware of their environmental and corporate responsibilities (Barnes, 2011), it became apparent to the author that the fashion industry lacks knowledge and understanding surrounding the importance of their social responsibility to female adolescents is in regards to portraying positive body image and empowering diversity.
Despite their being much negative press surrounding the use of “underweight, unrealistic models” and further research establishing a relationship between social media exposure and body dissatisfaction, the fashion industry has not changed the way in which they promote and engage through media platforms. The author feels this is due to their being minimal research exhibiting a correlation between fashion and body dissatisfaction, therefore this dissertation seeks to explore the specific role fashion media plays in increasing body dissatisfaction.
Research Aim and Objectives
This research study aims to look at fashion media as a crucial influencer for body dissatisfaction in female adolescents, it identifies fashion media as a crucial platform for the implementation of the ideal body image; increasing body dissatisfaction. In order to achieve this, the following objectives have been created:
- To investigate the relationship between body dissatisfaction and fashion media; identifying current effects it has amongst female adolescents.
- To consider additional contributing factors which further have the potential of increasing body dissatisfaction in young girls, furthermore exploring current trends which too may increase dissatisfaction levels amongst female adolescents.
- Analyse how the fashion industry utilises media platforms; further establishing the extent to which social media acts as an influencer for body dissatisfaction.
- To make recommendations for the fashion industry, seeking to reduce body
dissatisfaction in female adolescents, and further having the potential to be incorporated into their corporate social responsibility strategy allowing for the minimization of feminine ideals.
Research Scope and Limitations
Due to body dissatisfaction being a research phenomenon (Bearman, 2006), there are many avenues in which this study could have taken, further, according to Indi Young (2017) numerous different scopes can be explored at any one time. Nevertheless, due to the dissertation time constraints and word count it was necessary that only one specific scope was adopted. Although this research study seeks to establish the correlation between fashion media and body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents, due to ethical restrictions, females under the age of eighteen were unable to participate thus meaning the primary research gathered shall be from participants aged eighteen or above, backtracking to their adolescent period. It must be noted that the author is aware this does not give a true representation of fashions influence towards female adolescents and this has been taken into consideration when concluding the study.
The main recipients for this study shall be fashion marketing and advertising professionals, as this study aims to provide them with evidence and thorough research identifying fashion media as a significant influencer for the rising levels of body dissatisfaction in female adolescents. Furthermore, encouraging them to re-evaluate their current corporate social responsibly strategy, allowing for the portrayal of feminine ideals to be taken into consideration and for a new social strategy to be created focusing on maintaining a healthy body image for young impressionable females. Additionally, this study shall also benefit females and to some extent males, who experience body dissatisfaction allowing them to identify possible triggers.
The research within this dissertation has taken a deductive approach as there is much existing research and theories surrounding the subject. Using a deductive approach allows the author to explore the known phenomenon which is that fashion media effects how female adolescences perceive their body image, thus increasing body dissatisfaction. A mixed method approach has been used throughout this dissertation, more precisely allowing for triangulation of both qualitative and quantitative research methods increasing the reliability and validity of the results (Lawrence, 2013). Research further conforms and complies with Nottingham Trent Universities ethical criteria.
The debate surrounding body image and media exposure is a phenomenon many have previously researched, thus forming a strong foundation and understanding of the research topic. As this dissertation explores numerous background subjects, a thorough critical evaluation of the literature has been undertaken.
2.2 Primary Research
2.2.1 Focus Group
Two separate focus groups were conducted for this study which allowed for a greater understanding into whether individuals felt dissatisfied about their own physical appearance after seeing images on fashion media platforms. Additionally, thoughts and attitudes regarding fashion medias portrayal of body ideals where established, thus providing the author with research stating whether consumers feel fashion media to be damaging towards young girls. Both focus groups consisted of four participants however one group consisted of males and the other females; the use of male participants in a female study allowed the author to explore different outlooks and attitudes as it was noted by Stice (2013) that set genders have the potentials to interpret and evaluate things differently, further, all participants were between the ages of 18-27.
Each focus group consisted of two stages; the first stage was an image assessment in which participants would talk about their feelings towards the images. The second stage of the focus group consisted of open ended questions surrounding fashion media’s portrayal of body image, encouraging respondents to discuss their views as well as personal experiences.
Interviews with experts where conducted between December and March providing credible, in-depth opinions from industry. The interviews took a semi-structured format allowing for “the researchers to develop a keen understanding of the topic of interest allowing for variation” (Johnson, 2008). Additional time was taken to reduce the bias of the questions as much as possible; requiring the questions to be pre-tested.
2.2.3 Case Studies
Case studies have been used where appropriate within this dissertation as they allow for “the most flexibility of all research designs, allowing the researcher to retain the holistic characteristics of real-life events” (Shell, 2002). Furthermore, they have allowed the author to comprehensively analyse factors solely relating to their involvement of body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents.
Female Adolescents and Body Image
A study conducted by the National Institute of Media reported that 78% of female adolescents were unhappy with their physical appearance, likewise, a further study conducted by The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that 40% of females aged between 9 and 10 had already experimented with diets displaying a desire to change one’s appearance, furthermore it was discovered that 85% of teenage girls are insecure about their looks (Kamberg, 2013); thus displaying a negative body image. During a female’s adolescent period, many individuals lack confidence, which further has the potential to create a distorted image of themselves (Lesley De Meza, 2007). Whilst it is known that everyone experiences insecurities surrounding their own bodies at one stage within their life, when these thoughts no longer become a passing concern, is when individuals begin to suffer from negative body image (Willett, 2007) which can further lead to them believing “all experiences in life are affected by their appearance and body weight”. The idea of a ‘perfect body’ has changed considerably over the years, however “a general preference for a thin body shape has become established as the norm” (Wykes & Gunter, 2005) which ultimately has resulted feminine ideals.
Negative body image is can cause detrimental issue for female adolescents, with MP Caroline Nokes stating that a change within fashion needs to be implemented, as the growing concerns for females body image is increasing, additionally stating that society needs to provide adolescents with the tools to be able to escape these ‘perfect body ideals’ (Nokes, 2014). Furthermore, it is thought that we live in a world where “we are obsessed with women’s bodies and are constantly bombarded with images of them” (Bates, 2014), nevertheless, despite all this image exposure, it was stated that we only view one specific body type “young, thin, white, toned, large-breasted, long-legged, non-disabled body”, presenting how the fashion industry displays only one specific feminine ideal.
Additionally, Bates (2014) further explains how:
Funnily enough, that’s not what most women’s bodies look like. But the airbrushed media ideal is so powerful and so omnipresent that women find themselves comparing their own bodies to it anyway, and finding themselves wanting.
Due to these images are unattainable, having been ‘airbrushed and digitally manipulated’, it was reported that 1 in 5 young girls suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Further stating that the respondents were unhappy with their body image, demonstrating the severity a negative body image can have on female adolescent’s health. The survey, conducted by BLISS magazine (2009), further concluded that 7 in 10 girls would be ‘happier’ about their appearance if they lost weight, also stating that a quarter of respondents would consider getting cosmetic surgery.
Cosmetically Enhancing Procedures
It is thought that cosmetic surgery began as an American phenomenon due to individuals wanting to achieve the Beverly Hills vision, this phenomenon arose into the UK in 1915, however at that time it was thought that plastic surgery was used for medical purposes and not self-gratification (Wallop, 2015). In 2015, women accounted for 91% of all cosmetic procedures with an overall growth of 12.5% in the last year (N.A, 2015), this growth has been heavily encouraged through social media, allowing for “multitude of advertisements” allowing cosmetic surgery to be socially accepted in today’s society, further it was reported that 62% of young girls aged between 7 and 16 felt pressured via media related platforms, stating they experienced the need to look like celebrities and models in order to accept themselves as “normal” (Martinson, 2014).
Individuals get cosmetic surgery for many different reasons, but in recent years, the service has been heavily utilised for people trying to achieve the ‘perfect body’ (Anon, 2016). According to plastic surgeon and Baaps council member, Ash Mosahebi (2011), the prime reason for people wanting to achieve this body image is due to the increased pressure from social media to look good; encouraging people to take pictures of themselves as well as viewing images of others. Additionally, a study conducted by Diana Zuckerman (2008) found that female adolescents are further being influenced by subcultural influences such as the Barbie doll, likewise, she also found that viewing more images of women who are “curvaceously thin” significantly increases the desire for female adolescent to get cosmetic surgery. Moreover, it was further reported that female adolescents who experienced body image concerns and further felt they wanted to change their physical appearance felt more content with their bodies when approaching the end of their adolescent period (Zuckerman, 2008), thus implying that girls are more impressionable as they are younger, therefore what they see has the potential to increase their body satisfaction, further it suggest that as they succumb this stage, the pressure to look a certain way decreases.
Similarly, John Maltby (2010) conducted a study in America in order to establish whether celebrities influenced a person desire to have cosmetic surgery, it was established that there was a clear correlation between the two, demonstrating that “celebrity worship is related to a willingness to have cosmetic surgery”. Celebrity endorsement is a successful marketing tool used in advertising, allowing brands to further engage with their consumers, however as the previous study concluded, using celebrities which consumers idealise has the potential to increase one’s desire to change their appearance, and linking back to Zuckerman (2008), this desire is more apparent throughout a person adolescent years.
Barbie is a cultural icon of female beauty that provides an aspirational role model for young girls.(Pedersen 2008)
In 1959, the first Barbie doll was created, which soon became a huge phenomenon amongst young girls. The doll represented a teenage fashion doll, which at the time reciprocated the look of many iconic figures such as Marylyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Moving with the times, the Barbie changed significantly, from once having short sophisticated curly hair, to long crimped haired signifying the year of the women and girl power. Now the doll displays “a natural makeup look, a more athletic physique, a bendable, flexible waist with her first belly button” (Barbie, N.D).
Due to its admiration, many young girls now aspire to look like Barbie, which according to Helen Dittmar et al (2006) is not only unattainable but extremely unhealthy as the Barbie doll is “so exceptionally thin”. Additionally, Helen Ditmar et al (2006) conducted an exposure experiment to establish the psychological impact Barbie has on young girls, which consisted of using not only the Barbie doll but the Emme doll, which portrays a more realistic proportioned figure (Diep, 2016) and promotes a positive body image for girls as well as being endorsed by the American Dietetic Association. From the study, a strong correlation was established, which displayed the extent to which young girls desire thinness. Additionally, it was concluded that the Emme also created negative effects as it was reported that the increased discrepancy between the ideal body size and actual body size meant the participants desired extreme thinness when grown up after seeing Emme’s fuller body. Furthermore, according to Circe of Mum Editors (2011), Parents are reluctant to allow their children to play with the doll as they believe the Barbie doll is inappropriate for a young girl to play with, further they said “it teaches young girls to have unrealistic expectations of their own bodies. When they are older, they may have low self-esteem because of it” (The Barbie Effect: Is Barbie Good or Bad for Young Girls? 2011).
Dissimilar, Jones (2013) defends the Barbie doll, saying that she doesn’t believe a young child playing with the doll is interested with the body size, and that Barbie has allowed children to believe they can achieve anything they want to in life. Although it can be argued that Barbie is just a plastic toy and holds no responsibility for body dissatisfaction in female adolescences, Barbie is a girl’s best friend. From the moment a young child receives the doll, she becomes a “stylist, a mentor and even a role model” (Brainwashed by Barbie. What a Doll! 2013). The Barbie doll, in real size, would stand at 5.9ft and weigh 110 pounds, furthermore “her fat percentage would be so low, that she would not be able to menstruate, or live a healthy life” thus displaying an unattainable figure.
If Barbie were a real woman her neck would be twice as long as and six inches thinner than the average female. She wouldn’t be able to lift her own head! Barbie’s waist would be 16-inches in circumference (smaller than her head) and it means her body would only have room for half a liver and a few inches of intestines.(Penn State University, 2012)
Amongst the brand name ‘Barbie’, there are many different types of dolls for different occasions and themes. In 1960, a new doll was created which introduced a new design called “Slumber Party Barbie” (Behrhorst, 2014), this Barbie came inclusive of her own scales which only weighed up to 110 pounds, and furthermore she came with her very own diet book as well as a sign saying “how to lose weight”. Kids as young as 5 are extremely impressionable, therefore providing them with toys like the “Slumber Party Barbie” has the the potential to convince the consumer that the body shape of Barbie is not slim enough and therefore should consider dieting, despite her current figure being unachievable without going undergoing cosmetic surgery (Olya, 2014).
Through a complex interaction between psychological and social factors we develop and maintain our own body image. For some of us, the body becomes a source of great dissatisfaction. We internalize the idea that we can only feel good about ourselves if we meet some ideal standard of perfection – we are only acceptable as people if we look a certain way.(Anon, Body Image and Social Influence, N.D)
Body dissatisfaction is something all young girls experience during their life at one time or another, and can be defined as having negative thoughts towards their own body which further includes judgements around “size, shape, muscle tone and generally involves a discrepancy between one’s own body type and an ideal body type” (Grogan, 2008). During their teenage years, girls are considered most impressionable, meaning that they are easily led and influenced by certain factors, which in this case is fashion media. Furthermore, Smolak et al 2009 states that during the pre-adolescent and adolescent years; perceptual, developmental and attitudinal importance is greater with “body dissatisfaction and body image distortion considered two of the most stable dimensions of the body image construct” (Smolak and Thompson 2009; Tremblay and Limbos 2009). By comparing one’s self to others, has the potential to lead to low self-esteem and poor body image reflections which, at this period within their lives is considered unsafe, having the capabilities of leading onto further health issues such as depression and anorexia.
A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that 88% of female adolescent’s experience anxiety regarding their body image, further going on to say that they “worry a lot about their appearance”. Additionally, it was also concluded that of the 88%, 40% of participants stated they had already partaken in dieting before the age of 10, hoping to lose weight (Kamberg, 2013). Worryingly, it is thought that these figures have increased over the years with the growth of fashion and technological trends, allowing for the younger generation to have regular access to media platforms, exposing them to “ultra-thin figures of women” (Presnell, 2007) which according to Eating Disorder Hope 2016, is “troublesome, considering the fact that children do not yet have the developed thought processes to differentiate between what is real and what is false”.
However, it must be noted that males too experience body dissatisfaction, there was a time when media portrayed male physiques as being slender and taught, however now it can be seen that these figures have shifted to a much more muscular physique, increasing negativity to be obtained towards consumers own body image. Conversely, Grovel et al (2003) reported that whilst body dissatisfaction is apparent in both genders, females place more pressure on themselves to lose weight or look a certain way, thus increasing the risk of eating disorders and severe body image concerns. Furthermore, he stated that the reason females are experiencing more body dissatisfaction compared to males was due to societies rejection of having slightly heavier models, suggesting “a greater pressure for thinness and a narrower acceptability among females”. Similarly, Jagel 2013 reported that 56% of females are unhappy with their physical appearance further stating that “women think that the media is more influential than their family on how they feel about their bodies” (Jagel, 2013). In addition, it was found that women who are less content with their own body image are often drawn to the bodies of women who are thin, indicating a desire for thinness (Joseph & Shiffrar, 2011).
Whilst it is thought that media is the biggest contributor for body dissatisfaction (Presnell 2007), it is not the only influencing factor, as friends and family are further reported to be just as significant. According to Neumark-Sztainer et al (2010) both “explicit weight related conversations and implicit parental modelling may have adverse effects on adolescents”, demonstrating that negative communication in regards to body image has the potential to subconsciously increase body dissatisfaction. Furthermore, it was found that female adolescence’s now engage in “fat-talk” with their peers which according to Curtis (2014) is a social phenomenon in which girls talk about their own bodies negatively; Curtis (2014) further states that talking positively about one’s body is a thing of the past as body shaming in the new “norm”. Participating in such conversations increases body dissatisfaction (Salk & Engeln-Maddow, 2012), further it has the opportunity to create self-doubt amongst other peers, for example if a woman is considered healthy in terms of her BMI but complains she is fat to a peer of a similar size, this can cause the other person to then reflect on their body image and then consider themselves fat, when initially they didn’t perceive this to be true.
Although experiencing body dissatisfaction is a negative experience within one’s life, from past research it was found that experiencing body dissatisfaction has been a daily occurrence for many years and has further shown no signs of decreasing (Curtis, 2014). Moreover, whilst it can be recognised that body dissatisfaction does not necessarily relate to the whole body, it was concluded that “whatever the size, it is apparent the current body ideal, it not ideal”.
Childline are experiencing an increasing number of calls regarding low self-esteem and body image concerns, as the pressure for young girls to look good is rising. They reported that individuals are so fixated on society’s perception of beauty that they find it hard to establish any positive attributes they may have, further, it was established 65% of counselling sessions regarding body image take place during summer, when fashion brands launch their summer campaigns revealing slim models in revealing outfits (Alderson, 2014).
Girls, as young as eight, are calling the organisation with fears surrounding their appearance, additionally it was described that the young girls felt ‘fat and disgusting’ having compared themselves to images seen within the media, more over it was reported that some girls look for a stimulus to stop eating and lose weight which coincidentally means viewing images of “skinny” models.
It has been getting worse for a while now. There are so many pictures of perfect women on social media and I want to look like them. I just don’t feel like I can compete.(Child Line, 2016).
Social media has a detrimental psychological influence amongst its peers and the Childline annual report 2015/16 states that over the past year, there has been an 19% increase in counselling sessions relating to low self-esteem, placing it the primary concern for why female adolescences contact Childline. Whilst it cannot be verified that low self-esteem issues are related to media exposure due to it being bought on by an array of factors, the charity expressed in their 2014 annual report that 6% of the contacts said their low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction arose from media pressures through social media, the growing celebrity culture and the increasing amount of anorexia websites. However, it must be stated that many adolescences contact Childline presenting comorbid symptoms, and with the function of only selecting one main issue at a time, the medical illness will always be reported as a first priority, therefore Childline acknowledge that there may be a higher percentage of contacts relating to body image.
Fashion Media Platforms
Fashion media is used primarily as a platform for engagement with consumers as well as allowing brands to achieve psychographics, which can be used within their marketing strategy. Fashion brands, through media, creates a consumer need and desire (Stewart, 2015), and in 2011 PR Smith created the SOSTAC model, which identifies e-commerce and fashion media as a tactic for marketing.
According to Chaffey (2016), within ‘tactics’, E-campaigns and E-marketing is created, thus taping into consumer’s emotions. This is further back by Elias. St. Lewis’s AIDA theory which suggest that consumers go through a journey when purchasing (see figure 16), Ebenezer, 2014 states that “marketers use this model to attract customers to purchase a product”. For fashion marketers to create a truly successful campaign, they need to ensure they communicate with the consumers and provide them with something aspirational and desirable (Wedge, 2015). According to Joe Swinson (2011), this is where body comparisons as well as body dissatisfaction stems from, as media promotes fashion campaigns which “mostly all have thin, airbrushed models, which ultimately do not reflect the demographic on consumers”. Furthermore, she goes on to state that:
From smoothing skin and erasing wrinkles to enlarging muscles and slimming waists, airbrushing, or “photo shopping,” men and women to so-called perfection is the norm in advertising. These images don’t reflect reality, yet from a younger and younger age, people are aspiring to these biologically impossible ideals(Swinson, 2011)
Furthermore, Joe Swinson (2010) presented findings from a 172 recent studies regarding body dissatisfaction and fashion advertising to The Advertising Standings Authority, she reported that there was a strong correlation made throughout numerous studies stating that an increasing amount of adolescents who view pictures of “perfect bodies” are experiencing severe pressure, further, she reported one in four consumers were made to feel “depressed” regarding their own body image with an additional third of women saying “they would sacrifice a year of life to achieve the ideal body weight and shape portrayed to them via media”.
Furthermore, Swinson (2010) further reported that women perceive the worst part about being female is the pressure to look good, she states that women as encouraged to look a certain way in order to be accepted within society. This links in with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (1943), specifically the psychological needs segment.
In order to achieve complete fulfilment, the theory suggests that each segment within the pyramid must be achieved, specifically looking at the psychological needs sections, consumers needs to feel a social acceptance towards their body image, and as previously stated, as this cannot be achieved at present thus meaning complete fulfilment cannot be attained.
Using celebrity endorsements is the most widespread advertising technique (Leslie, 2011), celebrities are selected based on their likability and physical appearance, allowing for their characteristics to be reinforced within the brand.
According to Elias Dinas (2010), it is suggested that during your final years within your adolescent period, a person is most impressionable thus implying adults become more resistant to images portrayed to them via media. Furthermore, within this period, females create role models in which they look up to and aspire to be like, they begin to copy certain attributes and behaviours (Anon, 2012). Celebrity endorsement is a smart way for brands to tap into consumer’s emotions, creating a consumer desire to own a specific product, which again links with Lewis’s AIDA theory (figure 16), implying consumers need that celebrity endorsement to enrich their desire and help them complete the psychological process of purchasing the product.
Additionally, expanding of the AIDA model, McKinsey created the loyalty loop model which states that consumers needs an advocate for the brand, enhancing their need for purchases (Mayfield, 2012) (figure 12).
The below quotes demonstrate the power of celebrity endorsements, however it only addresses the purchase of products, it does not address the subconscious effect celebrity endorsement has on individual’s self-esteem (Johnson, 2009).
People idolize celebrities, so when famous people are seen in advertisements promoting a new product, audiences are prompted to buy that product, either subliminally or directly (Olenski, 2016)
According to the National Office of Statistics (2016), 82% of Great Britain access the internet daily, projecting a growth of 48% within the last 6 years. Furthermore 91% of internet users aged between 16-24 access the internet for social media, which coincidentally is the most effective platform for fashion brands (White, 2016), thus making it virtually impossible for female adolescences to escape the conceptual body image portray to them.
Whilst social media can be used to educate individuals, it can also portray “ideas about ideal body image” (Conway, 2013). Over time, body image has changed considerably, which inevitably meant altering societies perception of perfection, leading to claims that media images foster and rein-force a social acceptance in which “thinness is considered essential to beauty, especially for women” (Harrison, 2009).
In 2015, The Pew Research centre (PRC) conducted a study surrounding adolescences social media usage, it was stated that 92% of teenager’s use the internet daily, with 71% accessing more than one social media platform, additionally, according to Fardouly (2014), social media usage amongst female adolescences is “particularly popular, a demographic for which body dissatisfaction is also particularly problematic” (Fardouly, 2014), likewise Grogan (2007) conducted a study which concluded that whilst social media influences all ages, female adolescences are deemed most vulnerable when going through “physical and psychological changes of puberty” (Grogan, 2007).
Social media platforms encourage teenagers to upload photos of themselves, in order to seek out approval from their peers in the form of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’. Whilst it cannot be ascertained that social media causes body related issues such as dissatisfaction and self-objectification in female adolescents, psychologists have concluded that there is a strong association between them (Simmons, 2016), further Tiggeman and Slater (2014) discovered that compared to magazines and television exposure, internet usage was considered the most powerful platform. Similarly, research undertaken in the United States using female students for self-objectification showed that Facebook users place more value on their physical appearance than they do their competence, likewise did they make more appearance comparisons compared to those non-users (Meier & Gray, 2014).
It is a well-known fact that, film; televisions programmes; and magazines impact upon how individuals perceive their own body image, however over the past years due to the growth of social media it is now seen as a “toxic mirror” (Simmons, 2016) due to its visual platforms. Holland (2016), conducted a study in which to “review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes”, from this it evident that social media usages increased body image concerns, self-objectification and body surveillance.
Today, female Internet users can scroll through their Instagram news feed and look at “thinspirational” images of girls, or click through Pinterest to look for fashion, exercise, and diet tips, or even read the gossip site, TMZ, to learn about the new celebrity that gained – god forbid – ten pounds. (Klein, 2013)
The above quote demonstrates how widespread media is within today’s society, furthermore signifying that it may be virtually impossible to avoid digitally manipulated images as females regularly access the above platforms increasing engagement levels, exposing themselves to how “fashion has set the cultural standard of appearance” (Klein, 2013).
Dove Self Esteem Project: Case Study
Having recognised that with the growth of media, derived of growth of insecurities, Dove created their “Self-esteem Project”. Dove are passionate about restoring confidence amongst their consumers, as they believe that beauty is the source, and everybody is beautiful regardless of your age and physique, their mission is to ensure the next generations do not grow up engaging in negatives relationships or experiences due to being unsatisfied with their own body image.
According to The Dove Global Beauty and Confident Report (2016) 80% of young girls are concerned with their appearance and feel that because of this they are holding back from taking part in certain activities, further, they go onto state that 70% feel ‘embarrassed’ to seek doctor’s advice regarding their insecurities, thus potentially “putting their own health at risk” (Dove, 2016). Additionally, the company further recognised that media consumption is no longer optional for young consumers, rather an “unquestioned reality”, showering consumers with “up to 5,000 digitally enhanced images a week” which they believed led individuals to lacking body confidence.
Accessing how they could tackle the issue, Dove created their “Be Real” campaign which they describe as a national movement, one that focuses of three critical areas of improving body confidence and promoting a positive body image: real education, real diversity and real health, furthermore through re-education, they said that they wanted help peers “put health above appearance”. Moreover, the core aim of the campaign was to reach out to the advertising industry in relation to fashion and music, and plead them to use/show more realistic and diverse models as they further found in their Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report (2016) that “74% of women and 67% of girls within the UK think media and advertising sets an unrealistic standard of beauty most women can never achieve”.
Following on from the success of the “Be Real” campaign, Dove created a commercial called “evolution” showcasing how companies use digitally enhancing software’s to make the image seem more appealing. This 60 second commercial provided awareness regarding digital manipulation and further allows consumers to see how all of this has the potential to distort perceptions of beautiful women.
According to Louise Miles (2016) this advert was proven to enhance positivity amongst young girls when looking and talking about their own body, additionally this commercial has been used for studies indicating whether or not music videos effects appearance satisfaction levels.
In summary, Dove created consumer awareness for certain factors within advertising, which have been overlooked and disregarded as having an impact upon an individual’s perception of body image. It has allowed its audience to comprehend that what is shown in media, is not the essence beauty, these images have been digitally manipulated numerous times in order to achieve what industries feel are feminine ideals.
There are many social media platforms in which female adolescences can access, however in recent times Instagram has taken over the leading platform, Facebook, for being the chief marketing tool (Stewart, 2015), and according to Blake (2014), Instagram “has the potential to change the world”. In 2006, Instagram was launched and since then has gained more than 40 billion users with 68% of users being female (Aslam, 2017). Furthermore, a fashion blogger reported that on average an Instagram consumer would spend at least 21 minutes a day browsing through photos and videos, with the demographic of these users predominantly aged between 16-24 (Moth, 2015).
Instagram allows individuals to upload photos which seek ‘likes’ from others, ominously it is thought that this can cause insecurities regarding one’s self if you do no achieve the desired amount of ‘likes’ (Wagner, 2016). Furthermore, female adolescents who spend more time on Instagram appraising images of fashion models, found through a psychological study, are said to “feel worse about their own bodies”, they also become more self-objectified and are “habitually monitoring their own appearance” (Calogero, et al., 2011). Further, individuals who view “attractive images” on social media are found to experience more body dissatisfaction when comparing their own body image, assuming they are “less attractive than the images they see” (Fardouly, 2016).
Additionally, Fardouly conducted a study in 2016 in which female students, 150 to be exact, took part in online survey five times a day for five days a week. The participants reported through the survey whether they had made appearance comparisons between themselves and others, through the use of Instagram and person to person interaction. Further stating, that if they had made these comparisons, what it was that they thought i.e. the other person looked better. It was concluded that the participants made the most significant amount of comparisons through Instagram which is thought to be because of “women selectively posting the most attractive images of themselves and enhancing those images to look like images in magazines, which are routinely edited” (Fardouly, 2016) thus deeming viewing images through this platform the most harmful.
Many fashion retailers have now adopted Instagram and utilised it as a platform in which to promote their products and campaigns, which according to Hannah Stacey (2016) is “both the best friend and work enemy of fashion marketers”. This is due to Instagram having a no link policy which means retailers are unable to directly supply their website address within their Instagram account, thus meaning their promoting of products is limited. This can be seen within the AIDA marketing model which states that in order to achieve effective communication four stages must be completed (Boundless, 2015). Unfortunately, through Instagram the final stage of the model is unachievable due the no link policy (see figure 16).
Relating back to the AIDA model, focusing on the desire element, fashion retailers are able to tap into their consumer’s emotions, creating a desire for certain products and enticing a sale. By using celebrities and bloggers it creates value and is able to attract a wider audience to the brand, however this is where significant body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents is formed (Davies, 2017), as brands display feminine ideals to their consumers which are “unrealistic and hard to achieve”.
Victoria’s Secret Instagram: Case Study
Victoria’s Secret is a premium lingerie brands established in 1977 by its founder Roy Raymond. Since its launch, Victoria’s Secret have created numerous successful campaigns and products enticing new and old customers. They are present amongst all social media platforms, thus naming themselves the ‘winner’ (O’Brien, 2015). On Instagram alone, Victoria Secrets has 51.4 million followers projecting a growth of 58% since 2016 (Instagram, 2017), however it is thought that this growth is due to the contents of the site, not the popularity of the products available.
Victoria’s Secret frequently upload photos of models (also known as The Victoria’s Secret Angels) wearing the company’s lingerie collection, however these models display no attempt of diversity as they all display “tall, ultra-lean, busty physiques”. (Elphick, 2016)
For a company that has built its fortune from hoisting up breasts and covering derrieres, Victoria’s Secret seems to not be very keen on the actual bodies of the majority of women. Their distorted body image is embedded deep within the brand’s very DNA starting with their number one marketing weapon – the Victoria’s Secret Angels. (Elphick, 2016)
In 2016, Victoria’s Secret created their “Perfect Body Campaign” which caused misery amongst their consumers, as the company suggested a clear feminine ideal which further implied that consumers who didn’t represent that particular body image where “imperfect”.
In response to this campaign, Change.org created an online petition requesting for the company’s campaign to be changed or taken down, as they stated that women are continuously faced with advertisements from fashion companies increasing insecurities and body dissatisfaction, further saying that Victoria’s Secret lured their consumers in with false hope. The petition detailed that:
All this does is perpetuate low self-esteem among women who are made to feel that their bodies are inadequate and unattractive because they do not fit into a narrow standard of beauty. It contributes to a culture that encourages serious health problems such as negative body image and eating disorders. (Bahadur, 2014)
As a result of the petition, and many other factors, Victoria’s Secret were forced to change their campaign (see figure 18).
As well as posting on social media and creating controversial campaigns, Victoria’s Secret arrange an annual catwalk show, displaying their upcoming collections and consisting of 51 of the world’s top models (Holt, 2016). Their last show which aired in November 2016, was watched by over 6.7 million people across the world, with the average age of the viewers being 18-25 years old.
During the show, many individuals occupy themselves with Victoria’s Secret Instagram profile, demonstrating an outstanding engagement rating, which can be seen considerably higher than any other month within the year. Additionally, during the show the company receives its highest amount of likes and comments (see figure 19), displaying the popularity of the show.
Whilst it cannot be determined whether this popularity is due to negative or positive factors the show presents, it was found that some on lookers felt unsatisfied with their own body image, with one fashion Blogger saying “RIP self-esteem” (Wilson, 2013), further she explained how the show portrayed unrealistic expectations for young impressionable girls watching the show, saying “the show has a horrific effect on the self-image of young women”. Similarly, Granja-Sierra (2013) alleged that the show allows females to questions their own appearance, and ponder on the thought… “What is perfect?”
Similarly, to Instagram, Facebook has been adopted by numerous fashion brands allowing themselves to further communicate with their consumers and thus adding a personal element to the shopping experience (Indvik, 2011), furthermore Facebook is primarily used for increasing engagement levels appose to increasing profit. Facebook has 1.89 billion users worldwide, displaying an increase of 17% within the last year, moreover, 76% of Facebook consumers are female and upload up to 300 million photos a day (Zephoria, 2017).
Whilst it cannot be determined if the tool is used for positive experiences, it is thought that many young girls use Facebook as a tool for measuring their own self-worth through comments and likes on their profiles (Wedge, 2016). In order to establish whether Facebook holds any responsibility for young girls experiencing body dissatisfaction, a study conducted by Petya Eckler (2014) examined whether there was a true correction between the times spend of the social media platform and body images concerns. The participants were female school students, as it was perceived that this age range “are under increased pressure to look a certain way, and for their bodies to have a certain shape” (Eckler, 2014). It was concluded that “the more time a woman spends on Facebook, the more likely she is to dislike her appearance” (Blaszczak-Boxe & Writer, 2014), further going on to say that Facebook influenced how females viewed their own bodies as well as increasing appearance comparisons amongst peers, additionally Blaszckak-Boxe (2014) said:
The more time women spent on Facebook, they more likely they were to say that they paid a lot of attention to their physical appearance. Women who spent more time were also more likely to say they felt negative after seeing someone else’s photos
This quote demonstrates how Facebook is a probable cause for body dissatisfaction due its contents, allowing individuals to upload selected, and in some cases manipulated images. Relatedly, a further study, again using female students, found that girls who have more interaction with Facebook experienced more self-objectification (Diedrichs, 2015).
Whilst it is thought that with the growth of Instagram, Facebook statistics decreased, it was reported by Speir (2015) that Facebook is “alive and well”. This is due to Facebook having the advantage of providing consumers with real-time information, further, it allows for a greater platform for discussion.
Through Facebook, fashion brands are able to promote new campaigns and products and further displays any upcoming events or information regarding their company (Wallis, 2015), which according to (Johnson, 2017), this is the segment where consumers experience the most body dissatisfaction. For fashion brands to create and promote a successful campaign it is thought that ‘attractive’ models are essential, therefore by uploading images which portray ‘perfect figures’ to private media platforms has the potential to damage consumers body confidence (Stice, 2013). Furthermore, Facebook allows suggested brands to be promoted, along with images, which are assumed that the consumers want, according to Jordan (2014) this is just one example of how the younger generation cannot escape body ideals as she states that “consumers do not even ask to view these images, we do not get a choice anymore, they just appear”.
Additionally, a study conducted by Samantha Stronge (2015) found that teenage girls who viewed fashion images on Facebook compared to magazines and television adverts experienced more body dissatisfaction as it allowed for “unprecedented appearance-based social comparisons to be made”.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Media literature means the critical review of media platforms thus understanding what is displayed may have been digitally manipulated, and further includes:
An understanding about how friends, peers and celebrities use social media. It is also about understanding the fact that people carefully select or modify images of themselves to present the best picture of themselves and their world. (Paxton, 2016)
When individuals take a critical approach to fashion media, it means body dissatisfaction is unlikely to occur (Paxton, 2016), additionally, critically analysing media decreases the chance of appearance comparisons, “which they then interpret in a negative way”. It is thought that enhancing media literature throughout fashion marketing campaigns will be sufficient enough to reduce body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents. This can be linked with a retailer’s corporate social responsibility, as it has been found that there are “many publicized controversies concerning how corporations shape a young girl’s perceptions of themselves” (Dias, 2013). A retailers Corporate Social Responsibility, according to Business Dictionary (2014) is a “companies’ responsibility towards the community and environment in which it operates”. Whilst consumers tend to relate CSR to environmental factors, retailers should adapt a body conscious strategy in which they use a more diverse range of models for their products and campaigns (Williams, 2016). Additionally, according to Chelsea Dias (2013) fashion brands do not take enough responsibility when portraying positive body images, which was something The Dove Real Campaign strived upon, stating that displaying positive body image can and should be included in retailers CSR strategy, which they further displayed within their digital campaign emphasizing how retailers have a responsibility to ensure younger generations do not grow up with body dissatisfaction because of fashion media.
Contrariwise, fashion media’s portrayal of the ‘ideal body image” is a contemporary issue implying that trends within society have the capabilities to affect corporate responsibilities.
Additionally, Kotler et al (2008), states that societal marketing concepts must balance three factors in order to deliver value, whilst maintaining and improving consumer and society’s well-being. Implying there to be possible conflicts between the “consumer short-term wants and consumers long-run welfare”.
Furthermore, Kotler states that many organisations previously focussed solely on the short-run of company profit, however soon recognised that this focus needed to shift towards the long-run of consumer satisfaction; thus implementing the social marketing concept (figure 22), allowing for societies interests and beliefs to be taken into consideration when undertaking marketing decisions. Likewise, Blowfield et al (2008) identifies social responsibilities to be discretionary (see figure 23).
As figure 23 states, implementing a corporate social responsibility is optional and therefore means numerous fashion brands do not have one in place, however ASOS have successfully applied one to their practice (figure 24) which manages all aspects of their brand transparency.
Moreover, ASOS state within their customer promise, that providing positive body image is an important responsibility; saying “we want to use our influence among young fashion-lovers in a responsible way” (ASOS, 2017). They claim to do this by protecting the welfare of their models and promoting a “healthy, positive body image to our customers”. Likewise, within their strategy, ASOS has implemented a digital manipulation policy further stating that their internal guidelines permit them to only digital retouch images to ensure “the product in the image looks more like the real product, which usually involves aligning the colour more closely (ASOS, 2017), meaning the digital manipulation of models is prohibited.
Response and Reaction: Focus Group
Female Consumer Response and Reaction
For this study, a focus was divided into two sections, the first sections presented the participants with various media images used by fashion brands, displaying a variation of body shapes and sizes, allowing the participants to voice their thoughts on the images and further conclude whether they believed them to be positive or negative. Within the second section of the focus group, the author asked individual’s questions relating to fashion media and body dissatisfaction further creating a discussion amongst the group, allowing for similar/dissimilar ideas to be explored. Within the initially few questions, it became apparent that all participants felt fashion media influenced how young girls perceive their own body image with participant A stating that she felt “fashion media definitely effects young girls, probably in more ways than one, but yeah, I think it does influence how we perceive our own bodies” (Participant A, 2017).
The first image participants were shown, was Calvin Klein’s underwear campaign (see figure 26 and 27), respondents stated how they felt this image was one step closer to representing a realistic physique in which young girl could desire, without experience greater body dissatisfaction. This particular campaign consisted of two images, and it was reported that 75% of the respondents believed the first image represented realism due to the models skin being loose; thus not being toned torso, “which is something I consider all models to have within today’s society” (Participant B, 2017). Also, respondents explained that whilst they perceived the first image to be more ‘genuine’, the second image exhibited the models curves which allowed them to engage further with the product, suggesting that in order for fashion brands to secure consumer loyalty and interest they need to use models which depressant diversity, allowing consumers to connect and visualise themselves in the products.
Unfortunately, the respect and positivity Calvin Klein gained from this picture from participants was short lived as they were made aware that this image was actually released stating the model was ‘plus size’.
That has to be a joke, plus size? She’s like a size 10, what is wrong with the world. It’s scary to think that if she’s a size 10, what am I? (Participant A, 2017)
I’m speechless, I cannot believe she is a plus size model, my confidence has dropped from seeing that picture alone (Participant C, 2017)
After discovering that the models used within the campaign was considered to be plus size, respondent’s attitude towards the brand completely changed, explaining how they felt saddened by the thought of themselves being considered plus size. Moreover, 100% of the respondents believed the fashion industry, with this campaign would inevitably create body dissatisfaction in young girls, stating:
If I was a young girl and I saw an image of a perfectly proportion women being categorised at plus size, I would 100% feel rubbish about myself, it would make me want to lose weight to ensure I too am not plus size” (Participant C, 2017)
Concluding that all participants felt distressed upon viewing the image, once made aware of the plus size label demonstrating that fashion media does have to potential to decrease body confidence, further allowing for insecurities to be established.
Moreover, participants where shown a further image from a Simply Be campaign using model Iskra Lawrence. Participants reported that this image represented a “young happy women who doesn’t feel ashamed about her body, despite the fact she is also considered plus size” (Participant D, 2017). Further stating they would wish to see more women like Iskra within fashion, believing it represent empowerment and body diversity:
I love this image, it shows that despite your size, you can be confident in your own skin. That is what fashion is missing, it needs to reinforce this message instead of damaging it. (Participant C, 2017)
Likewise, when asked what they perceive to be damaging about fashion media participant C said that she felt fashion media had created a feminine ideal which became so unrealistic and unattainable it triggered body dissatisfaction amongst its peers. Further trying to establish if participants felt this effected female adolescent’s perception of their own body image, they were asked if they had experience anybody dissatisfaction from fashion media when there were young, specifically throughout their adolescent years, thus discovery:
My insecurities at one point became so bad I had to seek medical help, obviously I cannot blame this all on fashion but it was certainly a contributing factor.
(Participant A, 2017)
When asked to explain, participant A stated that she felt pressure from a lot of other factors such a friends and family which also bought about her body insecurities. Whilst she did address that fashion media played a small part, it could be suggested that as the participant’s confidence was decreasing, factors such as fashion were able to further damage body confidence, identifying friends and family as the main influencer and fashion media as a sub influencer. Likewise, participant A also reported that she too felt pressured by fashion to look a certain way at one point in her life, however feels that as she got older, the pressured decreased and now feels she is able to differentiate between what is real and what is digitally manipulated, implying that girls are extremely impressionable throughout their adolescent period and they are influence by what they see, thus meaning fashion media has the potential to decrease body dissatisfaction.
Moreover, all four participants believed that whilst they feel the use of ‘bigger’ models should be adopted, where appropriate, by fashion brands, using a diverse range of models within the same campaign would eliminate the ideal of feminine ideals, which according to participant D is “extremely damaging for a young girl, assuming that only one body shape it ok and accepted”.
Nevertheless, it was further stated that whilst all participants wanted to see ‘larger’ models being used, respondents felt this too could have a negative effect on young girls, stipulating that fashion could be representing these models as healthy, which for a society where obesity is increasing and becoming progressively dangerous (Bennett, 2011), it is not tolerable.
Male Response and Reaction to Female Images
For the purpose of this study, male participants were used in order to gain further understating into whether fashion media increases body dissatisfaction, similar to the previous focus group participants where shown images uploaded onto fashion media platforms, where participants could then describe what the image meant to them and whether or not they feel this has the potential to increase body dissatisfaction. According to Stice (2013) understanding body dissatisfaction for all aspects is a vital factor when gathering information, suggesting that set genders has the potential to interpret and evaluate things similarly thus by using male participants the author has address this issue.
Having shown all participants image 28, the author found that most participants felt this image was relatively “harmless” when considering body dissatisfaction, participant A said that they felt this image did not make him consider it to be digitally manipulated as this physique is one that many can achieve. Moreover, participant C empathised with why young girls obtain insecurities from such images, stating that “yes it is achievable, but over what period of time, for how much money?”, demonstrating that whilst this body physique is achievable, it is still not a body image that many young girls obtain as fashion models are under strict diet and gym regimes in order to stay slim and present such slender, toned physiques (Participant A, 2010).
In addition, participants where shown a further 2 images from different retailers, all displaying a similar physique however some wearing less clothes than others.
Whist each image displayed very similar characteristics, there effects on consumers were extremely different. Participant B explained how he believed image 29 to be the least contributing in terms of increasing body dissatisfaction, whereas image 30 he considered to be the most influencing.
Also, participant D explained that whilst he understood how these images could lead to body insecurities, he did not portray them to be damaging and believes it depends entirely upon the individual viewing them, dissimilar to this participant C believed all images shown did not show a true representation of female body image and further went on to say:
like [participant A] said, I do believe it depends upon the individual and their confidence before they view these images, but I also think that these images do not represent majority of the women within the UK, yes it is a realistic figure, but it isn’t a figure that most people have, only few (Participant C, 2017)
Thus suggesting that fashion media, whilst not using unrealistic models, does not use models which reflect their consumers. Furthermore, in order to understand whether the participants felt social media platforms relating to fashion impacted upon how female adolescent perceive their body image, the participants where asked how they felt about fashion media and what they perceived its purpose to be. This led them all to conclude that they perceived fashion media to be a platform in which fashion brands communicate with their consumers on a more personal level, delving deeper, when asked if they thought this was a positive step for fashion brands, participant A explained how he thought it was a negative step as “allowing something to become more personal, allows it to hurt you and in this case makes you more vulnerable”, demonstrating that by fashion brands advertising through social media and uploading images of models to individual platforms, has the potential to decrease body dissatisfaction as it is personal and engaging.
Additionally, when asked if they would change the way fashion media promote and represents women, all participants stated they would. It was summarised from the answers given that the participants would use a more diverse range of models displaying the acceptance of all different body types, further, participant B said:
If I could change the way fashion media promoted women obviously I would change the women they use in the campaigns, however I would also ensure that words such a perfect and ideal or even words that represent that are not used with the caption
This quotes suggests that whilst the fashion images uploaded can increase body dissatisfaction, the caption also must be examined as a threat as it too has the potential to increase dissatisfaction. Furthermore, by using words which are not associated with perfection, does not portray characteristics of a feminine ideal.
Response and Reaction: Interviews
According to The Influence of Fashion Blogger report (2014), fashion bloggers are becoming increasingly influential within the fashion industry having been “facilitated by the growth of media”, suggesting that bloggers are being recognised and acknowledge for their effective selling power (Schaer, 2011). Furthermore, due to their fast growing popularity and identification from fashion brands, fashion blogging is now a highly recognised job title within the industry (Stone, 2016).
In order to establish whether fashion bloggers considered there to be a correlation between fashion media and body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents, two separate interviews were conducted. During each interview, it became apparent very early on that both participants conveyed negatives thoughts towards fashion media images.
Both participants where shown an image taken from Victoria’s Secret “The Perfect Body” campaign (see figure 32), which generated immense discussion regarding how “unrealistic” the physiques were.
Participants A stated that she felts the brand are failing their consumers by providing them with images which did not reflect realism, additionally, she felt using top models such as Adriana Lima and Candice Swanepoel would indefinitely increase body dissatisfaction for young impressionable girls stating:
If I was teenager now, facing images like this would certainly increase my insecurities, it is ridiculous to bombard young girls with such idealistic image. They have enough going on in their life at that time to then worry about looking like a model (Roddy, 2017)
Likewise, participant B also felt the brand created a feminine ideal for young girls which cannot be attained, moreover she stated that it was discouraging the see the words “perfect body” across the image as the image did not display body shape diversity, suggesting all body shapes are and should be the same. However, it was noted that participant B did identify that this image was particularly “bad” when representing the female body and that not all fashion brands are alike, suggesting that whilst the Victoria’s Secret campaign increased negative thoughts, it did not give a holistic view for all fashion brands, thus recognising that no two brands are the same and whilst one can be extremely good at creating body diversity, others may not. This led the author to show both participants the ‘spoof’ image of the company’s campaign, which led to an entirely different response.
It was concluded from both interviews, that the Victoria’s Secret ‘spoof’ image increased self-confidence in regards to body image as it displayed diversity. Participant B expressed how the image filled her with “hope”, explaining that if the fashion industry portrayed images representing a more diverse set of women, it would reduce the negative impact media images are currently having on consumers. However, whilst participant A believed this image to be more realistic in comparison to the actually campaign image, she voiced that this image provided her with uncertainty, further saying that using “bigger” models has the same effect as using “slimmer” models.
I definitely think girls that are size 12 – 14 should be used more and not considered plus size, but I don’t necessarily agree with using bigger models because I think that suggests obesity is ok, which I understand for some people can’t be helped, but it’s not healthy, which I know nor is being really skinny (Roddy, 2017)
Implying that whilst the representation of one body shape does have the potential to increase an individual’s body dissatisfaction, the other image implies that “obesity” is accepted within society as being normal, which similarly to “The Perfect Body” campaign has health implications. It must be noted that participant A did acknowledge that for some people “obesity and weight gain” cannot be avoided for medical reasons.
When asked directly whether they thought fashion media influence body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents, both participants agreed that it did, however by analysing fashion media only gave an insight to a small section as to what is increasing body dissatisfaction. When asked to elaborate, participant B said that “when you are young, you are vulnerable to anything and everything, so I cannot say that only fashion alone influences dissatisfaction” (Lauren, 2017) implying that whilst fashion media does increase body dissatisfaction it is not the sole factor, other factors such as friends and family may also be contributing to female adolescent body dissatisfaction and this must be taken into consideration. Moreover, participant A deliberated that as fashion are adopting numerous media platforms in which to engage with their consumers, body dissatisfaction rates shall increase displaying her belief that with the growth of technological trends, shall follow more female adolescents experiencing body image concerns. Additionally, stating that “being human, we subconsciously compare ourselves to one another, therefore by viewing images such as these, overtime creates insecurities and low self-esteem” (Roddy, 2017).
Furthermore, disregarding the images previously shown to both participants, the author asked what characteristics their believed fashion media uses to demonstrate beauty. This question generated a lot of thought as both participants did not believe that fashion portrayed set characteristics in order to imitate beauty, having said that two characteristics which were ultimately concluded were “tall and skinny”, identifying that despite no set characteristics define how attractive one is, two characteristics which are associated with beauty are ones that imitate Victoria’s Secret “The Perfect Body” campaign, suggesting that subconsciously fashion media has instilled this image of beauty, one which consumers no longer question or react upon.
From the outset, it appears that fashion media has the potential to increase body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents, however in order to gain a more in-depth understand into the seriousness of the issue, an interview with Chioma was conducted, a humanistic counsellor.
Chioma identified that fashion media can create dissatisfaction surrounding one’s appearance, stating that the fashion industry normalises the ‘perfect body’, furthermore, she stated that fashion media further validates societies perception of what is acceptable. When examining social media as platform in which to promote and engage with their consumers, Chioma stated that it is inevitable for female adolescents to experience body dissatisfaction as being exposed to media is a “daily fix”, implying that accessing media platforms is a frequent occurrence for young adults therefore they are continuously exposed to images used by the industry, which she further feels does not set accurate expectations for body types stating “there is not enough reflection in the media showing diverse body shapes”.
Moving further onto feminine ideals, the interviewee revealed how she felt fashion media has defined what we associate an acceptable body type to be, further stating that individuals do no challenge these perceptions, allowing for society to recognize “being extremely skinny and in some cases extremely underweight as okay”. Similarly, she further stated that with the continuous use of ‘skinny’ models it is undoubtedly going to create insecurities amongst peers, stating that when young girls see images of models doing extremely well within industry due to their slim physiques, it defines a body shape in which we link success with.
Moreover, Chioma explained how she felt young girls no longer idealise people who are not considered celebrities, which she further feels to be a growing concern. Using Kim Kardashian as an example, Chioma stated that numerous young girls aspire to look like her because of her body which has inevitably made her fortunes. Nevertheless, this body type, which she states is “completely unrealistic”, is promoted by fashion media implying it is desirable and accepted. Furthermore, the interviewee explains how she has dealt with many young considering cosmetic surgery in order to gain figures such as Kim’s, stating “they want to change their bodies so they imitate what is displayed in media, enhancing their self-worth”.
Whilst from the outset it became apparent that Chioma believe fashion media to be a crucial influencer for body dissatisfaction in female adolescents, when asked if she believed there to be any other factors having a similar impact, she stated that as well as peers, men too increase one’s desire to change their appearance, creating insecurities and body dissatisfaction. She states that:
I have worked with some young girls with eating disorders and have witnessed girls taking about how losing weight will make them more popular with boys and accepted by friends (Chioma, 2017)
Demonstrating that pressure from other factors such as peers, to be just as dangerous as fashion media. She further explains that pressure from males is increasing, media is exhibiting more images of ‘unrealistic figures’ therefore males are now expecting this body type to be imitated throughout society; heightening the pressure for young girls to look good. She feels many relationships are now built of physical attraction, leading to increased number of young girls “obsessing over their body shapes”.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Throughout this dissertation, it was established that fashion and media alike have the capabilities to implement feminine ideals by promoting only one particular body type. This dissertation explored how fashion media directly affects female adolescents, evaluating the ethics of associating only one type of women to beauty. In theory, it could certainly be suggested that fashion media does increase body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents as a true correlation was identified. With the use of ‘skinny’ models, fashion media has the potential to impair one’s perception of themselves as well as others, due to numerous advertising campaigns displaying one particular body type; thus allowing for feminine ideals to be created. It was further established that whilst fashion media has the potential to decrease self-esteem and encourage young adults to lose weight, it was further found that through celebrity endorsements, the desire to undergo cosmetic surgery is also increasing, exhibiting a further body related issue fashion media are encouraging. Contradicting the earlier finding, regarding ‘skinny models’ increasing body dissatisfaction, it was found using ‘bigger’ models can too being be damaging to consumers. As stated, using ‘slimmer models’ demonstrates a social acceptance for that body type; thus by using ‘larger models’ shall also create the same social acceptance. Though seeing ‘larger models’ within media has not been identified has increasing body dissatisfaction, it has been identified as a tolerant for obesity.
The fashion industry utilised numerous media platforms in order to engage with consumers, however it can be concluded that this engagement, for numerous individuals, is a not a positive experience. Victoria’s secret ‘Perfect Body’ campaign created masses of negative attention, likewise through the primary research it was found, upon viewing the image, respondents instantly created body comparisons; leading to dissatisfaction. The fashion industry needs to recognise and adopt to this issue in order to remain competitive as it was additionally found that consumers do not feel they can relate to a brand when it does not portray diverse models, models in which consumers can relate to and sympathise with. However, it was also found that whilst fashion media implicates how one perceives body image, through permissions of social media, body dissatisfaction can further be increased, since peers have the ability to comment of images displaying their opinions; thus increasing pressure and desires for a person to look a certain way.
Moreover, it was further found that individuals feel fashion brands need to incorporate a social responsibly to their consumers to ensure that positive body image is displayed, stating it would decrease the pressure for female adolescents to imitate “unrealistic figures”. Considering the above, it is evident that female adolescents are pressured to look a certain way due to the lack of diversity within fashion. Further, this pressure has the capabilities of developing into further health conditions such as depression due to media being a “daily fix” in individuals lives, therefore being exposed to “unrealistic images” frequently, concluding that fashion media can increase body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents.
Recommendations for Beneficiaries
The most crucial recommendation for the fashion industry would be to use a more diverse range of models; representing a larger consumer base. As highlighted throughout the analysis, consumers state they do not wish to see fixed feminine ideals within media as it may be understood that the industry only accepts this body shape to be ‘normal’, thus by using a more diverse range of models allows consumers to interpret this to meaning different bodies are accepted and praised within society. However the focus should be on providing a healthy body image for young girls, as it was found using ‘bigger’ models is equally as negative, as it could be implied that industries are accepting ‘obesity’ as being positive. Moreover, focusing on increasing body confidence amongst female adolescents can be incorporated in a company’s corporate social responsibility, this being a further recommendation. By creating a social responsibility to consumers, focusing on promoting a positive body image shall not only decrease body dissatisfaction levels, but shall also increase consumer loyalty, having the capability of demonstrating that consumer’s health and wellbeing is important to a brand.
Whilst this dissertation may only benefit industry professionals, it can also be noted that individuals experiencing severe body dissatisfaction may also find it beneficial. This dissertation allows for in-depth understanding regarding what causes negative thoughts/emotions and identifies them as triggers. Therefore by reading this dissertation, has the potential of allowing peers to understand potential causes for their body dissatisfaction and further being able to act upon it. Additionally, this dissertation has demonstrated that body dissatisfaction is something numerous people encounter, thus displaying you are not alone
Recommendations for Further Research
A recommendation for further research would be to conduct further focus groups, exposing females to images displayed within fashion media, thus allowing for a greater understanding into its effects they have on their consumers. Additionally, a further recommendation would be to go through ethical clearing and be able to interview females under the age of 18 years, as this would enhance credibility of results.
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1.0 Female Focus Group Selected Responses
2.0 Male Focus Group Selected Responses
3.0 Selected Interview Responses
Female Focus Group Selected Responses
Participant A: 19
Participant B: 23
Participant C: 20
Participant D: 18
What are your initial opinions of the following advertisements?
**Before realising model was ‘plus size’
Participant A: As much as I think this image doesn’t resemble many female bodies, I do like that she isn’t completely toned, which is something I consider all models to have within today’s society.
Participant B: Yeah I agree with [participant A], I expect to see six packs when I look at women modelling lingerie so this is a refreshing surprise
Participant C: I like the first image more so, because she looks normal, like her skin it loose. It doesn’t look completely edited. The image is so much more genuine too, you don’t have to think twice about it.
Participant D: Yeah, I really like this picture, the first picture more so because I feel like I can relate to her, I actually feel like if I was to purchase that lingerie I could look like that, its way more realistic, makes me feel like I can engage with the brand more knowing they understand not all women imitate skinny physiques.
**After realising model was ‘plus size’
Participant A: Wow, I’m completely gobsmacked. I actually cannot believe she is plus size… what is wrong with society?
Participant B: That has to be a joke, plus size? She’s like a size 10, what is wrong with the world. It’s scary to think that if she’s a size 10, what am I?
Participant C: I’m speechless, I cannot believe she is a plus size model, my confidence has dropped from seeing that picture alone. If I was a young girl and I saw an image of a perfectly proportion women being categorised at plus size, I would 100% feel rubbish about myself, it would make me want to lose weight to ensure I too am not plus size
Participant D: I’m actually really hurt by seeing this, that in essence means I am too plus size, isn’t great for my confidence that. I 110% agree with [participant C], this alone would be enough to decrease my confidence.
Simple be feedback:
Participant A: I love this image; it screams body confidence. More models should be used this size, because whist I image to industry she is considered plus size, to me her figure is perfect, she is stunning and she oozes girl power.
Participant B: She looks so confident in her own skin and I think that’s so admirable, I’d rather see this model than a skinny model. She makes me happy looking at her. She’s beautiful.
Participant C: I love this image, it shows that despite your size, you can be confident in your own skin. That is what fashion is missing, it needs to reinforce this message instead of damaging it
Participant D: I love how young and happy the women is, she doesn’t feel ashamed about her body, despite the fact she is also considered plus size. I love this image.
Do you perceive fashion media to be damaging for female adolescents? If so, what in particular?
Participant A: Oh yeah, I definitely feel fashion and media is damaging, take the previous images as an example, how is it ok to class a women who looks like a size 10, plus size? How is that not damaging?
Participant B: I used to have counselling because my insecurities at one point became so bad I had to seek medical help. Obviously I cannot blame this all on fashion but it was certainly a contributing factor, so yeah I do feel fashion media is damaging, I experiencing some of its damage.
Participant C: I do think it depends upon the individual, having said that though I do think fashion media is damaging and does increase body dissatisfaction because it displays every figure as perfect, and in reality, that’s just not how it is.
Participant D: I think it is extremely damaging for a young girl, fashion media assumes only one feminine ideal, assuming that only one body shape it ok and accepted. How can that not be damaging for young girls?
Have you ever experience body dissatisfaction yourselves, which you felt was because of fashion media?
Participant A: Erm, I’m not too sure, I think I probably have because I do often compare myself to images within media. But I think as I’ve got older, I’ve cared less and the images have had less of an impact of me.
Participant B: I used to have counselling because my insecurities at one point became so bad I had to seek medical help. Obviously I cannot blame this all on fashion but it was certainly a contributing factor, so yeah I do feel fashion media is damaging, I experiencing some of its damage.
Participant C: I find that I experience it often if I’m being honest. It’s hard not to within today’s society.
Participant D: Yeah I have but I also feel like it’s not just fashion that has made me dissatisfied, I think my friends and family also contribute massively.
Do you feel then; fashion media should use bigger models? Or a more diverse range of models?
Participant A: Yes, I think using a more diverse set of models is a requirement, I think it’s detrimental that diversity is showcased more.
Participant B: 100% yes
Participant C: I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say yes, however, I do feel this could suggest in some cases obesity it ok and socially accept it.
Participant D: I guess I never really thought about that, but I agree. If fashion does use bigger models will that imply that it’s healthy? Nevertheless, I do think a more diverse range of models should be used.
- Male Focus Group Selected Responses
Participant A: 24
Participant B: 28
Participant C: 25
Participant D: 25
Participant A: I don’t particularly think this is image is very damaging. Yes, she isn’t wearing much clothing therefore it is very sexualised, I just don’t think it’s that bad, I mean I don’t consider this photo as being digitally manipulated, it’s a pretty realistic figure.
Participant B: Yeah, I agree I think it’s pretty harmless. Most girls look like this anyway.
Participant C: I can see why [participant B] thinks it’s harmless, however I just think, yes it is achievable, but over what period of time? For how much money? These models are paid to look like this, is that what we consider to be realistic?
Participant D: Yeah I agree; I think it’s harmless. Girls get way to hung up on their appearance. This image to me is normal.
Participant A: I don’t think there is anything wrong with this photo what so ever. Yes she is skinny, but she may naturally just be like that? That’s normal too.
Participant B: As much as I like this photo, I think this could potentially be damaging because she is really thin, look at her arms. And her face is clearly airbrushed.
Participant D: I understand why this picture can be damaging for young girls because the model is extremely skinny. She is also extremely beautiful; she makes it look effortless as though it’s natural.
**Participant C did not comment
Pretty Little Thing feedback:
Participant A: Yeah, I don’t think this image is great, she is a very attractive girl and her body is extremely desirable. I do however think that if young girls are looking at this and are already experiencing body dissatisfaction then this will only contribute further.
Participant B: I think out of all the images I’ve seen this is without a doubt the most influencing in terms of body dissatisfaction. She’s an attractive young girl, whose figure is extremely toned, if I was a girl I’d feel so much pressure to look like this.
Participant C: As much as I like this image, I think my girlfriend would have it. It doesn’t show a true representation of what women’s bodies are like. I think as well this gives men a false expectation which also won’t help.
Participant D: like [participant A] said, I do believe it depends upon the individual and their confidence before they view these images, but I also think that these images do not represent majority of the women within the UK, yes it is a realistic figure, but it isn’t a figure that most people have, only few.
What do you perceive fashion media’s purpose to be? And do you think this a positive thing?
Participant A: I think fashion media allows brands to communicate further with their consumers however I think this can be a negative step for then as allowing something to become more personal, allows it to hurt you and in this case make you more vulnerable.
Participant C: I don’t think its positive no, well it can’t be can it, with body dissatisfaction rates increasing and fashion being blamed for this.
**Participant B & D did not answer this question.
If you could, what would you change about fashion media? I.e. use different models?
Participant A: I definitely use a more diverse range of models, displaying more than one body type. That’s realistic.
Participant B: If I could change the way fashion media promoted women obviously I would change the women they use in the campaigns, however I would also ensure that words such a perfect and ideal or even words that represent that are not used with the caption
Participant C: I don’t know to be honest, I think there is a lot more to fashion media and body dissatisfaction so I can’t really comment.
Participant D: I’d use curvier models; I guess a more diverse set of models. I still use some skinny models because obviously some people are just skinny, but Id want to target a larger demographic.
- Selected Interview Responses
What are your opinions on the following images?
Victoria’s Secret feedback:
The women are beautiful yes, but I think this portrays such a negative message to young girls, especially with the words ‘perfect body’, its implying only that body type is perfect, which is so unfair and demotivating.
Victoria’s Secret ‘spoof’ image
I love this image, it just confirms that girls sized 12 – 14 should be used more and not considered plus size, but I don’t necessarily agree with using bigger models because I think that suggests obesity is ok, which I understand for some people can’t be helped, but it’s not healthy, which I know nor is being really skinny.
Do you think fashion media influences young girls to look a certain way?
I think there are a lot on contributing factors as to why young girls follow certain trends, but yes I do think fashion media is one of them, one which is probably getting stronger and overpowering other factors. Being human, we subconsciously compare ourselves to one another, therefore by viewing images such as these, overtime creates insecurities and low self-esteem.
Can you explain what you mean when you say ‘it’s getting stronger and becoming overpowering’?
Well, as a blogger my career is based upon social media and its popularity, and over the years I have noticed the growth within the platform, so I think that as it is growing, so will the exposer to skinny girls and cosmetically enhanced girls, it’s becoming just a part of our everyday lives
And do you think this is healthy for young impressionable girls? To being exposed day in day out by body images which potentially cannot be attained naturally?
No, obviously not, but unfortunately I don’t think it’ll change any time soon
When you were younger, did you ever feeling influenced by anything you saw in fashion media?
Yeah, definitely, I remember flicking through magazines and wishing sometimes that I looked like those girls, and now when I go on my Instagram I always look at other girls like Rosie Huntington-White and thinking wow, I wish I looked like that, but I know I won’t
Why won’t you ever look like that?
Because it is unrealistic, to a certain extent, her photos from shoots are obviously edited and she herself has probably had a fair bit of work done
And now that you’re older, you know that this is unrealistic and unattainable?
But what if you were younger? Do you think you would still feel the same?
I think, if I was younger and being exposed to this, I wouldn’t be as knowledgeable, I wouldn’t understand why I can’t look like this. I think I might be disheartened with my own appearance.
So am I right in saying that you feel if you were younger you would feel less confident within your body because of these images and models?
Going back to what you said about them being tall and skinny, do you think young girls would benefit from seeing ‘bigger’ girls in fashion?
I mean; it depends what you mean by bigger. I definitely think girls that are size 12 – 14 should be used more and not considered plus size, but I don’t necessarily agree with using bigger models because I think that suggests obesity is ok, which I understand for some people can’t be helped, but it’s not healthy, which I know nor is being really skinny.
So similarly to skinny models, you think plus size models, depending of their size, shouldn’t be used either?
Yeah, obviously depends on the campaign they are in and for what reason, but yeah, neither are healthy.
What are your opinions on the following images?
Victoria’s Secret feedback:
I feel like this image creates feminine ideals, displaying a figure which cannot be attained by young girls. It’s also really discouraging to the words ‘perfect body’ splattered over the front of the image, it suggests that only that body is ok. Having said that though, I don’t want all fashion brands to be put under the same light. This is a particularly bad campaign, but some fashion brands can display diversity.
Victoria’s Secret ‘spoof’ image
I really like this image, it’s the completely opposite of the previous campaign and that’s how it should be! It portrays complete body diversity. It’s amazing.
Would you agree if I said fashion media increase body dissatisfaction amongst female adolescents?
Yeah, I do agree that fashion is to blame for some body image concerns due to its portrayal of feminine ideals, however, when you are young, you are vulnerable to anything and everything, so I cannot say that only fashion alone influences dissatisfaction
Do you feel fashion media is a positive platform for young girls?
I think it is what you make of it, if you are already insecure and unhappy with yourself then yes you are probably going to associate fashion media as a negative thing.
Do you think using celebrities within fashion campaigns can be further damaging for female adolescents?
Depends on the celebrity I think, if you use Kylie Jenner or Kim K then yes I think this can be really damaging as their physiques cannot be attained naturally but I don’t think all celebrities can create negative or damaging thoughts, no.
Do you perceive fashion media to reflect set characteristics which defines ideal beauty?
No, I don’t think fashion displays set characteristics, however if I did have to pick some it would be tall and skinny, very generic but it’s just what I think off when I think of fashion models.
Have you ever experienced body dissatisfaction from fashion media?
I’ve experience increased pressure from fashion to look a certain way yes, but being a blogger it’s inevitable, I will always have to look a certain way. I think probably when I was young I would have experienced body dissatisfaction, but as I got older I don’t think I cared as much.
Do you think using a more diverse range of models can decrease these dissatisfaction levels? If so, why?
Oh yes, definitely, I think it would allow more consumers to engage with set brands. And I definitely think it would decrease the pressure young girls are currently experiencing to look a certain way.
Do you think friends and family create body insecurities, just as much as fashion media?
I think unintentionally families do yes, because you always take what your family says to you personally, just as much as you do your friends I guess. I do also think though that boy/men are increasing the pressure for girls to look a certain way, I personally feel so much pressure to look good all the time and be skinny because of what guys think, it’s odd. It never used to be like this.
Chioma – Email Intervie
Do you believe fashion media increases body dissatisfaction in young girls? If so, why?
Yes, I do believe that fashion media increases body dissatisfaction. The reason why is because the media normalises what the ‘perfect body’ is and what society should see as acceptable. This is to sell more newspapers etc. Young adults are exposed to the media constantly whether that be social media, magazines, blogs etc. It is a constant daily fixture for young adults (an everyday living)
Do you believe fashion media portrays realistic body shapes? If so, why?
No the media does not portray realistic body shapes. Mainstream westernised media use a mass amount of editing on there photos to cover lumps/bumps. Western countries unfortunately see the idea of a beautiful body being a size 0. There is not enough reflection in the media showing diverse body shapes.
Do you think fashion media has defined societies perception of feminine ideal?
Yes, definitely. Nobody challenges these perceptions and being extremely skinny is seen as okay. I feel like the skinnier you are in the industry equals to more rewards (more bookings etc.). Seeing all these skinny models and the rewards gained from being skinny has definitely defined the ideal figure.
If you could, what would you change about the way fashion media portrays women? i.e. use a more diverse range of models
I would change the editing of photos, showing diverse body shapes (for example not enough women in beauty magazines are shown as muscly), promoting natural looks.
Do you think the use of celebrities within fashion campaigns has any influence on how young girls view their own body image?
Yes, because many young girls look up to celebrities. For example, Kim Kardashian. Many young girls idolise her for her body because her beauty has made her a fortune. The media has pushed an unrealistic body image for girls to aim for. Many young girls do not have role models who are not celebrities. You see many young girls nowadays resulting to cosmetic surgery to change their bodies to what they see in the media.
Disregarding the previous question, what do you feel is the most contributing factor towards female adolescent body dissatisfaction?
The other contribution towards how females feel about their body is there peers and men. I have worked with some young girls with eating disorders and witnessed girls talking about how it will make them more popular and accepted by there friends. Young women also feel huge pressure from men as men have an ideal image of what they think is a socially acceptable body. Many relationships nowadays are being built on physical attraction, so a higher number of young girls are obsessing over there body shapes.
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