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Opinion: The Harm Caused by the Fashion Trend Cycle

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Opinion: The Harm Caused by the Fashion Trend Cycle

Over the course of history there have always been trends, popular activities and ideologies from fashion and makeup to lifestyles, but where lies the issue?

‘Trends’ can be traced back as early as Ancient Greece, as the depictions of gods defined what it meant to be beautiful during this era. This set an ideal for those in many areas of society as to what was perceived as ‘beautiful’. Those in high society and, more specifically, their items of clothing also influenced what people not just aspired to look like, but their interests during this time and possessions that people would own. These attitudes from Ancient Greece perhaps mirrors today’s society and the way in which we consume these trends.

In modern times, we have gone through a myriad of different eras of fashion and makeup, with many eras fading and returning once again twenty years later in a repackaged way. We as individuals have found a multiplicity of ways to express ourselves in the modern world by finding our tastes, taking inspiration from different generations and their trends and making them our own. However, the creation of micro trends and the pressures to keep up has violently increased with the use of social media and the constant promotion of different products which has ultimately created a Pandora’s box of consumerism. Young, impressionable and image-focused young audiences whose lives are centred around the power of social media have become particularly vulnerable to the pressures to not only keep up with their peers and expectations of society but to also not fall behind with trends due to the new-found pressures of social media. However, social media is not entirely to blame for this. While social media does increase the speed of trends by enabling accessibility to potentially harmful content, trends in society have and will always remain to be prominent.

As history often reveals, women and teenage girls unfortunately face the brunt of these pressures. Women have been the target audience of consumerism for the longest time due to the constantly evolving standards surrounding women’s beauty and the fashion industry profiting from women’s insecurities. The pressure of conforming to these beauty standards has continually forced women to feel as if they must mould themselves around the shifting notion of what it is to be ‘beautiful’. This is clearly something that is not new.

The idea of the ‘perfect woman’ has been ingrained into generations of women and has prompted a plethora of harmful trends surrounding body image and what figure is currently ‘in’. This continuous cycle has been present for a disturbingly long time and has created trends in order that women can fit the ideal standard for the place and era. A prime example of this includes the infamous corset that women would typically wear in Europe during the 16th century when it first began to gain popularity in the French court. This highlighted how during this time period the idealised version of a woman’s body accentuates the miniscule nature of their waists.

However, as audiences have changed so have trends and the way products have been promoted. During the 1980s a fitness craze ensued which resulted in the fashion industry championing the slim-toned fitness lifestyle in which they promoted workout gear to allow women of this era to encapsulate the image of the ideal, fit and healthy, woman. Despite a recent surge of mass hysteria that the 90s and early 2000s ‘Heroin chic’ (which included a period of companies pushing dieting pills and drug abuse onto women to make them fit the glamorisation of being dangerously skinny) making a comeback, it could be argued that this mentality never left, and that the expectation for women to be skinny has always been the beauty standard despite efforts to help combat this and normalise other body types, and that this has been a continuous trend that has solidified itself into our culture.

Not only has this had a detrimental effect on both women and young people, but it has also had a devastating effect on the environment. Micro trends and fast fashion are continuing to play a huge part in the reasons why landfill sites are growing more than ever. With the rapid increase of trends, consumers are buying more and more items of clothing and beauty products. These products, in terms of poor quality and durability, as well as the ever-changing world of fashion become either outdated or unusable. The rise of unethical fast fashion ultimately means that a significant number of these items go to waste and people merely end up with regret through buying these products as they no longer have no use for them. This industry prompts many ethical issues as a result of the way in which fast fashion predominantly exploits workers in countries with questionable safety laws and regulations which allow these companies to pay them an extremely low amount in order to make a significant profit.

It is vital that we as consumers attempt to combat this issue. We can monitor our intake of items and lessen the consequences of capitalism by taking control of what we watch and promote, and thinking sustainably and ethically before giving in to the pressures of buying items of fashion which have no long-term value. While trends continue to change, our passion for sustainable, ethical and magnificent items of clothing needs to remain.

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