Fashion and Eating Disorders

Tonight the family sat down to watch a documentary about the region of Savoie. As the screen flickered with original black and white footage, I became intrigued by the carefree nature of the people, and of course their clothing. These costumes seem so foreign to me even though they are periods I studied in detail at University. Funny that art sources and study focus mostly on the upper classes, and less attention is paid to the working classes.

Traditional Savoyard Costume

It somehow seems reflected in today’s society. It appears almost everyone is striving for luxury items, and the famous designer brands. And it’s this that will be recorded now, and used as sources in the future.

What struck me most about the footage was that the women were all happy, healthy and proud of the costume of their particular village. While their traditional costume was a source of pride, I didn’t see one woman that looked as thin as women are looking in todays’ publications. Maybe it’s the fresh mountain air, the distance between here and the next major city or the Savoyard cuisine, but these women radiated despite their fuller figures.

Savoyard Women (Ok so they don't look as happy as in the documentary)

My theory is, that ever since women started raising their hemlines in the 1920’s the occurrence of eating disorders has increased. The more skin on show the more women feel they have to conform to a particular body type. To me it makes sense. While cases of anorexia can be traced back centuries, the cases were rare. In fact during the Renaissance, women wanted to be plump and juicy. Corsets weren’t necessarily for making women thinner, they were to create a certain silhouette, a silhouette considered beautiful at the time. For example the Tudors aimed for a conical waist, yet it wasn’t slenderness they were chasing. The second wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn was considered too thin during her time with the monarch, yet portraits indicate she was of a sound size according to todays’ standards.

Portrait of Anne Boleyn 2nd Wife of Henry VIII

Today women pass many hours at the gym, and many more hours thinking about the foods they have consummed, the calories contained within, and how much time they will have to spend back at the gym to keep themselves in shape. The pressure is mounting. Not only do we want to be thinner, but we want to be toned and fit. There are temptations abounding everywhere we look, yet the pressure is there to be super healthy. It’s no wonder when we’re in doubt, women turn to starvation or other methods of staying thin.

Body Image Issues

The media is frequently blamed for the increase in eating disorders, but in my opinion, we’re surrounded by women just as thin and beautiful everywhere we go. The media can admit to some negligence for displaying grossly retouched images, but as someone who has watched someone close suffer from anorexia, I know there is more involved. Control issues, stress, fear of growing-up and body dismorphia issues can all contribute. It is a mental illness that claims many lives.

I can’t help but wonder if women were to cover up and dress as we they did centuries ago, the problem would reverse itself. The more women are confronted by perfect, half naked figures, the more we compare out bodies with what we see. If we were all to wear full long skirts again, maybe the pressure to have long, thin legs would decline? If we all wore long, puffed sleeves, maybe having toned arms would be less of an issue? If corsets became a staple undergarment again, pressure to have well-defined abs might decrease? Maybe we’d be happier? Maybe we’d be healthier?


~ by fashiondevotion on December 29, 2009.

One Response to “Fashion and Eating Disorders”

  1. Wow! awesome post!! I think you’re right on the money with the last paragraph! If we did wear longer skirts, puffy sleeves and corsets I doubt people would have this unhealthy obsession with body image.

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