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The Devil Wears Nast

This past month, Anne Hathaway reprised her high-fashion role from The Devil Wears Prada as she walked out of her Vanity Fair photo shoot, in a show of solidarity with the Condé Nast strike. Condé Nast is a multi-media conglomerate which owns the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, and other fashion media. While this 24-hour strike speaks volumes about the current state of journalism, it is also a needed reminder of the problematic systems within the fashion industry. 

Fashion media companies, such as Condé Nast, contribute to an increasing sense of body dysmorphia through the models and clothes they choose to market. Body dysmorphia describes one’s hyper-fixation on the flaws they see in their appearance, contributing to unhealthy conditions such as anorexia and bulimia, primarily among women and youth. Consistently seeing ultra-thin models in expensive clothing conditions our brains to view ourselves differently in comparison. This culture can be so toxic that even celebrities and praised models turn to altering photos to seem more desirable, which furthers unrealistic expectations surrounding body image

AFP via Getty Images

Multiple studies confirm the detrimental effects of the fashion industry, with one study finding that those assigned to read fashion magazines, as opposed to news magazines, had less confidence in their bodies, wanted to weigh less and focused more on their weight than the section assigned news magazines. The psychological effects of the attention fashion gains impacts those working in the industry themselves. 20% of models suffer from Fashion Imposter Syndrome, a condition that stems from the insecurity acquired from being at the center of public attention, which degrades confidence. Moreover, those working in fashion are prone to suffer from mental illness 25% more than those in any other field, according to Fashion Law and Journal.

Companies commonly lack models of diversity in both sizes and body types, frequently selecting mid-size models (8-14) for their plus-size line (size 16+). When fashion companies handpick models that inaccurately represent the population, the message is loud and clear: body positivity is not their priority. Furthermore, many brands labeling "plus-size," would be better labeled as “average.” Fashion brands need to have the foresight to create and display their clothes on models that represent their customers that want to feel good in their clothes. 62% of customers can’t find clothes that fit in stores according, to The Fashion Structure Journal. It is hard for many to be body positive when they can’t find their size in-store, which is the case with many brands that do not offer the same amount of plus-size clothing in store as they do online. In fact, In 2022 Old Navy limited its Bodequality line both in store and online. Similar stories go for both M.M. Lafleur and Loft who cut back their lines as well. 

While these brands have made efforts to be inclusive, self-esteem issues are only heightened by brands such as Lululemon, a fitness brand very popular with Gen Z, notorious for its smaller-than-standard sizing. This lack of commitment to inclusivity is echoed by the founder Chip Wilson’s recent comments “You’ve got to be clear that you don’t want certain customers coming in.” While Lululemon responded that the founder, who resigned from the board in 2015, doesn’t have the views of the current company in mind, it is hard not to see the correlation. 

The spike in social media influencers who cover the latest fashion trends contributes to an unhealthy and unnecessary mindset of many. The desire to stay in style leads to a fear of missing out (FOMO). In the same vein, many stress unnecessarily about the clothes they wear. This dynamic can be a positive, such as the beneficial effect one gets from feeling comfortable and confident in the clothing they wear. However, like most things, this measurement has a reverse. Today's vast scope of influencers and media can put such an emphasis on clothing that it can cause insecurity, anxiety and FOMO, especially in the mind of teenagers, also known as “cognitive dissonance” as Fashion Law and Journal describes. It leads to a culture in which one feels they must throw out clothes not in trend and buy new ones.

These trends lead to a culture of “fast fashion” which harms the environment. Fast fashion stems from brands hoping to optimize the return on a certain style and therefore producing clothes at a cheap and expedited rate to get them on shelves quicker. This produces an immense amount of waste, pollution and emissions as well as calls into question the labor used to make such garments. The Condé Nast strike, much like the SAG-AFTRA strike, is forcing many to look at how the media and Hollywood industry operate with new eyes. The workers, who protested outside of One World Trade Center, are sending a message in response to the company’s expected layoffs as well as the current state of union negotiations. 

While it is important not to take away from the issues the workers in New York are standing against, this latest conflict should be a wake-up call for many to reflect on the ways the fashion industry negatively impacts society’s mental and physical health, and determine if changes need to be made. New York took an important first step with the induction of “Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act '' which placed much needed responsibility on brands for both human rights violations and environmental issues. Proposals in and out of the U.S. have looked to make legal changes to social media algorithms for both addiction and body image issues. Fashion’s toxicity is only heightened by the mass use of social media. An increase in protective legislation and personal style, going against the wave of fast-trends, should help to combat these issues.


Henry is a freshman in the College studying English,


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