The Shape of Fashion

~ Bethany Wellerd

A couple of weeks ago I went along to ‘The Shape of Fashion’, an event hosted by Beat and ASOS at ASOS’s swanky head office in Camden. The event featured four panellists, all talking about the relationship between fashion, body image and eating disorders from different perspectives. This included two ladies who had experienced eating disorders, one of whom had been a model from the age of 15, and two other speakers who provided a fashion and media perspective.

So many interesting points were made both from the panel and from the debate that followed. Right at the beginning of the evening, Susan Ringwood introduced the discussion by saying it was their belief that “fashion doesn’t cause eating disorders any more than families do”, recognising the fact that while we can talk about how factors such as the fashion industry can be implicated in eating disorders, naming one variable as the sole cause of any mental health issue is fruitless. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about the role fashion can play in shaping our perception of body image, and how fashion can use this power to improve the way we all look at ourselves.

There was one point that came up time and time again, especially directed at Sophie Glover, a representative of ASOS. Sophie works as a garment technologist, which means that she works within the technical team, looking at how ASOS’s garments fit their customers. The issue which was directed at Sophie was the idea of diversity in fashion – what are companies like ASOS doing to represent all of us, not just a small subsection of us? Sophie argued that because ASOS stocks a whole range of sizes, they really represent all women, of all shapes and sizes, and they promote the idea of fitting their clothes to the customers, not making customers fit their clothes.

This all sounds great, but something which the audience reflected back in reaction to this was the idea that while companies like ASOS might stock a wide range of sizes to reflect the diversity seen in the population, when you look at the websites selling these clothes, in fashion magazines, in your high street shop window, this diversity just isn’t there. They seem to be hiding away this wide range of sizes and only showing you a certain shape of women wearing these clothes.  Sophie pointed out that the models are reflective of their most popular selling size, but this was countered with the argument that perhaps if the models wearing ASOS’s clothes were the average size of women in the UK, then maybe this would be the most popular selling size.

All this talk of representing an average size seemed to go hand in hand with another theme which came up repeatedly throughout the evening. It was a theme which was encapsulated in two words, two words which every time they were spoken by panellists and audience members, made me wince. ‘Real Women’.  Models were described as being ‘not real women’; fashion should represent ‘real women’; we should be speaking out as ‘real women’. But who exactly are these ‘real women’? Surely alienating people below a certain size as ‘genetic accidents’ (a genuine quote from one of the panellists) is just as harmful as alienating those above a certain size. The idea that fashion should only be representing the average size, the mean, as an individual seems unhelpful to me. It doesn’t make sense for fashion to only represent one size over another. Don’t we need to be representing all sizes, so that we all feel like ‘real women’?

But what can we do to encourage the fashion industry to represent all of us, and not enforce an idea of what is ‘real’ or ‘average’ or ‘normal’ upon us? At the end of the evening, the answer to this question was put to us all. A member of the audience reminded us that talking about what needs to change in the fashion industry is one thing, but the best way for our thoughts to be heard is by voting with our feet (or our fingers in the case of internet shopping). If we find that a brand is not representing us, or is not acting in our best interests, and is making us feel like we are not normal, then we need to let them know. We as consumers hold a large amount of power in our hands, which we can really use to change things. So take action, write to these companies, let them know that you don’t feel valued by them, stop buying their products and start a conversation about diversity in fashion.

Advertisements

Settling Into University Part Three: Managing Your Workload

Even my puppy has off days when he just doesn’t feel like doing anything…

IMG_1353

Sometimes managing your workload can feel like a bit of a slog, especially if you don’t have much contact time. So here are some tips on how to make work feel a bit more manageable, and hopefully a bit more enjoyable!

1. Get into a routine

  • When you’ve just moved city and are surrounded by a whole new group of people, it might help to establish a routine so that university life starts to feel a little more settled. This sounds kind of boring, but it really needn’t be… think about what things cheer you up, or what makes for a good morning. You might like heading out for a morning walk, going to the canteen with your friends for breakfast or reading the paper with your morning coffee. Rather than being an occasional treat, why not try to work these things into your everyday routine?
  • Make the most of your evenings – try to have one or two regular commitments that you’ll make time for every week (sports clubs, debating societies etc.) Having something pre-arranged is a really good way to avoid the temptation to stop taking breaks when you get busy.
  • Weekend routines can be good too – you might cook brunch with your friends every Sunday morning, or have a flat dinner & film night every Friday evening.

2. Study effectively

  • Make organising your work a little more fun using colour-coded files, folders and notebooks.
  • Find out how you work best. If you don’t like the library then it’s not compulsory to work there – it may be that you work better at home with music and slippers and blankets and a mug of tea, and that’s completely fine.
  • It’s often worth changing things up and exploring different places to work (coffee shops & the public library were my favourites). Working at home in the morning and then heading off to the library for the afternoon can also be a good way to avoid cabin fever!

3. Don’t stress! Sometimes easier said than done, but there are definitely things you can do to help:

  • Try to escape from the university bubble every now and again! Calling home or going away for the weekend can be a great way to get a sense of perspective on the things you’re worrying about.
  • Planning out your work and making a schedule can help you to feel more in control. Break down big tasks into small manageable steps and add one or two of these to your daily to do list, so that instead of worrying about having to write a whole essay, you know that you just need to spend an hour or two this morning writing a plan.
  • Take proper breaks and make the most of your time off.
    • Get some fresh air: go for a walk or bike ride. Explore somewhere new, or just head out to the supermarket to do your weekly food shop… no matter what you’re doing, getting outside is always calming and lends a sense of perspective to any work-related panic that’s been brewing!
    • Take a proper break at lunchtime (and just to clarify: eating a sandwich at your desk whilst casually flicking through Facebook doesn’t count). Go to the canteen with a friend or pack your own lunch and find a good spot to eat it – head off to the local park in summer or hang out in the common room in the winter. If you’re stuck for what to make for lunch, take a look at Sarah’s easy on-the-go lunches on our recipe blog, The Kitchen.
    • Read a chapter or two of a good book – I always used to find that the best books to read were the ones I used to read when I was younger (think Harry Potter…) Somehow it’s so much easier to get lost in the story and really take your mind off everything else.
    • Watch a comedy sketch or an episode of your favourite TV series.

And if you’re anything like me, you might well make lovely long lists of all the fabulous things you’ll do on your study breaks and then never quite get round to it. So before you start studying, it can be good to pick the one thing you want to do and make it really specific e.g. at 11am I’ll sit down with a mug of coffee and watch the next episode of Gossip Girl. Even better, arrange for a friend to come round and watch it with you 🙂 Knowing exactly what you’ll be doing in your next break also gives you something to look forward to and is great motivation to have a really productive study session in the meantime.

Any study tips of your own? Or any other questions on how to settle in at university? Comment below or drop me an email at rosanna@studentminds.org.uk.

Settling Into University Part Two: How To Overcome Homesickness

According to NUS, around half of students experience homesickness, which means that you’re very much not alone. Here are some ideas to help you settle in and enjoy the university experience…

  • Listen to music – moving into my own room at university for the first time, I found that it look me a while to get used to the silence (probably something to do with the family of six and boisterous puppy I was used to back home!) Music was always the best way to fill the silence and you’d very rarely enter my room without something on in the background.
  • Wear cozy clothes – this may sound crazy, but a pair of slippers and a big thick jumper really can make you feel better! I’ve occasionally been known to wear two jumpers at once, but sometimes one just isn’t enough and being toasty warm always seems to cheer me up 🙂
  • Do something familiar – read a favourite book or re-watch an old TV series.
  • Make yourself a hot drink in your favourite mug. Happiness guaranteed.

P1000270

  • Look after yourself – eat good food, get lots of sleep and wander outside to get some fresh air every now and again!
  • Keep busy – as much as possible, fill your time with plenty of different activities and take the opportunity to try new things. The more you spend time around other people, the less you are able to dwell on your thoughts, and chances are that the simple act of going out and doing things will help you feel more positive.
  • Join a club or society – learn something new, meet a different group of people and make a regular commitment to doing something you enjoy.
  • Spend some time turning your room into a cozy space that you’ll enjoy spending time in. Here are a few ideas…
    • Hang up posters. These are a great way to make your room feel your own and inject a bit of personality. I usually had some combination of Mr Men, Paddington Bear and Winnie-the-Pooh – not sure what that says about me?
    • Fairy lights make a room feel so snug! (Ok, so this could be a girl thing). I spent four years being envious of my best friend’s fairy lights and finally got round to asking for some last Christmas – no regrets!
    • Blankets & cushions are a must, especially in winter.
    • Put up lots and lots of photos!

P1000185

So look after yourself, keep busy and have fun turning your new room into a haven of blankets and cushions 🙂 If you have any questions or would like to share some tips of your own, please do comment below or drop me an email at rosanna@studentminds.org.uk.

Next up: managing your workload.