Thinness and Other Refusals in Contemporary Fashion Advertisements

$32.99 plus tax (Refund Policy)

Or sign up for a free trial

Buy Article:


An icon of fashion and popular culture since the 1990s, supermodel Kate Moss rose to fame by virtue of her abject mien, distanced manner, and wan, androgynous look. Her demeanour and figure lent advertisements a tone of ambiguity and sexual vagueness that seems intricately connected to her melancholic and detached affectations. Before long this became a defining aesthetic in fashion advertising, especially those geared towards a young, urban clientele; such as Calvin Klein and Matsuda. They began to feature young models exaggeratedly posed as alienated and disengaged, with numbed or depressed expressions and ultra-thin bodies. Wallerstein aims to suggest a complex reading of these ads. She argues that their thin bodies and melancholic demeanours enact emptiness, but also a deliberate refusal to be filled, fulfilled, satisfied; denoting an intensity of emotion and experience, and a counter-social, rebellious act. Wallerstein gives examples to show that this is a look whose roots reach far outside fashion advertising. The article concludes that these ads capture the act of performance and identity, of claiming and refusing emotional, social, and cultural definition expressed through style. As deliberately crafted images they show that if there is any “truth” it is in the style itself, and in what the style represents.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 1998

More about this publication?
  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.
Related content



Share Content

Access Key

Free Content
Free content
New Content
New content
Open Access Content
Open access content
Subscribed Content
Subscribed content
Free Trial Content
Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
ingentaconnect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more