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Aesthetic (dis)orders: Styling principles in fashion modelling

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Building on previous research on the cultural history of models, this article explores a variety of ethical issues concerning modelling. The study of the social construction of beauty and models' social personas, as well as the codes underlying visual representation in fashion advertising, raises ethical issues concerning the promotion of extreme beauty ideals of perfection, the need to fit a very narrow range of definitions of these ideals, and the adverse effects on the models themselves. Based on qualitative data obtained from in-depth interviews with former fashion models and agents, as well as on some auto-ethnographical reflections, I address these ethical questions. More specifically, I examine how these expectations affect the way in which models experience their bodies, their ways of feeling, and how they critically reflect on their modelling career, body self-perception and the performance of beauty. By exploring the forms of symbolic violence that shape the experience of being a model, I highlight an aspect of ethical fashion that is frequently overlooked.

Keywords: Agency; Fantasy; fashion modeling; symbolic violence

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/csfb.2.1-2.185_1

Affiliations: University of Edinburgh

Publication date: December 22, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty is the first journal dedicated to the critical examination of the fashion and the beauty systems as symbolic spaces of production and reproduction, representation and communication of artifacts, meanings, social practices, and visual or textual renditions of cloth, clothing and appearance.
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