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Is fashion just for skinny girls?

Sorry, that dress/jacket/pair of skinny jeans won't turn you into Chloe Sevigny/Mary-Kate Olsen/Rachel Bilson/whoever the glossies are pushing this week, writes Rachel Hills.

Is fashion just for skinny girls? I don’t mean clothes. I don’t even mean nice clothes, or looking good in clothes, or being creative about what you put on your body. I’m talking about fashion. Specifically the kind of fashion you come across in women’s magazines, the kind of fashion embodied by edgy ‘It’ girls.

It has struck me from a while now that many of the women put forward as style icons are promoted as such not because they’re particularly interesting dressers, but because their bodies wear clothes well. Miranda Kerr wears grey, sack-like dress, she’s a style icon. You or I wear grey, sack-like dress… well, say no more. Grey, sack-like dresses look terrible on most people.

Even those who do have a unique sense of style (Alexa Chung, Daisy Lowe, Alice Dellal, Chloe Sevigny, to name a few) dress in fashions that would be tricky for the average 19-year-old to carry off, let alone the average “fat mother with her bag of chips”, as the ever charming Karl Lagerfeld once put it. It strikes me as no coincidence that the most popular images on are of model thin members.

My point here is not to have a go at people who, through genetics or time and effort, have the extremely slim physique like a catwalk model.

Nor to say that you can’t look fantastic if you don’t. It’s to suggest that as seductive as those images of (seemingly) effortlessly cool fashionistas might be, the fashions they wear ultimately don’t translate to real life, and that in trying to emulate these looks, we do little more than waste our money on a high that evaporates as soon as we realise that the grey sack dress did not transform us into Miranda Kerr, nor the retro romper into Chloe Sevigny.

After all, as Jezebel recently noted: each time we buy clothing we don’t need - particularly if it’s the stuff we never wear - it’s not the garment we’re buying; it’s the fantasy of momentary reinvention. In that second you think, I could be an aloof, sexy hipster/wacky faux fur-sporter/someone who shows cleavage/trend-setter/Fosse-style-dancer/6 inches taller.

99 percent of the time, it doesn’t happen. My own experience of shopping (and I’m a pretty picky shopper) is that even the most adored items lose their gloss after a few months. The mediocre ones after a few wears. And the experimental, on-trend, ‘It’ girlish items? Well, they usually look stupid on me so I don’t buy them, but those I have bought tend not to make it out of the closet more than once, save the occasional costume party.

But that’s the way fashion works. We’re supposed to get tired of the old favourites and long for something new. And if the on-trend items look terrible on us, all the better - discarding them to the forgotten corner of your wardrobe means aching for something new all the sooner.

What’s more, super trendy clothes are often designed specifically to make non-catwalk model types look dreadful, or at least without their aesthetic needs in mind.

There’s pleasure to be had in dressing up, certainly. But it’s a pleasure that’s best derived from pursuing your own aesthetic, and wearing clothes that feel good on your body, not following some arbitrary and impossible to live up to definition of style.   

Such clothes are hard to find, though. Which is why I don’t buy them very often these days.

Rachel Hills is a freelance journalist and blogger who writes about gender, sexuality, media, and pop culture. Her blog Musings of an Inappropriate Woman was voted Best Australian feminist blog by The Australian. Her blog The Sex Myth is a public forum through which to discuss the results of her post-graduate research, on the relationship between sex, status and identity as they are experienced by young people aged 18 to 29 years – the group popularly known as Generation Y or the Millennial Generation.


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