The myth of the “real woman”

After a good period, while the fashion sphere tried to detach itself from the subject, it awakens now fascinated by the concept of “reality”, particularly by the one of “real woman”. It is the new obsession, which creates new endeavors that leave many simply mystified…

The omnipresence in the fashion landscape (magazines, advertising campaigns, and social media) of the young sylph mannequins started a wave of frustrations. Accused by incitement for anorexia, blamed by creating inferiority complexes among “normal” women, suspected by promoting “unrealistic” morphologies, the feminine press and fashion brands started to provoke violent reactions from readers and, obviously, from consumers.

And if the culprits are trying to adapt, delivering once in a while a special edition dedicated to plus-size mannequins, a “black issue” or other similar versions dedicated to a certain type of minority physique, the mannequins are still considered too skinny, too tall, too androgynous, too lacked of imperfections, insufficiently voluptuous, and so on. It appears that the problem is more tied to the status of “professional model” of women that are photographed in magazines, and less connected to their morphology.

The message seems to be heard correctly by some fashion magazines and luxury fashion houses. Called “The Real Issue: a model-free zone”, the November edition of Vogue UK presents in its pages only “real” women. On their side, Dolce & Gabbana multiplied its IRL incursions (In Real Life, for who doesn’t know this abbreviation): for the Instagram account, real workers are photographed, and the latest advertising campaign was made on the streets of Napoli, with mannequins surrounded by young local women…

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Is it a good or bad idea?

With a large potential for failure, these initiatives can be translated through the desire of creating a “buzz”, to born controversies, and have a smaller intention of actually changing things. I say this thinking about the #realpeople hashtag, used by Dolce & Gabbana (which has a strong notoriety when it comes to superiority and superficial), but also to the 2016 autumn-winter collection photos, showing mannequins dressed luxuriously next to a group of ecstatic girls, dressed in very common outfits. In both cases, the “real people” appear dull, poorly dressed, and the message can be interpreted like “if you want to stand out/ stand apart from the flock, give yourself Dolce…”

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My opinion

The use of the term “real woman” gets on my nerves more and more. Until the contrary, mannequins are also made out of flesh and bones, just like any other women. It is true that they religiously supervise their kilograms, but so are some athletes (like boxers, according to their weight category), ballerinas, dancers, cosmonauts, jockeys; and this doesn’t mean that they lose their “real” status.

What does a “real woman” means, after all? Where does she live, what is her job, what does she do in her spare time? How does a “real woman” look like? For the moment, it appears to me that both the fashion and marketing use salable tags that are easy to digest, with the purpose of selling an entire edition of a magazine, of increasing the exposure of a campaign, and of stirring things around a non-subject.

Concerning the luxury brands, their endeavors do nothing but to transmit an arrogant and condescending message. The illusion that luxury is affordable to anyone is false.

What do you think about the enterprise of last Vogue UK edition? How would you define the “real woman”?

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