You are a curvy African American girl attending a high school in the suburbs. To decide what to wear to a party that night, you flip through the pages of your favorite fashion magazine… only to see outfit suggestions for girls who don’t look like you, clothes that don’t match your shape. , makeup that won’t flatter your skin and “celebrity outfits” worn by stars you didn’t see growing up.
It’s no secret that magazines are lacking on the diversity front. vogue tackled the subject in March 2014 with the article “Is the fashion world finally embracing diversity?” The lead photo for the article showed three statuesque models with skin the color of a Starbucks mocha frappuccino and thick, curly tresses sticking out of the frame. Wrote Sarah Mower, chief critic of Vogue.com:
“With their multinational and multi-ethnic backgrounds, not to mention their high cheekbones, upturned eyes and long, handsome limbs – they lead the kind of era fast that makes editors fight, designers throw money and agents scrambling. Finally, the years of ‘laundering’ that chilled the heart of the industry seem to be on the way out.”
The fashion elite chimed in, with Tom Ford reminding readers, “I’ve always used black designs” and Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing declaring, “I don’t see colors…I see attitudes.”
But seeing different colors is actually pretty important when it comes to diversity — as is seeing different body shapes, hair types, genders, and cultural influences. True diversity should embrace multiple identities. This should, theoretically, mean that fashion magazines reflect the people who read them.
To do this, magazines could take inspiration from Tumblr.
Tumblr isn’t the only place for online fashion, of course. But as a social platform populated by young readers (according to AdWeek, 27% of Tumblr’s 19.1 million users are between the ages of 25 and 34, and 23.3% are between the ages of 18 and 24) which is also racially diverse, Tumblr embodies the best that magazines can be: colorful, diverse, interactive, communal and ultimately inspiring.
Here are some things fashion magazines could take from Tumblr.
Racial diversity means more than a few black faces.
It’s no secret that magazines love white faces, from models to celebrities. The data of the fashion stitch in 2014 found that across 44 major magazines, with 611 total covers, white models appeared 567 times, while people of color only made 119 appearances.
But go to Tumblr and you’ll find a veritable rainbow of racial diversity. The word “model” brings up some magazine favorites like Cara Delevingne, but also Joan Smalls, Ming Xi, Kiko Mizuhara and countless other Korean faces. There are dark and light faces, and models from all walks of life, showcasing clothes from high-end designers you know and ones you probably don’t. The diversity is not limited to a few “black models” to compensate for dozens of white models; it’s about reflecting the countless types of beauty that exist, in all shades.
Diversity also applies to bodies.
The fashion industry is taking small steps to embrace diversity in body types, such as the inclusion of plus-size model Robyn Lawley in Sports IllustratedThis year’s swimsuit number. But as Amanda Czerniawski, assistant professor of sociology at Temple University, wrote in her book Shaping Fat: Inside Plus Size Modeling, this inclusion is still rare and body types are still limited. As Czerniawski told the Globe and Mail in February:
“There might be a fashion magazine issue devoted to ‘curvy’ bodies – and they’ll put Scarlett Johansson in it. Or Kate Upton. … What we have to remember is that even if these models are a bit taller than what we “I’m used to seeing in fashion, these are always atypical bodies. They are always taller than the average woman – and they have proportional body shapes, symmetrical facial features, the intangible X factor. “
Tumblr isn’t exempt from these classically slim models, but there’s room for all types. A look at the countless photos labeled “curvy” or “plus” reveals more bodies of all shapes and sizes rarely seen on the glossy pages of a magazine. This can mean big, small, big breasts or wide hips, or small too. The point is variety — and on Tumblr, it’s endless.
“Fashion icons” don’t have to be called Audrey, Marilyn or Jackie.
Everyone plays favorites. To this day, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy Onassis still inspire thousands of magazine readers as fashion icons, their looks embraced by modern corollaries like Olivia Palermo, Gigi Hadid and Kate Middleton.
But there are other beautiful stars who inspire young women who rarely get covers. Search “fashion icon” on Tumblr, and you’ll come across images of rapper Lil’ Kim, singer Sade, androgynous model Erika Linder, plus Lil’ Kim and Musidora, “a French silent film actress” who ” played the famous role of Irma Vep in The vampires.(Oh, and more Lil’ Kim.) Search for “star style” and you’ll see faces from South Korea, England, and the Philippines.
And then there are lesser-known heroes. Barbie Ferreira and Jam Wilson are just two examples of new faces using their position to spread messages of body positivity (Wilson, in particular, is involved in the art hoe movement, which aims to reclaim the word “hoe” and elevate participants of color) – and look absolutely stunning while doing it.
The style does not only exist in Europe and the United States
Karlie Kloss, Cindy Crawford and Erin Heatherton are just the tip of the iceberg for Midwestern models: tall, corn-fed white women who traveled from the plains to the pages of vogue and She. Young magazine readers trying to find, say, Iranian or Indian models to idolize, or Nigerian or Japanese fashion that reflects their cultural upbringing will be hard-pressed to find inspirations that don’t fit all-American fashion.
On the other hand, ethnic and cultural diversity abounds on Tumblr. Searching for Middle Eastern women yields pages and pages not just of models, but of beautiful women posting photos of themselves – makeup tutorials, outfit charts, selfies, and more. You’ll find henna photos and heaps of Korean “ulzzang” photos, not to mention entire fashion subcultures (just take a look at the dark style of grunge blogs). Style doesn’t have to start on the catwalks of Milan, Paris and New York. Talking about that…
Fashion shouldn’t be a one-way conversation.
Think back to that curvaceous African-American teenager. Using Tumblr for inspiration, from high-profile bloggers to her own peers, she can also participate. She could post her own photo (with a helpful #ootd tag, perhaps) and talk about her experiences. She could comment on a blogger’s photo to thank or compliment them. She might post a picture of a few items she has in her closet and ask, “How can I put these items together?” Then she would get answers.
More importantly, she would have a space to see other people who look like her, outfits suitable for people who look like her, and a community to embrace her.
Magazines could seek to create more community and a sense of camaraderie. After all, they are talking about who they envision for their readers. Magazines can be transformed while retaining their signature and aesthetics. It also means they can include more racial diversity, body diversity, and cultural diversity, while still appealing to their readers.
In fact, they may just earn a few (thousands) more.