authenticity comes in all shapes // share your story

hen I discovered blogs, it was kind of life changing.  Prior to seeing any kind of online fashion blog, the only place I'd ever seen fashion or style was in the pages of a magazine, or maybe on TV.  I remember being a young adolescent, plagued by my big, unruly hair and I longed for the sleek, straight hair I saw on the pages of magazines and on TV.  I wished that my body would grow into a woman's body, but my idea of what a woman's body was?  What I saw on TV and in magazines.  I figured my legs would grow longer, I'd have full, perky breasts, and hopefully I'd learn how to tame my hair into something manageable.  

Fast forward to late-high school/college aged me, and I'd begun the process of accepting that not all women look like the women in magazines, and growing up doesn't mean growing into that.  At least, not for everyone.  I was the short daughter of a short mom and a average height dad.  I was the daughter of a woman who I thought was beautiful, but who didn't have long legs and large perky breasts.  I realized it was completely silly for younger me to think I'd look like a magazine model, because, well, genetics.  Duh!

But the fact is, even though I know that my mom never talked about weight or dieting or complained about her body (and I'm immensely thankful to her for modeling a body-positive mindset), the media informed me, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, that I should aspire to a certain type of body, regardless of whether or not that body was in the cards for me genetically.  The truth is, whether or not we like it, the media plays a pretty big role in informing our preferences and our beliefs about others and about ourselves.

So when I randomly stumbled through the internet one lazy July afternoon in the kitchen of my parents' house and found myself scrolling with wonder through The Clothes Horse, I was mesmerized.  Real people, sharing photos of themselves wearing cute outfits, for anyone to see.  People my size and shape.  People with small breasts and big butts.  Big people, little people, tall people, short people.  It was crazy!  And the best part about it was how awesome it was to see beautifully styled outfits in real life.  These weren't models on a set with a stylist, hair and makeup, lights, and a professional photographer.  They were just girls who really liked getting dressed and wanted to be a part of a community that inspired them, and they were actually wearing those outfits out and about.  I knew I wanted to be a part of the community somehow, it was just so refreshing to see people like me wearing beautiful outfits.  I wasn't very stylish yet, I was still pretty solidly stuck in my jeans and t-shirt rut I'd been riding since high school, but I knew that I wanted to be around people who would inspire me to explore that side of myself.

In all the years I've been blogging, one of my favorite things has been seeing how the fashion industry has had to adjust itself to cope with the democratization of fashion because of the internet and, largely, fashion blogs.   Companies large and small want to work with bloggers because people like seeing clothes on people who aren't in the midst of a huge fashion shoot.  All of the bloggers I know actually wear all the outfits they style on their blogs out in real life.  It's a slice of something authentic, not something manufactured.  

The one thing that seems to be remaining in the fashion industry, resisting the pull of authenticity, is the photoshopping, casting of models, and manufacturing of plus sizes.  There are definitely some struggles (manufacturing plus sizes, especially for smaller, independent designers, can be a huge cost that they might not make back in sales.  Super slender models are cast because sample sizes are so tiny), but I think we're reaching a tipping point.  People are tired of being lied to.  People are tired of the before-photoshop and after-photoshop scandals.  People want to see themselves (and their bodies and/or ethnicities) represented in the fashion world as a whole.  

Over the years I've loved having the privilege of working with forward-thinking companies.  Companies who value their customers and authenticity.  I think it can be pretty hard to go against the flow in the fashion industry, but I'm always encouraged when I see people standing up for what they believe is right.  I've worked with ModCloth for years and have always liked how they include photos  and size info in the item reviews, showcase photos of their customers on their site and on their style gallery, and now they're taking it a step further by signing the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers, committing to not digitally alter the bodies of their models, and also to do their best to hire models of a variety of shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.  Susan Gregg Koger, ModCloth's founder and chief creative officer, just released an open letter sharing her thoughts on the fashion industry and her commitment to authenticity and transparency in advertising.   Interestingly Dove, who's been marketing with the "Real Beauty" campaign have, so far, declined to sign the pledge.  

It's exciting to hear so much momentum for body positivity and diversity in an industry that for decades has been pretty monochromatic.  I think that blogs have played a pretty big role in showing people that you don't have to look a certain way to be stylish or feel good about yourself.  But, you know, I might be a bit biased, being a blogger and all.  The internet as a whole has given regular people a platform and a place for voices to be raised and empowered.  We've learned that not only do our voices matter, but they can be powerful when we raise them in unison.  

So what's your story?  Have you felt like false, unrealistic advertising has adversely affected your body image, either now, or growing up?    42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner, 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of getting fat, 78% of 17-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.  Are you a parent trying to figure out how to fight the statistics for your daughter?  This is our story, but it doesn't have to be our kids' story.  How can we fight the harmful messages that are literally killing girls and women?  Are you still fighting for your own life?  To love your own body?  To believe you are beautiful just the way you are?  You aren't alone.  

Here’s how to participate:

 Write your own post on your own blog, sharing your experience with how the media has affected your body image, how you're fighting to change the harmful messages, or how you're changing the future for your children. Write it quick, don’t overthink it, just spill it all out, it can be pictures if you want, whatever. If you’ve already written one, feel free to link that up, too.

 Include a link in your post back to this post, so your readers can find others writing on the same topic.

 Enter the link to your post (the actual post link, not just your blog link) into the link-up tool thing there below.

 Tell a few people about your post,  either through social media or talk about it with a friend over coffee.  Click around and visit a few of the other posts linked up!