What Would Magazines & Clothing Labels Look Like If They Actually Represented Real (Un-Photoshopped) Women?

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See this image above right here? This is what a women’s lifestyle magazine looks like when you put diverse and real women on the cover. We know there is a lot of angst toward the term “real women” because every woman is real. What we like to see is magazines choosing not just to feature those real size zero Caucausian supermodels only, ya feel?

It’s about diversity and representing the wide range of readership each magazine has, which is why we applaud Redbook’s September issue. And it’s also fitting that it is their September issue, because in the world of high fashion magazines, Vogue’s most important edition each year is their (you guessed it) September issue!

And hey even Vogue got in on the action of diversity and chance by featuring Beyonce on their September cover. It may be the singer’s 4th time on the cover, but it is the first time a black artist has been featured on this important edition.

While we’re all about celebrating the barriers Queen Bey breaks on a daily basis, it is important there are magazines and media publications acknowledging the everyday women. What Redbook have done, by using women who aren’t models, is send a loud and clear message that they care. It is the first time the magazine has not used models as cover girls, and we certainly are cheering loudly for this editorial decision!

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“The six women on our cover are just as beautiful as any celebrity you’ll find this month on the newsstand. Part of what makes them so gorgeous is that they are so confident, and so true to who they are. They deserve their space on the newsstand next to the Rihannas and Kim Kardashians of the world,” Redbook’s editor-in-chief Meredith Rollins told Mic.

“September is the month when high-fashion magazines put the biggest celebrities on the cover and highlight the most cutting-edge designer looks. Those issues are amazing, but our readers want fashion that can work in their actual everyday lives,” she added, giving a nod to Vogue.

The issue of magazines presenting narrow ideals of beauty, or unrealistic ones with excessive photoshop and airbrushing is nothing new, but it is still very pervasive. There have been many new media publications declaring they want to ban the use of photoshop because their readers want to see more realism.

In August 2014 clothing brand Modcloth became the first label to sign the “anti-photoshop pledge” created by Brave Girls Want, an alliance of media men and women pushing for the ‘Truth in Advertising’ bill to be signed by Congress. Other brands like American Eagle’s Aerie Lingerie and UK label Simply Be have made major statements about not using photoshop in certain campaigns. Oh and it’s clearly paying off because all of American Eagle’s sales were reportedly down over the past year, except for Aerie, sale of which increased 9%.

Of course it’s not just photoshop that is the problem, it’s also the issue of not having a variety of men and women featured on covers. Another major magazine that has made a statement in the diversity stakes in Teen Vogue. Their August issue featured three up-and-coming models, all of whom happened to be young black women.

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The three women are Egyptian-Moroccan Imaan Hammam, French-Ivorian Aya Jones, and Dominican Lineisy Montero. 

“When you get them all together for their first Teen Vogue cover shoot, don’t expect any philosophical discussions about breaking barriers. Nor is there any trace of the competitive tension one might expect from young women climbing the ranks within an industry that has a bad rap for breeding catty, mean girls. They are just here to work,” writes Elaine Welteroth.

That is exactly what it should be about: the work. But while they don’t necessarily want to talk about breaking barriers, we happily will and are glad that Teen Vogue has made such a big statement on the impressionable minds of the young women who buy this industry bible.

It’s hard for us to expect every single magazine to change their directive overnight when it comes to representing diversity and reality, but each small step is an (hopefully influential) step in the right direction. It’s not only up to major magazines either. If up-and-coming magazines and label establish themselves from the start as a company dedicated to offering a wider definition of beauty and catering to all women.

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One clothing brand based out of New York that we are huge fans of and who are gaining plenty of attention for their very different approach to promoting the label, is Smart Glamour, created by model and badass feminist Mallorie Carrington.

Each season they feature a range of models of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages in clothing which ranges from sizes XXS to 6S and which are also all under $100. Their latest campaign called ‘Same Size, Different Eyes’ proves that even women who have the same body size may look completely different in the same dress, so there is no way just catering for one body shape is going to appeal to a wide range of buyers.

“I gathered up six ladies, including myself, who represent Small, Large, and 3X, and photographed them by size, wearing the same articles of clothing. The photos show women of different shapes and sizes wearing the exact same garments, demonstrating how clothes will vary in appearance depending on the wearer, even if their basic measurements are the same,” Mallorie told Refinery29.

The idea came about after a conversation with a friend showed Mallorie there is so much stigma around certain sizes. If more labels, brands and magazines promoted diversity, perhaps this issue wouldn’t be so pervasive.

“I clearly remember discussing this concept with a friend who said, ‘I wouldn’t mind if I went from a Medium to a Large, but yeah, it’d probably bother me if I went from a Large to an Extra Large’. And, when I asked why, she had no logical reason to give,” she said.

Mallorie, who custom makes each item of clothing, can be seen in the middle in the image below.

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What Smart Glamour, and Redbook Magazine are doing is showing what fashion would look like if there were more than just one type of woman represented front and center. Looks good to us! We think Redbook’s Meredith Rollins was on point when she said it is about sending the message to everyday women they are just as beautiful, important and valued as celebrities and super stars.

“The media spends a lot of time pretending to celebrate diversity, sending up a self-congratulatory cheer whenever a magazine puts someone who isn’t pin-thin on a cover. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s awfully small. I, for one, don’t want to believe that it only takes a famous face or a million-dollar wardrobe or a size-zero body to sell magazines,” she said.

We agree! Here’s to the infiltration of body diversity in fashion, media and advertising. Here’s to a world where women don’t feel they have to change and contort to feel beautiful, just simply be who they are. And finally, here’s to the brands and labels giving women this permission and making this happen!

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