I have a bit of a bee-in-my-bonnet about the pressures and assumptions society and media places on women and their weight. That brides should (or are expected to want to) lose weight for their wedding day.
I shared my bee-in-my-bonnet, on the ‘thin debate’ with Vanessa Feltz on BBC One London 94.9 on the 17th March 2014.
The debate was sparked by Vogue editors’ recent comment that she is ‘bored’ with the thin debate. As you can imagine, the show generated a lot of passionate and intelligent debate, including from young girls and women who have been seriously affected by anorexia as a result of trying to reach an ideal, undoubtedly influenced by the images constantly imposed on us in the mainstream media.
Vanessa asked me if it matters that models are thin – should we just accept that magazines will only ever use thin models on their covers. My response. “Absolutely not”.
Vanessa goes onto ask if, we, the general public, are we ever going to find big women aspirational? My response. “Absolutely yes”.
Even Facebook tunes in to this weight loss assumption….As soon as I changed my status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘engaged’, suddenly I was greeted with a tonne of wight loss ads. Now I find that boring.
But I must be thankful, since changing my status to ‘married’ the weight loss gods have given me a break and now it’s baby-making ads and IVF!!! Gee. Whizz.
As a blogger, I constantly get bombarded with mail shots encouraging my readers to lose weight for their wedding day. I will never endorse weight loss to meet an unrealistic expectation that has been presented to us in the media, or out of the pressure to look ‘perfect’ in a wedding photograph or on film.
Vanessa then went on to ask me: ‘As a wedding blogger and magazine contributor, do you feel it’s your responsibility to take on the editor to fly the flag for diverse women in magazines, to begin some type of fight for women’.
My answer again: “Absolutely yes”.
I’m not suggesting there is anything untoward about making a conscious choice to lose weight out of personal or a lifestyle choice, but not it if you are losing weight to please someone else, out of the pressures of perfection, or in an attempt to conform to an ideal portrayed in magazines that really ‘isn’t you’. My bee-in-my-bonnet isn’t about women wanting to look absolutely beautiful on their wedding day. Quite the contrary. It’s about media influencing what beautiful is, inferring that only thin is beautiful and the impact that can have on all of us.
Losing weight specifically for a wedding by extreme weight loss means, is referred to in the industry as Bridorexia. Where brides and (and some grooms too) desperately start crash dieting, exercising in excess to change their body size for their wedding. You may have heard of some women resorting to ordering wedding dresses several sizes smaller than their current size as a motivator to ensure they lose weight. This makes me mad and sad at the same time.
Whilst of course we can’t and shouldn’t attribute these type of extreme measures entirely to media, media is, (now more-so than ever with social media added to the mix), a powerful influencer on how women (men) and children perceive themselves and what is accepted as beautiful in society.
I’d like to introduce to you the flip side of this desire to lose weight and be ‘thin’.
I remember being sneered at during my search for my wedding dress with various comments ranging from ‘oh my god, you’re so skinny’ to ‘well you’re going to HAVE to put on some weight before your wedding day’. Erm, OK then…
Why is it that human beings seem to have such STRONG opinions about what other people should look like? Do we put these pressures onto each other, or is it purely down to a butterfly effect of what we see in the media?
I’ve also experienced the pressures of bridal perfection influencing some of my gorgeous and very slim engaged friends; ferociously scanning menu’s in restaurants and trying to figure out what they can and can’t eat in line with the food police and their newly acquired wedding diet plan. Exercising to the excess. Breathing in during bridal fittings.
Whilst I have always been on the other side of the spectrum with my skinny minnie self, this side isn’t always as ‘desirable’ and problem free as some people might think.
Vanessa reports in her radio show that some models are frequently known to faint on photo-shoots and have been seen eating tissues in order to stay thin. (I witnessed this at professional dance College too and cannot believe it is still happening over 13 years later – give me a Nandos’ over tissue any day!)
I was having a really interesting online discussion with a wedding dress designer about the implication body size & proportions can have on bridal designs used for promotional purposes. I was asking why there doesn’t seem to be any diversity with the models we constantly see in wedding magazines. From shape size, right down to ethnicity. Her response was hugely interesting and insightful.
The designer explained a little bit about the designing process and the cost involved with providing sample wedding dresses. When a sample dress goes beyond a ‘standard size’ (Sz 16 for example) the design process would need to become much more bespoke (which costs more money) as in general there are likely to be much more variations with body proportions. This means that popping a curvier model who perhaps does not conform to a ‘standard size’ may impact how a design looks and the body proportions may not look their best in promotional photographs, therefore potentially showcasing the design in a less than ideal light.
On the complete reverse, the designer also discussed that many designers prefer not to have their designs showcased on thin models and do not attribute ‘thin’ as being feminine or aspirational. What I found most interesting was when the designer explained that working with a model with a tiny body may mean there is literally not much room (materials) to actually display their talents. That elements of the design may actually have to be cut off in order to make it fit a small model.
Yet, it is evidently still seen as ‘desirable’ to be ‘thin’ by some casting agents who continue to encourage models to lose weight to get jobs and publishers (particularly in fashion) continue to showcase this ideal in media. It’s a very powerful psychology, but if I am to make the assumption that more designers actually want to showcase their brands on more voluptuous women, yet models (and real women) are being encouraged to lose weight, then are we in a vicious cycle? Who’s responsibility is it to step outside of the box and break it?
Where is the desire to be ‘thin’ coming from?
As always there are pros and cons to every ideal. From personal experience, there were so many gorgeous designs I wanted to have for my wedding dress, but couldn’t because my proportions weren’t right for a certain style, or shape, and at many times the dress literally drowned me and could not be altered because it meant ruining the entire design. (Perhaps I should have gone bespoke to avoid this!) Needless to say this did not make me feel great about myself.
For any bride-to-be on your wedding day and beyond, the desire should always be, to be yourself shouldn’t it? To be the best version of yourself, to find the beauty in your imperfections. To feel confident knowing that you are loved and your partner has fallen in love with the best bits and the bits you like to hide.
There is and will always be diversity in beauty. Perhaps if we start embracing that ideal more, the media might catch up.
Would love to hear your thoughts about how you have felt about your weight in the run up to your wedding? Have you felt pressure to lose or put on weight? Have you felt like you simply wanted to lose weight by personal choice? Are you bored with the debate like the Vogue editor?