Is It Fashion Or Is She Just Skinny?

Image shot by Pawel Szymanski

It’s not just models anymore. Thin has always been the beauty standard and the eating disorder culture that this standard creates is harmful for young people. 

Fashion is subjective to each person, it’s difficult to decide what truly is fashionable. However, what is highly praised may have less to do with the clothes, and more to do with the bodies wearing them. 

Enter social media influencers. The fashion industry has taken a back seat to starting the newest trends and now, people are looking to young people in their teens and early twenties to find the freshest ‘fits. The only problem? The eating disorder culture that surrounds them. 

Influencers like Emma Chamberlain, whose body and style is at the forefront of her brand. Chamberlain started out posting vlog-style content to YouTube in 2017, molding her videos into the style icon presented today. However, Emma is not just an influencer.

The style of her content is relatable, something that launched her to fame in the first place — but this relatability is harmful to the image that she, and other creators like her, present. It drives forward the notion that their slender, desirable bodies are just as real as the girls inside them — hiding any eating problems that accompany their small frames.

Emma Chamberlain’s Instagram post from March 8, 2021.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Chamberlain described how she has struggled with an eating disorder in the past. This alone helps her audience know that even her body is unachievable because it’s built on illness. 

Other influencers who are on the forefront of the “skinny trend” include Emily Ratajkowski, Olivia Rouyre and, of course, Kendall Jenner. 

All these girls are not only influencers, but “fashion icons,” with articles from Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times and Vogue calling these girls as such, which is where the age-old TikTok question comes into play: is it fashion or is she just skinny? 

These girls are held to a high standard style-wise and are highlighted as major influences on fashion trends. But with the aforementioned thin-factor, should young girls really be looking to an impossible standard for fashion? Or is this standard even fashionable in the first place? 

OUTFIT # 1

Emma Chamberlain Instagram post from Jan. 20, 2021

Starting off with an easy one, is this fit from Emma Chamberlain, a turquoise button down with a striped pleated skirt and a pink blazer. Honestly, this is easy because it’s so clearly an inaccessible outfit. Fashion should pride itself on being diverse and something like this, with clashing colors and awkward silhouettes, only looks good on thin people. 

VERDICT? Skinny.

OUTFIT # 2

Emily Ratajkowski Instagram post from July 13, 2020

Personally, I love simple style. You can’t go wrong with classic lines and cotton blends — but Emily Ratajkowski is doing something different here. Jeans and a gray shirt cropped just below the bust line is cute, but it’s not fashionable. The only reason the outfit is interesting is because of Ratajkowski’s slim build. This outfit wouldn’t be accepted on a plus-sized, or even a mid-sized, body.

VERDICT? Skinny.

OUTFIT # 3

Olivia Rouyre Instagram post from June 22, 2020

Another simple style that is inaccessible for bigger bodies. Olivia Rouyre’s outfit in this post consists of white trainers, blue jeans, a bikini top and a muted multi-colored cardigan. The composition is simple, but by pairing a bikini top as opposed to a shirt it makes the outfit all about size rather than style. 

VERDICT? You guessed it! Just skinny.

OUTFIT # 4

Kendall Jenner Instagram post from Dec. 31, 2021

Kendall is the perfect example of how thin is not synonymous with fashionable. This outfit is visually stunning, I love the monochrome black paired with different textures like the furry bag and leather jacket to juxtapose the shiny-ness of the boots. The outfit is sleek, it hugs her body well and highlights the waistline and it would suit a bigger body as well. THAT’S the point! This outfit is accessible and well thought out, making it stylish and inclusive. 

VERDICT? Fashion!

So what’s the main difference? 

The main thing that separates style and skinny is the accessibility of an outfit and something I like to call the “size rule.” Love an outfit, like the one in Ratajkowski’s July 13 post? Think about that outfit on a bigger body — how would something look on a size 6? What about a 14? Or a 22?

Those three sizes are standard women’s pant sizes in the US, not even broaching the edge of women’s plus sizing. 

“Is it fashion or is she just skinny” isn’t about shaming these women. It’s about analyzing the industry that praises awkward and mediocre fashion choices that are designed to highlight their thinness. If an outfit wouldn’t look good on a different sized body than 00-2, it’s probably not fashion — she’s just skinny.

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