The Sexualization of Fashion

In a new blog post on the Comms Women platform, Endia Witherspoon, a student at the University of Alabama, College of Communication and Information Sciences, writes about the sexualization of fashion.

Many brands and companies use the quote ‘Sex Sells’ when determining why the fashion industry is so over-sexualized. As we all know for many years way before any media channels were invented, the thought that sex was the main way to sell an idea or item faster than anything else. Brands like Calvin Klein have been known to use scandals and be overly sexualized within their campaigns for their clothing as well as their fragrances. But at what cost does it become too much? After their 1981 jean campaign with Brooke Shields, you would have thought that a lesson would’ve been learned, but no that is not the case.

Photo credit: Shattha Pilabut

So, what is the cause?  Why do brands feel as though they need to sexualize/exploit models (specifically women) and their brands to curate better sales?

One of the biggest problems is that a lot of these big fashion brands that we know, and love are run by men and that fashion can be seen as a male-dominated industry that focuses on the male gaze. A quote from the article ‘Sex Fuels Fashion: Destabilizing the Male Gaze by Shattering the Glass Runway’ on ‘Fast at UCLA’ written by Camille Ray says, “Rebuking the idea of a woman perpetuated under the male gaze, Gen Z is taking back woman’s identity, showing little interest in appeasing the opposite sex but rather reclaiming their autonomy and empowering themselves.” I enjoyed this statement because as we continue to grow and evolve women are starting to step away from the male gaze which is huge. A lot of feminists have fought for this exact thing, and with decentering the male gaze the sexualization of fashion can stop (somewhat) altogether.

Who else is affected by this?

While women are the main group of people who are affected by this, men and sadly even children feel the effects of the sexualization of fashion as well. Going back to the Calvin Klein jeans campaign with Brooke Shields, she was a minor in those questionable campaigns, and now as an adult, she speaks out about how uncomfortable she felt being so sexualized at such a young age and how it has affected her. That happened back in the 80s when things were more “acceptable”, but now the world has changed and the sexualization of kids has continued. For example, in the Balenciaga campaign that happened and how kids were photographed holding teddy bears wearing bondage, fishnets, etc. which is very unacceptable. It appears the brands have no morals or self-respect.

So how can we move forward? Will this over-sexualization ever stop?

Probably not but there are ways that brands can be sexual but also uphold class and morals. A point that I agree with is that the sexualization regarding fashion starts with school and the dress codes they put on their students, especially the girls. According to an article called “Everything Wrong With The Hyper-sexualization of Women’s Clothing” on ‘The A MAG’ written by Isabelle McBride, she states, “Women are taught from a young age that their bodies do not belong to them … it starts with the dress codes that primarily target girls.”  Another quote from Isabelle that many brands should think about is “The path to a solution comes from recognizing a problem and having the desire to fix it.”

I completely agree once, these brands start to understand that they are the problems, then we as people and the brands can work cohesively to start removing the harsh sexualization that has been put onto fashion. Hopefully in the future fashion can be seen for what it is a form of self-expression and not a form of sexualization of women, men, and children under the perverted gazes of those who enjoy it.

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