SXSW 2017: Women in fashion talk about the ‘ideal girl’ vs. the ‘real girl’

The fashion industry is slowly evolving to celebrate creativity and difference — and these women are leading the way.

Posted March 12th, 2017

The “real girl” is making a comeback.

With the help of social media (#realwomen has more than 260,000 posts on Instagram), consumers, writers and publishers are pushing for something that is surprisingly revolutionary: positive representation of all women.

At “Rise of the ‘Real Girl’ in Beauty and Fashion,” editors and writers from fashion websites Revelist and Vivala told honest stories about how they weren’t represented in popular media, and how they took the steps to change that themselves.

“We are constantly taking into our hearts and minds these perfect images of ideal girls, and that could be why 90 percent of American women, according to research done in 2016, say they’re dissatisfied with the way they look,” said Alle Connell, deputy editor of Revelist.

The representation of the “cool girl” is wonderful, “but it’s so exclusionary,” said Connell. “I saw this huge gap between what women’s media thought women wanted and what women actually wanted.”

Jessica Torres, a plus-size fashion writer at Revelist, said that when she was growing up, she often thought, “One day I’ll be brave enough to wear something like that; I’ll feel brave enough to feel pretty.”

In college, her peers told her that she didn’t have to wait to be fashionable. After that, she began taking full-length photos of herself wearing stylish clothes and blogging about fashion.

“I was receiving messages from girls in Texas and California and everywhere, and I’ll always remember this one girl,” Torres said. “She was from California and she sent me a message … and she told me that after seeing my blog and seeing my Instagram, she felt inspired and like she could wear a dress.”

On Revelist, Torres often tries on popular clothing from places such as the Kylie Jenner Shop, and shows what they look like on a plus-size girl — whether it works or doesn’t.

Cindy Diaz, associate editor at Vivala, a website that aims to give Latinas a platform to connect and express themselves, said she kick-started her web presence by posting “haul” videos to YouTube, showing cosmetic products she’d bought.

“I felt like we weren’t being fully represented, and in turn that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough,” Diaz said.

She said that she had to watch videos and experiment to find products that match her skin tone, which was difficult because a lot of cosmetics come in limited shades.

“I was learning things like how to find a foundation match for my olive skin that didn’t make me look like I had jaundice of the liver,” Diaz said.

She documented this process through YouTube videos, which she began posting eight years ago.

“I didn’t think anybody would watch my videos or comment, let alone subscribe,” Diaz said.

Connell said people would be surprised at how revolutionary it is to show real products in unedited photographs and videos. Women like Diaz and Torres are part of “that cycle of growth,” she said.

“It’s so important not to just endlessly mirror perfection” Connell said. “Show us how you’re expressing yourself.”

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