Art Vs. Reality

 Sheila Hui
Fashion is art. I admire it, I take it in, but I understand that it’s supposed to inspire, not be something for me to aspire to become.

Working as a fashion model off and on for the past four years has shown me just how much work goes into creating this art, and how unrealistic the final products can be. I’ve seen images of myself from shoots where I look nothing like myself, thanks to the magic of Photoshop, extensive make up, hair, and clothing styling. With fashion infiltrating our lives on a daily basis, how has the the industry made its standards more relatable to the public?

Well, it hasn’t.

What you see in ads is not a lifestyle. I personally have genes that allow me to eat and still be very thin, but I know not all girls are the same. I have seen model friends of mine wither away desperate trying to fit industry ideals.

Still, I’m considered a bigger girl when it comes to modeling, and at 5 feet 10 inches and barely more than 115 pounds, I know the absurdity of fashion expectations.

I work where I can, but I won’t go to any extremes to lose weight. The industry is filled with girls who watch every little morsel of food that enters their mouths, and girls who watch every little morsel of food come back out into the toilet.

In recent years, the industry has taken measures to counteract the unhealthy image that has long been associated with haute couture. From banning girls who are too young or below a certain weight category from working during international fashion weeks to featuring “real” models in ads for companies such as Dove, the industry is taking tiny steps forward. However, the standard remains that thin is in, and anything else is a weak attempt to ease public disapproval.

But models who strut down the runway are still sticks with heads, and banning the obviously anorexic ones hasn’t done much to change anything. Haute couture ads are still full of sylph-like stunners who lounge glamorously, while looking extremely skinny.

Crystal Renn, the most famous plus-sized models, garnered a fair amount of attention by walking designer runways while being much bigger. However she’s been losing weigh rapidly and now blends in with all the other sizes she so famously countered.

What remains prevalent is the skinnier the better. Supermodel Gisele Bunchen was credited with bringing the era of sexy back to modeling, with her abundant curves and pouty stares. But when compared to the average woman, Bunchen is far from curvy. She is stick thin, with an ample bust. What the industry deems as “bigger” and more “realistic” is still far from attainable to the general public.


I used to be under the spell of the industry as well, until I became a part of it. I remember gazing adoringly at photos of slim models when I was younger, and wishing I could be as glamorous as them. Well, wish granted, since I got into modeling in my late teens.

But after a little experience, the spell was broken. Doing photoshoots, and seeing the raw images of myself compared to the final products, convinced me that fashion ads really are art and nothing more. I once did a shoot where they not only Photoshopped my face to perfection, but slimmed my jaw, my arms, and removed one of my hips all together. And I thought I’d be an old woman before I’d have to get a hip replacement.

The sheer amount of small and large repairs they do to an image showed me just how much difference there is between a raw shot and an ad. It’s what I like to call transformation technology.

Will the fashion industry ever accurately reflect what the general pubic looks like? Probably not. The draw of the fashion world lies in its elusiveness, both in price and in image. The more otherwordly and beyond pefection a model is made to look, the better.

A model portrayed in an image is hardly what she or he looks like in real life: the wonders of retouching, make-up, hair and other visual manipulations make even the most natural looking images into the results of several digital processes.

Seeing before-and-after images of magazine spreads has become something of a guity pleasure for gossip bloggers and their followers alike. We all know what Kim Kardashian looks like in reality from the countless papparazzi photos of her, and aside from her undoubtedly flawless face, it’s nothing like the the Kim we see in editorial shots. (Sorry Kim!)

The course of action that would be more effective is not to change the images we see, but how the public perceives them. Beautiful fashions ads are not mirrors of what little girls should want to look like, but rather pieces of heavily modified from reality art that can inspire us in the same ways a fine painting would. When one views a Michelangelo sculpture, or painting, we understand it is not a realistic ideal, but almost a mythical one outside of human standards. In its impeccable glory, it inspires something in us creatively. A movement from aspiring to look like ridiculous ideals and instead to inspiring creativity within is the key to matching haute expectations with reality.


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