On the drive down to Birmingham I had the same feelings of excitement that I’d had as a thirteen year old on my first ever trip to the NEC. Models, famous people, CLOTHES!
Having missed last years Clothes Show Live, I was keen to be back on track and so accompanying my mum, fifteen year old sister and her best friend, I headed down to the Clothes Show to grab some bargains.
As much as I loved spending a girly day out with my family, I was surprised at some of the things that I observed at the show as an adult, that went largely unnoticed to me as a teenager.
Don’t get me wrong, the buzz was still there. I got completely carried away entering competitions left right and centre, buying goody bags- I even subscribed to Women’s Health, a magazine I’ve never once read before.
However, as I went about enjoying my day I couldn’t help but notice the gaggles of fifteen year old girls gushing over celebrities, getting dolled up at makeover bars and watching beautiful winners of the genetic lottery strut their stuff on stages look on in awe.
I was exactly the same as a teenager, happily lapping it all up. Though as I sat next to my sister watching the show on the main stage, I couldn’t help but wonder what coming to this show every year really does to young girls. Being exposed to perfectly formed women and makeovers that help you compete to be the prettiest, to being overlooked by model scouts scouring the crowds for 6ft 14 year-olds, all of this seems somehow wrong.
As teenagers, my friends and I would spend weeks planning outfits for the Clothes Show. Leaving the house in your new outfit you might feel great but in the end it’s hard to escape the insecurities that the day could leave you with.
I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that the entire day seemed more focused on reinforcing ideas of an idealised, unobtainable standard of beauty, in order to fuel sales of cosmetics, rather than on instilling young girls with a sense of passion for developing their own style or an appreciation of clothes.
Having such a young audience, the Clothes Show has so much potential as a platform to speak to girls of this age group with an interest in fashion and to some extent it does fulfil that potential. It provides people with access to information about fashion-related courses and graduate opportunities. There were talks by leading industry professionals and this element of the show was very inspiring. Unfortunately it wasn’t a big focus of the day.
I understand that the show is a consumer based affair, that’s all part of the appeal. We all love to shop and to browse the latest trends in fashion and beauty. Perhaps though, it might be more valuable to emphasise enjoying fashion for what it is- fashion. Perhaps girls should be enjoying clothes for what they are rather than competing to be beautiful or aspiring to become a catwalk model.
In no way am I saying that those models shouldn’t be up there looking bloody hot on the catwalk. They’re admirable men and women that train hard to keep their figures in shape. The figure and look that models have is in many ways an essential part of the fashion world that works fantastically. Clothes look brilliant on the frames that are chosen for the catwalk!
All that I will say is that rather than push these young girls to try and make themselves prettier by buying the right beauty products, we might use opportunities such as this to push them to feel good about themselves and to embrace a passion for something that they might enjoy.
Rick Edwards highlighted it perfectly in his joking, but bitterly true comment when he said something along the lines of, “There’s a competition on at ‘X’ stand, so go down and see if you’re pretty enough!”.