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  • Writer's pictureMarsaili Mainz

Fashion's Digital Spectacle: From Catwalks to Social Media



It's almost impossible to separate fashion, celebrity, and technology in today's world. These nexuses are closely intertwined, painting a mesmerizing digital spectacle almost too alluring to resist. Yet, beneath the gloss and glam, there are deeper concerns — the power dynamics of femininity, our inherent self-worth, and the very real consequences of

excessive consumption.


Celebrity Culture: A Technological Tango


Historically, the appeal of celebrities has always gone hand in hand with technological progress. This isn't just a present-day phenomenon; technology has long been shaping the fashion-celebrity axis. Think about it: the telephoto lens in the 1960s revolutionized how we viewed celebrities, marking the dawn of modern celebrity culture (Cashmore, 2006; Church-Gibson, 2011). This tool, among others, transformed the public's access to private spaces, fueling our collective obsession with celebrity lifestyles. As we navigate the 21st century, the boundaries between public and private lives blur even more, thanks to social media. Celebrities willingly (or perhaps strategically) offer glimpses into their personal spaces: their living rooms, diets, and fashion choices. All these feed into a grand narrative that affects women profoundly. But it's essential to remember — it's not just about the beauty and diet routines. As McRobbie (2009) reminds us, there's a substantial influence on women's representation, especially when we're continually trying to match often unrealistic beauty standards.


The Stark Reality: Celebrity Culture's – Whitewashing


While celebrity culture's allure is undeniable, it isn't without its flaws. The celebration of 'whiteness' on catwalks and fashion magazines is a longstanding concern (Orbach, 2009). In tandem with fashion, celebrity culture has often sanitized diversity, marginalizing those who don't fit into the dominant paradigm (Church-Gibson 2011).


Vogue & Visual Culture: The Subtle Shaping of Feminine Norms


The symbiosis of technology and visual culture is profoundly evident in the fashion industry. Magazines like Vogue have long been powerful communication tools, moulding societal standards on women's appearances and behaviours (Rose, 2016). Such platforms have been crafting narratives on how women should present themselves, ultimately leading to what Church-Gibson (2011) terms the "cathedral of consumption." For instance, the shifting messaging of Vogue over the years —from promoting beauty in the 1970s to empowerment in the 2000s — has always centred around idealized beauty standards, predominantly featuring successful white models and celebrities. Their influence runs deep, and as McRobbie (2009, 2015) argues, the consequences can be dire, ranging from mental health issues to environmental degradation.


In this light, fashion emerges as a feminist issue. For example, a 1970 edition of USA Vogue had a subheading that read, "ChooseYour Own Nose: Advice from Plastic Surgeons." Such narratives underscore the fashion industry's influence on gender representations and evolving notions of female beauty. The narratives woven by media outlets like Vogue serve as cultural guides, setting expectations for what constitutes "acceptable" or "ideal" femininity. While it's encouraging to see an increasing embrace of diversity, historical narratives from such platforms have left lasting impacts on societal perceptions.


USA 1970 Vogue Front Cover


From the Digital World to Real-world Impacts


The ripple effect of fashion's digital spectacle is palpable in daily life. The imagery, articles, and ideals promoted online seep into offline spaces, influencing conversations, aspirations, and, most crucially, self-perceptions. This is especially evident among younger audiences who've grown up in a digital age, where validation often stems from online affirmations and conforming to digital beauty standards.


Furthermore, the democratization of fashion through social media

platforms like Instagram and TikTok has created a paradox. On the one hand, it

allows for increased representation, with everyday people showcasing their

style, defying established norms, and championing body positivity. On the

other, it perpetuates the culture of constant comparison, potentially exacerbating insecurities and perpetuating the cycle of unrealistic beauty standards.


Looking Ahead: A Call for Conscious Consumption


The digital landscape blurs the lines between reality and representation. There's a

pressing need for consumers to cultivate a discerning eye. While it's natural to be enticed by the glamour and allure of the fashion world, it's essential to recognize the constructed nature of these images and narratives. Brands, media outlets, and influencers bear a responsibility, too. With their significant sway over public perception, they should prioritize authenticity, diversity, and inclusivity. They can play a pivotal role in reshaping societal perceptions and promoting a healthier, more inclusive understanding of femininity by showcasing a broader range of beauty standards and narratives.


In conclusion, while the digital spectacle of fashion offers a captivating view into the world of glitz and glamour, it's crucial to approach it with a critical mind. Recognizing these representations' power dynamics, underlying intentions, and real-world impacts can help foster a more inclusive and empowered society.

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