It’s amazing how much has changed since the 90s. This was an era of many things—grunge music, the birth of gangster rap, and one of the last decades before the internet took hold. In many ways, it was an era where “everything goes” was the main motto on everyone’s mind. 

Of course, that was not true about beauty standards at the time. This was the era of Kate Moss and the “heroin chic” look that rocked the runways. If you didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes with a rail-thin figure, you weren’t hot. 

For most of us, this was a look that was totally unattainable. And for many of us, it may have had more of an effect than we originally thought…

Does the media control what we deem as beautiful?

Many models from the 90s and early 2000s never thought of the media as a potential cause of body dysmorphia or low self-esteem. It’s just a job to them. And historically, what models were meant to do is not what they have become.

Modeling only really began in the 19th century as a way for clothiers in New York City. The idea behind modeling, originally, was to show what an average woman wore and how female clients would look in the clothing that clothiers made. 

Believe it or not, the movie industry posed a problem for society when it came to the appearance of models. The problem is that models quickly became the beauty standard. Moreover, socialites started to model as a way of adding status to their name. 

By the 1920s, models and actresses were picked by their looks—often to complement the standard of beauty du jour. During the 20s, it was the slender flapper look. By the 1950s, it turned into classic pinup. By the 60s, it was Twiggy. 

It took me a long time to notice that media has a trait that’s very similar to food: you are what you consume. In other words, we tend to assume that what we see in media is the norm, regardless of what that may be. 

Don’t believe it? Take a look at these statistics…

As a model who’s been a size 00 through a size 16, I definitely noticed that that there is a difference between how women are treated on size. Since I’ve been modeling for years, I also was able to note a stark difference in how people are treated based on the “hot” look of the decade.

  • The average American woman is a size 16. The average runway model is a size 0 through 4, depending on height. 
  • Despite the average woman being a plus-sized person, standard sizing stops at 12 for most retailers. Some go so far as to assume that a size 8 is too large. 
  • Multiple studies show that the fashion industry and modeling industry can contribute to eating disorders by not being inclusive with models. This is particularly true when it comes to companies and publications that use exclusively thin models.
  • Studies also show that an underrepresentation of women of color can contribute to how they are treated in society. This bodes pretty badly for the fashion houses that seem to swear by blonde haired, blue-eyed models. 

  • This is one of those matters that only really sank in when I watched the industry evolve. Fashion’s exclusivity was a major selling point for decades, but the truth is that inclusivity is what our society really needs. 

    Models are supposed to show you what you would look like in clothing, not make you feel bad. 

    Times have changed since the early 2000s, and people are starting to talk about body positivity and inclusion. We are starting (and yes, this is really just the start) to discuss how media is impacting society and examining how we can make our world healthier. 

    Beauty has a very, very wide range of looks. It’s not a cookie-cutter vibe. It’s about bringing out the best of you. Take a look at how things have changed since the era of Kim Kardashian. For the first time in history, you can go to a typical grocery store checkout line and see women of color, plus size women, and men on fashion magazines. 

    Back in the 1990s, every single one of those magazines would have someone who looked pin-thin, blonde, and young. Believe it or not, that had a huge impact on how people were viewed back in the day. Fashion helped make beauty standards super exclusive, but that’s not who we are as a society anymore.

    Our beauty standards and model choices reflect our society, and vice versa.

    What we are starting to see is a fashion world where clothes are being modeled by people who look good, but still have an accurate depiction of what people look like every day. I don’t know whether people realize this, but this is a huge revolution in how society sees beauty. 

    For way too long, American society thrived on exclusivity. It was a big club that most of us were not allowed into. Nowadays, we’re seeing people realize that shunning others isn’t cool. In fact, it’s kind of a dick move. People are getting fed up with it, and are now asking for models that look like them. 

    I don’t know about you, but I’m all for it.

    Ossiana Tepfenhart is a pinup, fetish, and alternative model who also writes a ton. You can see her photos on Instagram @ossiana.makes.content