A recent trend has emerged in pop culture. Certain clothing styles are back in a society that only deems them desirable if you have the matching body type to go with them. This body type can only be described as unattainably skinny. Suddenly, social media is highlighting influencers and celebrities dropping massive amounts of pounds. Between the Kardashians drastically altering their body shapes in a very short amount of time to toxic diet culture represented on Tik Tok, the idolization of a skinny body type is thrown in everyone’s faces. New trends are being brought back that favor those with the “ideal” tiny waist and flat stomach. The fashion world is trading in high-rise jeans for low-rise jeans and skirts for mini skirts. With the resurgence of Y2K trends comes the exclusion of average body types.
Social media is the biggest driver of the rise of these body-type trends. Creators and influencers gain popularity and admiration through their unachievable body types. When influencers and celebrities take part in creating this impossible beauty standard, it makes the girls and women who are exposed to their content strive to mirror their looks, which can lead to rather dangerous results such as eating disorders. Their desire to look like these influencers is impractical because most influencers enhance their looks through filters and photo editing tools, adding to the toxic narrative.
Body types being a trend is not a new concept, and society has actually been this way for centuries. In Victorian England (c. 1837–1901), a woman who was plump and full-figured was seen as physically attractive. During the 1920s, if a woman had a flat chest and a boyish figure, she was seen as desirable. Women in the 1930s and 1950s fit the beauty standard if they had curves, an hourglass figure, large breasts and a slim waist. In the 1960s, a woman was considered ideal if she was thin with long, slim legs. The beauty standard in the 1980s was looking athletic, tall and toned. The term heroin chic was coined in the 1990s because women were deemed beautiful if they were extremely thin, had translucent skin and were androgynous. During the 2000s, the term slim and thick was used to describe desirable women who had a flat stomach, a large breast and buttocks, and a thigh gap.
The 2010s were similar to the 2000s, but it was a more body-positive time where unrealistic body images were put down more and made the fashion industry more inclusive. Today, we see the times reverting back to the 1990s and 2000s, when that unattainable body type became more mainstream. A look through history demonstrates that the perfect body is completely arbitrary. Body trends have gone back and forth a bunch of times throughout history and will definitely change in the future.
Making body types into a trend is very dangerous. It makes viewers think that people that have a larger frame are in the minority, while people who are very thin make up the majority. But this perception is very untrue. Most people do not have flat stomachs and that is perfectly normal and healthy. If they cannot obtain this socially ideal figure, it is not because they are not working hard enough — it also has to do with genetics and other factors people have no control over.
This trend is harmful to women and girls because they start to compare themselves to women with this dangerously thin body type. They start to resent the lack of similarity between themselves and influencers, which can lead to more serious issues like body image dysmorphia and eating disorders. A whole generation of women who grew up in the 1990s and 2000s remember what it felt like to not like their appearance because they did not look sickly thin. We must not let this happen to the generation of girls being raised by social media today.
Social media needs to be more body-positive. Celebrities and influencers should use their platforms to spread inclusive sentiments and foster a narrative of self-love so fans will accept themselves for who they are instead of wanting to change what they look like. It should be taught and talked about how any body type is beautiful because what might be beautiful today might not be tomorrow. Trying to keep up with trends and please everyone around you is too tiring and not worth the mental and emotional damage you will experience in the process.
Lauren Wilner is a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law.