Reshaping female beauty

Photo: Patrick Demarchelier for 'Vogue' UK

What does this cover actually do for us? – Victoria Beckham, as featured in the August 2014 cover of Vogue. (Photo credit: fashionista.com)

This week has signalled a major overhaul surrounding pre-existing notions of what female beauty is and what has continuously been showcased to the public.

Three incidents this week have caught the attention of many as women were placed at the forefront of moves which explicitly challenge fashion and beauty ideals that have otherwise become the norm.

Here’s what really struck me:

1. DKNY released their inaugural Ramadan Summer 2014 collection, created by two Middle Eastern women Yada Golsharifi, the fashion editor of Styles Magazine and Tamara Al Gabbani, a fashion designer in Dubai.

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Yalda Golsharifi (left) and Tamara Al Gabbani (right) pose for DKNY’s summer 2014 Ramadan collection. (Photo credit: savoirflair.com)

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Photo credit: fashiontimes.com

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Photo credit: handbag.com

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Photo credit: styleblazer.com

Now, although the collection doesn’t seem entirely halal to me (note: I may be very wrong, so anyone can feel free to correct me, please!), I still feel it’s a landmark fashion moment for those Muslim women who may have wished to indulge in buying DKNY clothing but perhaps felt the brand could not cater to their religious beliefs. However, DKNY’s decision to collaborate on these designs and launch a summer Ramadan collection suggests a desire to test new waters, branch out and so target a new demographic while reminding the fashion world that Muslim women matter and that the Ramadan celebration does too.

By releasing such a range into the market, we are reminded that the Muslim woman can adhere to her religious beliefs while remaining classy, fashionable and very much in-trend. Covering-up does not mean looking bland or being wrong in any way, and during a time when France has recently banned the burqa, many could even think that DKNY is providing a slap-in-the-face response to those prohibiting the freedom of expression for Muslim women. I think DKNY have done a fantastic job here!

2. A former model from Worcester called Bethany Townsend suffers from Chron’s disease and this week, posted a picture of herself on Facebook posing with her colonoscopy bags – it went viral, with over 9 million people viewing the photo.

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Bethany Townsend poses for the camera. (Photo credit: huffingtonpost.co.uk)

Although Bethany wasn’t approached by a hot-shot magazine or fashion brand, the fact is that she didn’t need to be. A simple, confident upload to Facebook saw her picture attracting the attention of people worldwide, and again we are exposed to the power of social media, and the sheer support that we as humans can give to those we feel inspired by.

Bethany has shown that even life-threatening diseases shouldn’t be able to prevent someone from pursuing what they wish to do, and she claims that the positive response from so many people has given her confidence a boost and spurred her to return to modelling full-time. This is further proof that a disease, disability or any form of illness shouldn’t obscure what we label to be ‘beautiful’, as Bethany – colonoscopy bags included – defies what we traditionally see as being desirable. She looks hot regardless of the disease she suffers from, which by the way, she shouldn’t have to be defined by.

3. Turia Pitt was running a marathon when she was caught in a bushfire three years ago and received burns affecting around 65 per cent of her body. This week, she appeared on the cover of Australia’s ‘Women’s Weekly’ magazine.

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Turia Pitt, cover-girl for Australia’s edition of Women’s Weekly. (Photo credit: eonline.com)

Again, Turia – like Bethany – allows us to see that a woman’s beauty goes beyond her external appearance. This cover is amazing and completely opposes what magazine covers otherwise tend to glamorize – usually Hollywood celebrities or someone famous for absolutely no reason. Turia’s story is incredible and ‘Women’s Weekly’ has done a fantastic job by showing beauty in its different forms and by proving that women should not be given credit merely for ticking the ‘attractive’ or ‘sexually provocative’ boxes which get them onto cover pages - they can be recognised for something which actually matters, for defying the odds in some way or another and giving hope to others.

 I feel Turia’s cover-girl appearance will encourage other magazines to feature those women who have been disfigured in some way or who simply don’t conform to the conventional, air-brushed or highly attractive famous persona that we always see on the front-page of a magazine. This is a point in the right direction for addressing that such women should not be ignored or marginalised for being victims of incidents that were out of their control – a burns victim does not become exempt from being beautiful or socially acceptable.

All in all, these three incidents have really brought a smile to my face and proved that in a world obsessed by celebrity and traditional standards of beauty, there are big names trying to change the way we look at women who are otherwise ignored or not given a platform to be seen as something other than ‘victims’ or ‘wrong’ in some way.

Kudos to DKNY, ‘Women’s Weekly’ and of course, the mass revolution that is, social media.

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