The other day I made the mistake of logging into my old Chictopia account. If, like me, you were fashion obsessed from 2008-2010, then you probably experienced the rise of personal style communities. In the beginning, sites like Chictopia and Lookbook were exciting. Here was your chance to show the world that you had style, to express your individuality. But, soon the shiny world of accessible and democratic fashion began to dull. What initially began as a way to accept all body types and races soon started to mirror the images we are bombarded with every day. What little progress had been made in the acceptance of all bodies stopped.
Both Chictopia and Lookbook rely on users to upvote the looks they love. Check either site and you’ll see that the most popular posts are white females no larger than a size eight sporting long hair and extremely forced poses as if they were being shot for a magazine. The posts on the site began to bolster the same old standard of beauty that everyone was trying to escape.
From the beginning these communities lacked diversity. Whether because POC weren’t interested or were wary of a site that relied on votes based on looks in a community dominated by slender white females who flocked to these sites. And the few POC or plus-sized women who joined rarely received enough likes or “karma” to be considered popular. The users who came to these communities wanted diversity, but on their terms. They wanted the kind of diversity they see in pop culture. You can have dark skin, but not too dark. You can be larger than a size six, but not above 12. Diversity, confined.
The blame lies entirely with users. No one ever left their comfort zone. Everyone relied on what they were already familiar with. Instead of creating an accepting community, they created an aspirational community based on exclusive ideas of beauty. And, it continued to go downhill when people began to realize they could make money just by taking pretty photos of themselves. The personal style blogger boom that made blogs like The Fashion Toast and Karla’s Closet the gold standard also made people turn their backs on the inclusive ideas they were preaching. If these bloggers were cashing in then they must be doing something right. They must be the right kind of pretty. Their heavily styled looks and forced poses must be the key. And, what did the most popular fashion bloggers have in common, with the exception of Bryanboy (who I have very strong feelings about, but I’ll save that for another day), they were skinny white females.
Chictopia, Lookbook, Weardrobe and every other popular fashion social network completely gave up on what little diversity they had. Users fed into the beauty standards they’d sworn off to pursue the almighty dollar and Internet fame. And, anyone who didn’t fit the mold was shunned.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with a beautiful picture. Hell, even I love a carefully created image. But, please, seriously, step outside your comfort zone and beyond the beauty ideals that people in these communities are so complacent with. If you want to enforce diversity in fashion, then you have to actively pursue it.