I really dislike this topic, there’s never a conclusive answer and most participants have an emotional stake involved … but here it is anyway.
A few days ago I posted a response on another blog with respect to the advertising methods/standards of a company called American Apparel. Now I’m pretty sure most people are already sighing and saying “yeah, yeah we know all about that one”. I didn’t post in support of American Apparel (I specifically avoided that) … moreover I tried to make an observation of how advertising tends to get more and more sexualised as the years go by. It seems I received some hate mail telling me I was sexist for supporting AA. Obviously the other blog had some pretty strong anti-AA people on it and my observations didn’t fall in line with what they wanted to hear. I tried to point out that way back in the 1970′s, respectable people saw young women who showed their belly buttons as somewhat less than respectable. No one would care now, would they? Thirty years ago we thought the full brazillian ‘hair cut’ was for porn stars and now you see 2 or 3 adverts for them in your local TV guide each week! Twenty years ago the thong back bikini bottom was only for those “savages down in south america” and now they’re standard issue throughout Mediterranean Europe. Ten years ago the Internet web cam craze was only for selling sex, yet today they come standard with most computers. In ten years time nudity and sexual suggestion will be as acceptable in Australia as it is in France. OK so these comments are pretty hard hitting, but they are an observation of how things have become more and more sexualised over the decades … right to the point that the early controversies no longer concern us … and for those that think I’m trying to support AA, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t AA only 7-8 years old??
The next point I raised was that sexualised content in fashion ads has seen for some very successful campaigns over the years (I’m still not saying whether it’s right or wrong, I’m just observing). Indeed the more controversial they were, the more sales they made. Some examples of how sexualised advertising has become over the decades (and of how desensitised we’ve become) are the following …. now don’t visit these if you have an issue with nudity or sexualised imagery … you’ve been warned! …
- The Antspants ads
- Tom Fords more recent perfume ads
- Calvin Klein goes without saying obviously, do a search of YouTube
- What Australian doesn’t remember the Bolle ad?
- Sisely (lots of examples at this link!)
- Dolce & Gabanna seem to do this a lot
- New Yorker dress for the moment ad (which I think might have been banned)
- A few American Apparel images here and search google images for more
I really could go on forever here … AA is by no means the first of a very long list although they certainly are pushing the line a bit further. In their time many of these ads got the average community church’s womens group chins wagging. I’m not going to say right or wrong at all … that’s not for me to judge … I’m a patternmaker, not a philosopher or politician. All I’m doing is observing what I’ve seen as a 20 year veteran of the fashion industry.
Here’s another of my comments …
“Everyone interprets things differently. One person’s art is another person’s porn and it’s been that way for centuries. I recall a big dispute the venue of one of my shows had with the liquor and gaming police because I put a thong back one piece in a swimwear show … the super low cut binkinis were legal, but a thong back one piece with 5 times the fabric wasnt becuse the bottom of the cheeks showed. People came to the show expecting to see half naked women … not one person complained. The police investigated the matter because the thong back photos made it to the local newspaper!!! That was then and times have changed. I say if you’ve got then show it … I’d much rather see people enjoying their sexuality and fashion sense than I would all the negative crap on the TV these days (“hey you wanna buy life insurance cos you’re going to die evetually”, “what happens if you have a serious illness and you ain’t got income insurance”, “hey this product has 4mg less fat than the old product so you ain’t gonna suffer a stroke if you buy our product” … or … “hey if you buy your gf one of our bare nekkid skimpy underwear sets she too will roll all over your white cotton sheets looking horny” …. know what I prefer huh?)”
OK so I admit that was a little out of the box even for me, but I’d started getting frustrated with all the emotional hype this issue was getting. There’s way too much hate and adversarial behaviour in the world if you ask me … and a little more “make love not war” attitude could really do with a revisit … at least we still have their “exposed belly buttons”.
I’m no psychologist, but I guess there are a number of issues here …
- is this “unhealthy” sexism (I’m just asking the question, not giving an opinion)?
- is this giving the larger population an inappropriate mindset? We have at least 40 years of evidence one way or the other, don’t we?
- is this very appropriately targeted advertising?
- has a line been crossed only now? (They’ve been saying just this for at least years remember)
- and finally, is the whole debate still as irrelevant as it seems to have been for at least the last 40 years?
I say 40 years because that’s as far back as my personal knowledge goes.
Ok now let’s consider all this from another angle. Speaking from my vantage point in swimwear and limited experience in lingerie … how is it exactly that a company can catch the eye of their intended consumer when the products are all very similar and haven’t significantly changed in design for many years? Firstly, of course, you need to really know your market. Women tend to buy pretty much all their swimwear and lingerie themselves. The research I’ve been involved with (I have an obsession with demographics remember) does show one striking aspect – men will go out and buy lingerie, swimwear, sunglasses, etc if there’s a strong sexualisation of the product in advertising. Some of the advertising industry doesn’t seem to like this and more often than not disputes it, but I’m guessing their studies and surveys are too generalised or the survey participants don’t tell the truth because they’re too embarrassed to talk about their sexuality (I regard as one of litigation and feminism’s side effects – still not saying good or bad here) … but if you sit in the retail shops and watch who walks in after a new campaign you can see it quite clearly. The more striking aspect however is that the number of women walking in is rarely effected by a sexualised campaign. Could it be that the general female community doesn’t have an issue with sexualised content in advertising? I’ll leave it up to you to draw your conclusions.
There is another observation to be made here. First, I’ll start off by saying, I’m a 40-something male, slightly over-weight, Christian upbringing and I have two young children of my own. Now let’s look at who’s in these adverts … they’re all young, fit, healthy looking bodies in the prime of their sexual life. How I wish for those days again but I digress. Who is the intended market if it isn’t young, fit, healthy looking bodies in the prime of their sexual life? And what do young, fit, healthy looking bodies in the prime of their sexual life respond to most of all? Sex! At least that’s how I remember it … how’s that for honesty? Unfortunately I can’t tell you who is doing the critising of these adverts but I can guess the majority of it isn’t coming from young, fit, healthy looking bodies in the prime of their sexual life!! You get the point here don’t you? Have we really forgotten ourselves? Are we so intent on telling others how to better live their lives? Are we jealous or patronising? I know my parents were worried about all the terribly corrupting free love of the 1970′s affecting my poor maleable brain … it affected me so badly I ended up sharing womens’ swimwear patterns freely over the internet (how unenterprising of me!).
I’m not going to go into debates on freedom of speech or whether they’ll get Woody Harrelson to play the part of Don Charney (AA boss) in a new movie … that is irrelevant to me. My observation is simple … given that cultural evolution is a part of human nature, it is healthy for us to have sound arguments (hopefully kind ones) for and against in order for culture to evolve into something better … especially in an age of runaway mass media!
Pattern Quiz Results
Thanks to everyone who sent me their solutions to the Gottex Plunge Halter pattern quiz. I’m putting together all the data and images as we speak (and waiting on a few more to arrive) … and we should have a presentation available for you very soon!
Stuart’s To Do List
Break up the sewing questions section into smaller topics – Done
Do a page on Gussets (Maritha)
How to put feet in a catsuit/leggings (Judy) – working on this still
A graph of Bust vs Underbust (Hannah)
Twist front bikini top (Danielle)
Discussion on styles and trends (Georgia)
Seams on a catsuit, what are the alternatives (Ruth) – done
Photochromic, hydrochromic and thermocromic inks (Pasquale)