Photoshop in the fashion industry has long been a topic of debate – whether it be with your girlfriends, with celebrities defending the process, or with magazines apologizing for retouched photos, the discussions always end the same: excessive photoshop needs to stop.

In this month’s Vogue, Lena Dunham appears to have grown several inches, lost weight, and elongated her neck. The photoshopping of a proud, curvy woman sparked outrage from fans, all asking the question why would you alter a woman who is proud of the way that she looks? Dunham bares her body on the hit show Girls every Sunday, showcasing all of her “flaws” because she’s part of the generation that wants to see the truth. Dunham released a statement in response to criticism from fans stating, “Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women, Vogue is the place that we go to look at beautiful clothes and fancy places and escapism.” In an almost contradictory manner, Dunham went from the poster girl of all things truthful to the girl that defends the “perfecting” of photos. Albeit, the magazine is no stranger to controversy surrounding photoshop. Lady Gaga‘s cover issue in September 2012 was proven to be heavily retouched when the original photos were leaked online.


Amidst all of the Vogue controversy, lingerie brand Aerie released a statement promising to use only ‘real women’ in their ads, while vowing to only release untouched photos moving forward. Their ad campaign was released the following day showing exactly what they promised: realness. The campaign couldn’t have come at a better time, as recent studies have shown that young women base their self-confidence on what they see in ads, making it nearly impossible for them to feel good about themselves when even the thinnest models are slimmed down to appear wafer thin. Brands release photos with the intentions of making their product look good, but how will that product look on someone who has curves? How will it look on someone who is top-heavy? Aerie is one of the first brands to give consumers an idea of what their potential purchases will look like on the everyday woman – an idea that many women have a difficult time imagining while shopping online or in catalogues.


Certainly one campaign won’t change the idea of ‘the perfect body’, but many hope that it will spark a movement within the fashion industry. Studies have also shown that women, especially women who shop name brand, are getting increasingly frustrated with photos of clothing on an unattainable body. As the average size in the US for women is a 12, it would make sense that big-name brands target a broader spectrum rather than just pencil-thin women. The more that companies catch on to the changing times, the more products will sell. For example, Rag & Bone launched a DIY project where models were photographed makeup-free and completely un-retouched; the campaign has been running for three years, showing industry powerhouses Miranda Kerr, Lily Aldridge and Candice Swanepoel in their true beauty.

As long as real women continue to have figureheads such as Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Christina Hendricks inspiring us to embrace our bodies, photoshop will eventually dissipate within the fashion industry. Because, as Bob Dylan once put it, the times they are a-changin’.

– Jessica Natale for The Untitled Magazine

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