The Social Impact of Style

The Fashion Industry and Its Influence on Millennials

Let’s go back to the 1920s, to the flapper-era Jazz Age, where women were thought of as rebels due to their fun and energetic styles. Women deliberately went against the norms, shorter hair was in, as were bold, striking colors, crazy accessories, and, last but not least, stockings reigned supreme.

Between 1950 and 1960, women reverted to more traditional and modest textures, but  dared to show some more skin, raising the hems on their skirts and shortening their sleeves.  

Fast-forward to the ’90s where late-Gen X’s and early-millennials couldn’t care less about traditional views; they rocked mom jeans, flannels, and combat boots. Crop tops were in style and belly button piercings were the new coolest thing. Hip hop was the lifestyle and girls idolized celebrity fashion icons including, by the late ’90s, the Spice Girls. 

By the early 200os, Beyonce was crowned Queen and a white tee, booty short, and pumps was the most popular outfit. And let’s not forget about the unfortunate days when we donned band tees and wore colored leggings under denim cutoffs. 

Fashion has always had power and is rooted in self expression, especially related to social progress and women in the United States. However, with the advent of social media, the influence of fashion seems to be greater than ever before. This is where my question comes in: “Is fashion changing society and the way millennials think of themselves?” Thanks to social media, women, especially millennials, are more inclined to let the fashion industry influence their lives. On a daily basis, millennials are confronted with social expectations via social media. It comes from checking the latest fashion trends as posted by your favorite influencers, or the most recent Instagram pics from the Kardashian family. Millennials are constantly reminding themselves of what would make them look better, trendier, prettier. The biggest question is “how do I fit in?” and the simple reason for this constant questioning: fashion.

Recently, I FaceTimed Clio Galea, a Mount alum, New York-based fashion designer, and BFA student at Parsons School of Design, where famous designers (the likes of Marc Jacobs) studied. She has also studied under Coco Chanel in Paris. When asked about the the controversy surrounding fashion and expectations placed on women, she talked about how size plays a big role.

“What I’ve realized is that there is a huge push right now for diversity and plus size models,” Galea commented. “Frankly people are tired of seeing the same old thing, tired of seeing brands solely catering to thin white models and customers. It only benefits a small amount of people and it’s hard to start going into fashion today without thinking of these thing issues.”

I was instantly struck by the realization that current and up-and-coming designers are trying to make a positive impact on society, to cater to the unique shapes and sizes of all women. Although many within the fashion industry are pushing for this  kind of positive change, it is not a universal goal.

“I see the upcoming generations of designers, especially people in NYC, the energy I feel here, I don’t know a person that doesn’t know those type of things to consider. They see it as a problem to address,” Galea added. “However, my experience in Paris was very different…that is not something that anybody considers. It’s always traditional sizes.”

While talking with Clio, I began to question what even are traditional sizes? Then it dawned on me that for years, skinny was the norm, the expectation. “Curvy” or “thick” did not always carry the positive connotations they tend to bear today. If you were a woman, you were expected to be skinny. But perhaps that isn’t an outdated concept as I would like to believe. Take a look at stores that cater to teenagers and younger women, it is not typical for them to carry plus sizes, or even a size bigger than an 8, because that not the “typical size” for teenagers according to the fashion world. Fashion, and by extension society, has long insinuated that skinny=beautiful.

This is most evident in the world of high fashion. Galea explained that fashion is not really as forward as we’d like to believe, and that it needs a lot of reform around the world.

“Mannequin sizes are different then normal size, a size 6 is the smallest mannequin size, but it’s not the same as clothing size,” explained Galea when considering her experiences abroad. “A size 6 in mannequin size is a size 2/4. In Paris there is not even consideration for women of color.”

Now this is where it all starts to make sense. Places outside of the U.S, like Paris, London, and Milan, locations known for their high fashion houses and couture weeks, have not embraced the same kind of evolutionary fashion. The fact-of-the-matter is that high fashion rules the game. 

“It is easy to use a smaller size like a size six because it’s just easier and a plus size is definitely more work,” explained Galea.

It is easier to fit a mannequin without curves.

So these are the questions that linger: How far out of their way do designers have to go to cater to thicker women? Ans should that even matter?

Still today, fashion has the same impact as it had in the past. It has the ability to change the way women view themselves. Many brands and fashion designers are pushing for change and the acceptance of, better yet promotion of, every woman’s unique body. But high fashion still holds all the power, and they make the rules everyone follows. Yes, there are enormous pushes for diversity, but until millennials, including myself, see a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes on runways around the world, the same issues will remain. My point is, once high fashion decides to make significant changes, and New York Fashion Week (or Paris, or Milan, or London, for that matter) is a place where every girl can see themselves walking the runway, then will our world stop defining beauty in such restrictive terms.


“Through her work, Clio encourages individual self expression through the sexual energy and beauty of the human body; paying tribute to femininity and the power of the female mind.” –

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