Photoshop Beauty

Something about this viral Photoshop video of model Sally Gifford Piper baffles me. The point (bizarrely) seems to be that the end result is an impossibly high standard of beauty. But she looks like a beautiful woman at first and then is transformed into what looks like an alien made of modular plastic parts. It’s depressing to think of how desperate we (men and women alike in my experience) are to buy into a conventional model of “female beauty,” just because we believe it to be conventional, without regard to what idiot is inventing the model to turn a profit, or to how counterintuitive it is to the natural instincts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKQdwjGiF-s&feature=player_embedded

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4 thoughts on “Photoshop Beauty

  1. I know you might think this is a bit surprising, but so much of what people write about on style blogs is finding out how much of this type of standard they are willing to integrate into their own lives. Lots of the bloggers I know crave the personal expression of dressing with their own style. They find it difficult to navigate not feeling comfortable portraying an iconic or trendy standard of beauty in it’s totality. They want to experiment with certain options that are available to them in terms of self-expression without falling victim to the idea that they are subpar if they aren’t a particular “look.”

    It’s a hard line to walk especially knowing that things like heels and makeup are considered by some as anti-female and that personal expression through style itself is a luxury of a world where many more of our needs are met than in so many countries/places. Self-expression through clothing isn’t the same type of art form as painting or writing. It’s considered a luxury and therefore a frivolity when you contrast it with places in the world where people struggle to meet their basic needs like food and housing.

    Personal expression is definitely not on par with lots of different art forms that feed a multitude of people’s hearts and minds. I like to think though that there is a median between that video and what people in the modern, evolving world can wear. I also think it’s important that people feel comfortable and pleased about their appearance when they are forced to engage in the conversation that is dressing to go out into a first world country. It’s not like we can just banish the history and evolution of fashion or style over night if at all.

    I’d love to hear what you think Gary. You know I love it when you post this kind of stuff.

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    • Hi Sarah,

      As you know, I’m 100% for anyone experimenting with style all they want. I’m all for free expression. On the other hand, the “rule-following” part of fashion bugs me. First, I’m always against imposing any rules or judgments on others on stylistic grounds. Second, as far as choosing to follow the rules and standards yourself, well, I have mixed feelings. So long as you’re not expecting others to follow the rules, it passes my “fashion anarchy” ethics test. But I still find it bizarre that someone would choose to follow someone else’s completely arbitrary rules about what combinations are acceptable, what time of year you can wear certain colors, etc. This seems to indicate a kind of sheepish conventionality that is hard for me to accept wholeheartedly. And when it comes to the standard of female beauty in the Photoshop video, it’s hard for me to believe that any woman or man would prefer the alien look at the end over the naturally beautiful woman at the beginning. To me, that just shows how slick marketing can get the masses to turn away from natural beauty and buy into any fabricated “pseudo-beauty” that turns a profit. All you have to do is convince them that “everyone else thinks this is the norm of beauty.” And I do believe that all this cynical manipulation of female self-esteem and male desire to turn a profit does, in some cases, do real damage to real people.

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      • I agree with you that rules shouldn’t be enforced like laws, but I know that for a lot of people having a set of rules to start with makes their life easier. Someone might be interested in expressing themselves through clothes but not have any idea where to start. Like a college graduate going into a law firm or a severely corporate environment. Having a basic set of rules on what would make a good purchase list starting out would be easier than starting from scratch. Then they might modify their clothing and accessories as they learn what the employer allows and what they feel comfortable with.

        Lots of people who want to feel good about what they wear start with a standard idea of appropriateness, attractiveness, and it gives them the space to decide what works for them. It worked really well for me. I wear what I like within reason at the office and not always within reason outside of it. But having a framework (rules) to start with gave me a jumping off point.

        I agree that the image in the video is totally bogus and really kind of odd. I can usually spot changes like that because I’ve done a lot of work with Photoshop. There’s even a website I used to read on a regular basis called Photoshop Disasters that had all kinds of weird changes to men and women just like this. They would look like aliens and it would be so strange.

        Images like that one to me enforce even more why it’s important to have personal style rather than focusing on fashion. Fashion is a high art created by a few individuals the world over. Unfortunately, it’s not as inclusive of multiple body shapes and types as you or I would probably like. The silhouette and styles that are popular change as culture moves forward, and they vary when things like war and economic depressions affect a culture.

        Fashion is the purview of the wealthy who need to have something to spend money on, possibly because they are bored. Style is how we present ourselves to the world within constructs that already exist like our jobs and ones that we make in our personal life.

        I love have these discussions with you! Hope I see you soon.

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        • Hi Sarah. I see your point about the practical value of rules to make life easier for people who want to (or need to, in the case of work environments) fit in. The society we live in is to some extent rule-bound when it comes to what to wear, and knowing the rules makes life easier (e.g., easier to get and keep a job). No problem there. But the philosophical element in me wants to nudge society away from those rules and toward fashion anarchy, so we can all live one day in the Age of Aquarius, each free to articulate a style without restraints. I realize you can’t do that in a day. But the good-natured debates we have today will push the dialectic forward tomorrow.

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