The fashion industry has almost always been associated with perpetuating a harmful body image—that of stick-thin, conventionally attractive bodies. However, in recent times, that is slowly, but steadily, changing. While unisex fashion is shaking up gender norms with gender-neutral clothing and androgynous models, another important trend is body positive fashion—which, Indian supermodel Carol Gracias inspiringly promoted during the Lakme India Fashion Week recently, by walking the ramp while pregnant.
In India, body-positivity in popular culture—whether it be films, television, or, especially, fashion—is extremely rare. This is a country where fat jokes abound on so-called comedy shows, and actresses are brutally scrutinised by the media for gaining weight post-pregnancy. In such an environment, walking the ramp at a major fashion show —which is home to the bigwigs of both the fashion and entertainment industries—in a saree, showing off a very prominent baby bump is nothing short of revolutionary and path-breaking.
Carol Gracias has been a reigning name in the Indian fashion industry for a while now—modelling for major designers and even appearing in films for cameos. However, in the past couple of years, she had been inactive and not as prominent on the fashion scene, which could possibly have been the result of her age (the ageism in the fashion industry is quite alarming). But with this one ramp walk, she silenced all the critics, showed the world that all bodies—especially pregnant bodies—are beautiful, and challenged the harmful body image fashion shows like this have been known to promote.
This year’s Fashion Week has definitely been a progressive one, all-around. Designers Deepa Gurnani and Nor Black Nor White had non-models walking the ramp—and these were people from various walks of life—notable among which was stylist Sapna Bhavnani, who only last year had opened up about her experience as a survivor of rape and sexual assault. Designer Gaurang Shah (whose designs Carol Gracias was wearing) also broke stereotypes by not only having a pregnant Gracias walk the ramp, but by also having a collection which remodelled traditional Indian saree fabrics into attire for women of various sizes, and not just a particular thin idealised body type.
Though these are small steps, especially for a country which requires a complete overhaul in the way it sees body image, they are still extremely important. It’s heartening to see such a major fashion event embracing this kind of positive change, especially and hopefully paving the way for more body-positive fashion trends in the future.
Fashion is not always just about physical appearance but is also closely associated with politics and self-expression. So, fashion trends which restrict this very same expression by being confined to certain patriarchal standards of beauty or desirability, are ultimately a huge blow to bodily autonomy. Hence, we need to question and change such forms of fashion, and instead, embrace trends which celebrate the body rather than dictate it to only be one particular way. Let’s hope that this is only the beginning, not just for India but for global fashion trends to be more inclusive and to be more liberating.