Firstly, we are not here to body-shame or skinny-shame or any-sort-of-shame anyone here. If you've got naturally poreless skin, a handspan waist and mile wide thigh-gap - ew, those phrases, I cannot believe the fact they are still often used sans satire - then your body is no less "real" than anyone else's. And your insecurities are no less valid either. Equally if, like the vast majority women, you're not not built like an 18 year old Brazilian supermodel then you should feel good about yourself too; whether in swimwear, sweatpants or a sequinned evening gown.
At long last, brands across the board seem to be in agreement with that. Or at the very least, have realised that we're more likely to buy bikinis they've seen on women who's body types, trials and tribulations we can relate to rather than those so airbrushed they may as well be constructed via CGI.
Throughout history, women's bodies have basically always been public property. From Rueben's celebration of voluptuosness and Christian Dior's wasp waisted "new look" through to the waifs of the nineties and the Kim Kardashian kurves that have been de rigueur in recent years, our physical beings have long been treated as fleeting trend. A commodity the ideals of which get dictated like hemlines or seasonal colours. Advertising has played a significant part in this cycle. For decades products have been sold by capitalising on the shoppers' hope that if they buy the product in the picture then they might somehow look like the woman in the picture. Which we've all long known is insanely ridiculous. As the oft repeated platitude goes, even the women in the picture doesn't look like the woman in the picture. I for one, didn't expect this to change. But miraculously it has, and that is for a significant part, down to social media.
For all its pitfalls and anxiety inducing qualities, Instagram has really had some very positive effects. More and more, people are sharing the reality of their lives; the highs, the lows, the insecurities, the mental health issues and the real bodies they refuse to slim down or smooth over using one of the thousands of editing apps available at a tap of a touch screen. That reality is not only good for our individual and collective self-esteem, it's also good for sales. And of course, brands are taking notice and unleashing their budgets.
Easy though it would be to view the commercialisation of "real women" that's been gathering steam over the past decade cynically, it's fundamentally a very positive thing regardless of the rationale behind it. And it's also a very positive reflection of how we, as women, are starting to accept our bodies as they are rather than aspiring to look like "the girls in the magazines" and beating ourselves up about it when we physically can't. After all, it makes sense to want to know vaguely how a swimsuit, or any item of clothing, will look on actual you. Therefore you're more inclined to buy something online if you see a picture of it worn by someone who has the same body type or stretch marks or (formerly-and-stupidly-known-as) "imperfections" as you. That's why both luxury and high street brands including Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Thing, Cartier and Denise Bidot are looking to influencers such as Dima Ayad, Ameni Esseibi and Nikita Phulwani to promote everything from swimwear to fine jewellery to red carpet gowns. In fact, Dima's impact was so significant that she launched her own label, which has been a sell out success and is stocked in the luxury likes of The Modist, 11 Honoré and Moda Operandi.
The future really is female. And our form will not be dictated by men, media, la mode or anything else.