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This paper “Anorexia in the Fashion Industry” shall now investigate how the fashion world and designers influence models and girls to become extremely thin, and how they cause these girls to be anorexic. It will note the lengths to which these girls go to in order to be and to stay as thin as possible…
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Anorexia in the Fashion Industry Introduction Fashion programs that grace our television screens feature the latest glamorous clothes and glamorous women – the ones walking in the catwalk and those who are watching the catwalk. As those who are watching are awed by the latest in fashion, the unconscious given in these shows is always the skinny model. And more than anything else, the primary consideration for some of us watching in our television sets is on how we can get as thin and as ‘fit’ as these models. Such are dreams and visions which fuel the theme of this paper.
The latest fashion magazines seem to feature thinner fashion models issue after issue, year after year. The voluptuous curves which used to be admired in the past have been switched to straighter angles and lines on fashion model’s bodies. With these skinny fashion models gracing the covers of the most exclusive and trendy magazines, many teenage girls seem to be drawn to the idea that in order for them to be as beautiful and as accepted as these models, they have to look like them.
This obsession has even created the psychological disorder known as anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is a life-threatening disease, which mostly involves the act of starving oneself in order to look as thin and as “beautiful” as the fashion models. Deaths have been reported for some anorexic teenagers and models, as the unacceptable image that these models and teenagers see in their mirrors never seems to reach acceptable standards.
This paper shall now investigate how the fashion world and designers influence models and girls to become extremely thin, and how they cause these girls to be anorexic. It will also note the lengths to which these girls go to in order to be and to stay as thin as possible and the impact on these girls lives. This paper shall also discuss the changing trends surrounding weight issues and fashion modeling -- from the earliest days when such trends made an impact on the world and on contemporary times. This discussion shall cover opinions and scholarly studies conducted on the subject matter, focusing on the thin fashion models and celebrities and the impact of the skinny obsession on teenagers and on girls in general.
Discussion
The end of the First World War brought about the raising of the hems and the lowering of the waists in women’s fashion. Panati (p. 235) points out how the dresses designed in the 1920s called for women to be flat-chested and boyish; and those who had fuller breasts were also forced to bind their chest to flatten their chests. The fashion world at this point in time influenced the women to eat less and aim for thinner and less voluptuous figures. The 1920s also compares to the trends set in the 1960s which discarded the norm of the curvaceous women.
An anthropologist noted that “during periods of liberation, like the 1920s, when women had just gotten the vote, and the 1960s, when the Pill became available, the ideal shape for women deemphasized their reproductive characteristics – the nourishing breasts, the wide childbearing hips” (Diet Blog, 2010). The trends which were set by these changes in women’s liberties were also followed by other activities like the Miss America pageant which lowered the waist measurement of contestants from 26 inches in 1920 to 24 inches in the 1980s. We also saw Playboy models and Miss America contestants weighing 15% below the ideal weight and height for age requirements (Diet Blog, 2010).
These images seen by girls and aspiring models influenced their concept of the ideal body image -- that in order for them to be as beautiful and as desirable like the Playboy models, they had to look as thin as these models. In order for them to be as beautiful as the Miss America contestants, they had to aim for 24 inch waistlines.
The years in between the 20s and the early 60s glamorized curves as we saw in Mae West and Jean Harlow who were both voluptuous women. The 1940s, the trend in the fashion world was the ‘sweater girl’ in the person of Lana Turner and by the end of the decade, the figures of the women gravitated more towards fuller hips and fuller breasts (Seeling, p. 231). In the 1940s, the Victorian shape reemerged through the padded shoulders, which also featured a swollen or full upper body and a small waist (Byrde, p. 12). Fashion designers capitalized on the images of voluptuous and shapely women like Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable who had full breasts, rounded derrieres and long legs which often drew the appreciation of the men; they were the pinup models of the Second World War (Seeling, p. 231). This trend was carried through to the 1950s when women’s full figures were accentuated and they were seen wearing tight, sleeveless and strapless dresses (High Cold War, p. 4). This trend would again change in the late 60s when the ideal figures of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly became the slimmer ideal (Germov & Williams, p. 336). Such figures became even thinner when Twiggy, the thin supermodel of the 1960s, became a big hit among fashion and glamour magazines. Twiggy represented an impossible youthfulness which was wide-eyed and innocent. Twiggy looked like she was pre-pubescent, and this was actually the dominant age group in the 60s in America. These teens tried their best to emulate Twiggy’s thin waif-like figure and some of them starved themselves just to achieve Twiggy’s thin frame (Schoenfielder & Wieser, p. 225). Once again, as the models paraded the clothes made for the svelte and slim figures, society adjusted accordingly. The young girls and aspiring models went to great lengths to achieve the magazine-cover-supermodel look and to fit the latest fashion craze in the trendiest clothes stores.
Older women too would soon be affected by the trends that the younger women were following as they now felt the fear of getting and looking old. Women were also exposed to the blunt reality that only the thin could go braless and could wear miniskirts (Emmett, p. 120). The young and the relatively thin women were also adjudged by society and the fashion world as overweight. Consequently, thousands of women – young and old were drawn into the system of pursuing slim standards in order to conform to the fashion ideals (Emmett, p. 120). It is also important to note how the thought processes which have pervaded the older women’s minds in the 60s have been carried over to contemporary society. Worse, such thought processes have influenced the younger generations. As a result, many Americans feel the pressure to be thin – no matter how extreme the weight loss measures may be. To a certain extent, the role of American media can hardly be denied in this unhealthy thin obsession.
In assessing the most acceptable fashion during the 1960s, the designers saw that the look was less about the shapely legs, but more on the petite and underdeveloped girl with hardly any calf (Emmett, p. 121). The fashion designers wanted to revitalize the fashion industry and capitalize on the preferences of their biggest and most populous clients – the teens. These designers draped clothes on youthful and petite adolescent bodies; and such clothes emphasized extreme slimness and thinness among the women. There has been an evolution of fashion trends throughout the years, and undoubtedly, since the 1960s, the trend has grown to be smaller and thinner. At no point since the 1960s has the fashion trend been changed to a more voluptuous or fuller figure.
It is no surprise therefore, that the prevalence rates of anorexia has increased and grown throughout the years. It is also not surprising to note that death, ill health, and other self-harming behavior have been associated with weight loss ventures.
In assessing the fashion trends, some authors point out that the thin obsession in the fashion industry is mostly a Western capitalist phenomenon, however, it is a phenomenon and culture which “tends to overrun and eventually dominate other cultures” (Wilson, 1985, p. 115). Some experts claim that the idea of being thin is a culture-based phenomenon. It is apparent in scholarly observations that the ideas and ideals of beauty are different for various cultures; what may be considered thin and beautiful in some societies, may seem fat and ugly for some, and vice versa. Such thought processes seem to be mostly a product of the culture which is being applied and observed by various societies. The values which may dominate some societies may seem to be more superficial as compared to other cultures which do not give much credit or attention to a person’s looks or weight.
Some experts and analysts point out the fact that photography often increases or emphasizes on width (Wilson, p. 116). The thin obsession has not always been a product of the fashion designers’ actions, but the fashion models and celebrities have also contributed to extremely thin looks. “Paradoxically, the real requirements for the creation of the photographic illusion have influenced and changed the actual appearance of the woman in the street” (Wilson, p. 116). As the ideal catwalk and fashion magazine image of the super model became the standard for beauty, the fashion industry also followed suit in coming up with clothes and apparel catering to thinner and slimmer figures. And the teenage girls all struggled to fit into these ‘model’ figures. Therefore, a vicious cycle of supply and demand is created – a cycle which can hardly be broken by simply changing the pictures in fashion magazines (Epling & Pierce, p. 202).
The preoccupation with fat, with diet, and with thinness among women is a seeming norm. Gordon (p. 148) points out that the Western culture calls for people to burn their fats and eliminate their bulges. He goes on to discuss that those who are overweight or obese are considered as underclass individuals who are subjected to contempt and disgust from other people (Gordon, p. 148). These individuals are also often judged as incapable of controlling themselves; whereas those who are thin are viewed as refined, classy, and intelligent individuals (Gordon, p. 148). Bordo’s (as cited by Grogan, 1999, p. 55) analysis is based on a culture of preoccupation with thinness which makes women easily vulnerable and easily swayed by the pressures of beauty standards – no matter how extreme the measures applied to achieve such standards may be. Women are often easily swayed by the thin obsession because they are caught in the midst of a society and culture which associates thinness with specific meanings (Bordo, as cited by Grogan, p. 55). The meanings associated with women’s figures often become tools of oppression for most women.
Feminists complain that the thin obsession is yet another trend likened to the objectification of the female form, with the body being treated as an ‘object’ and not part of the female and human spirit (Faigley, p. 431). They point out that such objectification should not be used as the norm. And only by broadening the ideal body shape may it be possible for the female body to enjoy their body shapes and sizes. Ergo, for as long as the ‘ideal’ body image, as projected by society and by women themselves, is restricted to the thin supermodel, the fashion world and the rest of society will continue to build on this image as the ‘ideal’.
Magazines have a major impact on women and on the thin obsession. The images on the front cover of magazines show skinny models and celebrities, and within the pages of the magazines are articles which discuss how to get the bodies of the thin supermodels or celebrities. The skinny obsession has been exacerbated by the fact that fashion editors and model-casting agents seem to be picking models of the skinnier variety with each cover. Most of the time, being thin is a job requirement for the modeling jobs posted and made available to young girls (Moley, et.al., p. 88).
The links between Hollywood film stars and the fashion industry have also extended the thin obsession not just to supermodels, but also to female movie stars and celebrities. Early on in her career as a broadcaster and television personality, Oprah was pressured to lose weight; however, she often gained back the weight she lost after a few years (Fallon, et.al., p. 399). Movie stars like Sarah Jessica Parker, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lopez, and Tyra Banks have all felt the pressure by movie and entertainment executives, at one point in their career, to lose weight. Although the acting and the fashion industry has expressed its support for women, no matter what their size may be, these fashion moguls and designers still bombard society and fashion magazines with images of couture clothes obviously meant for waif-like models and celebrities. In the process, the rest of the fuller-figured women and even men are forced to contend with unfashionable and tent-like clothes which hardly look flattering to their full figures (Gauntlett, p. 2010). This dissatisfaction in one’s body is often largely associated with one’s self-esteem and control over one’s body.
This perceived control is mostly important among anorexics that adjudge control over their body in terms of how far they can deny their needs and attain self-discipline. The images which exemplify thinness in the media often stimulates feelings of dissatisfaction among the viewers; however, women, have somehow found a way to protest and oppose these images, calling for more realistic images instead to be portrayed by the media (Leppa, p. 62). This clamor for a more realistic image is however overshadowed by many fashion magazines and executives who continue to capitalize on the thinner image of women as the ideal image as portrayed in the vain and shallow celebrity world.
In 2006, much discussion was tossed about regarding the controversial size zero when models Luisel Ramos and Ana Carolina Reston died due to their starvation diets. In the Madrid Fashion show that followed the death of the models, a ban on models with BMIs of below 18 was imposed (Gauntlett, p. 203). Further moves by fashion designers to disassociate themselves from the fatal incident also prompted them to ban models below 16 years of age from the fashion industry; the sizes of the models however, remained thin. And the size zero controversy has remained a crucial point of discussion especially when some experts pointed out that the size has been created by the media and in the twisted minds of the fashion editors (Penny, as cited by Gauntlett, p. 203). Penny goes on to criticize size zero as a “fiction that centers upon the degrading idea that women are stupid, frivolous, and impressionable…” (as cited by Gauntlett, p. 203).
Nevertheless, it is undeniable that teenagers and young women are susceptible to media manipulation. News reports on teenagers reveal that their body images are indeed alarming and grim. A good majority of them think they are overweight or fat even if their sizes are within the acceptable range. Most of these teenagers also reveal that “they had skipped a meal to try to lose a few pounds, and more than 50 percent of younger teenage girls reckon their body image stops them getting a boyfriend” (BBC News as cited by Gauntlett, p. 203). We again attribute this mindset to the skewed thought process which sets forth that one has to be painfully thin to be beautiful or to ever amount to anything else; or that one had to be thin in order to be attractive to other people, worse, to find love.
The normal routine of American life also seems to be dominated with glossy fashion magazines and Entertainment shows and news programs which feature the latest celebrity slim-down programs (Sheppird, p. 69). Moreover, we see celebrities who grace the red carpets wearing couture clothing and who seem to be slimmer with each passing year. “Tabloid stories repeatedly reinforce the standard of beauty that emphasizes thinness and dress size over health and well-being, equating fashion-chic with a dangerously thin waistline” (Sheppird, p. 69). When one glances at fashion magazines, we see images of supermodels and celebrities who claim to have lost their weight through the application of various methods of weight-loss. And the rest of the society, especially teenage girls, who already have low self-esteem, take in these images as ideals which they should aim for.
The fashion industry and the media play a huge role in the anorexic obsession. The media exposes the daily American to about 3000 advertisements daily (Sheppird, p. 70). With this media exposure, most girls actually consider advertisements as vital sources of health information. With various enticements in advertising, most American girls read at least one fashion magazine regularly (Sheppird, p. 70). With the average teenager watching about 2-3 hours of television daily. The fashion industry bombards this medium with many advertisements of weight loss and images of supermodels and celebrities wearing the latest couture fashion. The fact that this couture clothing is only meant for the size zeros and the super thin is conveniently focused on by advertisers (Sheppird, p. 70). The message is implied -- that these teenagers had to be as thin as the models and celebrity endorsers before they could wear couture and be considered ‘cool by association’. It is also important to note that many teenagers have different motivations for losing weight or for being thin. It is even more alarming to note that about 74% of fashion magazines “encouraged adolescent girls to exercise to become attractive, and 51% emphasized exercise in order to lose weight” (Sheppird, p. 70). The health benefits of exercise were not even emphasized in these magazines. And again, a wrong and skewed message is sent to adolescents, which in turn mostly fuels the anorexic craze. And this anorexic trend espouses the idea that teenagers and even young adults had to lose weight by all possible means in order for them to be attractive – even if the means they would employ would be harmful to their health.
Anorexia nervosa is a “psychological disorder in which the individual deliberately and willfully starves, engaging in a relentless pursuit of thinness” (Bruch, as cited by Rumney, 1983, p. 16). Anorexics apply extreme weight loss measures like cutting back on food intake, purging after eating (inducing gag reflex and inducing vomiting), increasing activity, and using laxatives to empty their bowels (Williamson & Davis, p. 17). In effect, the lengths which an anorexic goes to in order to lose weight are a deliberate and unhealthy venture. The obsession to lose weight often crosses healthy boundaries which the person is often not willing to acknowledge. Her thought processes are seemingly bent on achieving the thinnest possible weight she can reach. Majority of anorexics are women or girls aged 10 to 20 years (Rumney, 1983, p. 17). These are the ages when girls and young women are likely to suffer from low self-esteem and would likely be swayed by popular suggestions, trends and fads. This makes these girls all the more susceptible to the latest diet and weight loss trends – regardless of the effects of these weight loss measures on their health.
Anorexia is a disease which is commonly seen in industrialized countries. The disease is considered prevalent in these countries because these nations “share an abundance of food and attitude that equates beauty, particularly feminine beauty with thinness” (Insel, et.al., p. 496). Studies were also able to reveal that this disease has become prevalent among women who participate in modeling, ballet, and gymnastics and most of these girls come from middle and higher income groups in society (Insel, et.al., p. 496). There is a greater expectation among those who are involved in these fields to be at a certain weight and body shape. Girls who participate in these activities are often pressured to be and to stay as thin as possible. And unfortunately, some of them resort to extreme weight loss measures in order to meet the expected and accepted weight standards.
Anorexia is an alarming illness because among the different mental disorders, it has the highest mortality rate (South Carolina). Reports from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reveal that about 5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years of being diagnosed with the disease and only 30-40% of sufferers ever fully recover (South Carolina). The complications of this disorder, which include suicides and heart problems, are also dangerous consequences of this disorder. The fact that many teenagers and young women are bombarded with images of the ideal body type drives these women and girls to extreme measures. The lengths which many fashion models, celebrities, and teenagers have gone through in order to lose weight have resulted in ill health and deaths like that of Karen Carpenter, and as previously mentioned those of models Ana Reston and Luisel Ramos. A paper in Brazil was quick to comment on the death of the two models by stating that the preoccupation on the extreme thin image and body shape “can strongly contribute to the development and perpetuation of inadequate eating behaviors in susceptible individuals” (Moya, 2007). The death of the two models is just the tip of the iceberg for many other fatal and morbid circumstances which are attributed to this unhealthy thin obsession.
In the case of Karen Carpenter brought anorexia to the forefront of the media and the health industry. At the beginning of her career, Karen was known to be a chubby teenager. As her career was taking off, her doctor told her that she did not meet the appropriate weight based on her height and so she needed to lose some weight (Gilman, p. 40). Since she was at the beginning of her career, she also felt the pressure to lose weight. She and her brother were now gaining much attention from the media and from the general public, and her ‘chubby’ frame was one of the main features highlighted by the media (Gilman, p. 40). She was advised to go on a diet in order to be more acceptable to the public and to the entertainment industry. Even when she reached the ideal weight for her height, she still continued to lose weight because she still felt the pressure from society. She used various means to lose weight like laxatives, water diet, thyroid medications, and purging (Gilman, p. 40). Karen’s mindset was largely influenced by the unfair demands that the media, society, and the entertainment world placed on celebrities. Unfortunately, this same trend is being repeated today among adolescents and young women with the perceived notion of having to be thin in order to be beautiful or be accepted by the general public.
A paper by Allison Field, et.al., (p. e36) sought to determine the influence of the media on girls’ weight concerns, weight control/loss behaviors and their perceptions of body weight and shape. The research covered 548 5th through 12th grade girls working in the working-class suburb in the northeastern United States. The study revealed that pictures featured in magazines had a strong impact on how girls perceive their weight and shape (Field, et.al., p. e36). About 69% of the respondents revealed that the magazine pictures affected their idea of the perfect body shape; 47% of the respondents revealed that they wanted to lose weight because of the pictures they saw in the magazines.
“There was a positive linear association between the frequency of reading women’s magazines and the prevalence of having dieted to lose weight because of a magazine article, initiating an exercise program because of a magazine article, wanting to lose weight because of pictures in magazines, and feeling that pictures in magazines influence their idea of the perfect body shape” (Field, p. e36).
In effect, most pre-adolescent and adolescent girls felt a pressure to look as thin as the women gracing the cover of magazines, and their weight loss was often triggered by such magazines and such images.
A more recent study by Amy Chan (p. 1) sought to evaluate the disturbing evidence which points to the relationship between the media and the increase in the number of eating disorder among the young people today. Two focus groups were assessed for the study and the research was conducted through interviews and group discussions with young adolescents. The paper revealed that, although young adolescents do not consciously absorb media messages, they are however, to some extent, subliminally, “influenced by the ideal images and standards projected by magazines and television programs and advertisements” (Chan, p. 1). Again, through this paper we see the significant impact of the media on vulnerable teens, especially as far as their body image and weight is concerned.
In a paper by Parekh and Schmidt (p. 220), the authors sought to evaluate the impact of the fashion marketing on the development of eating disorders among young women. The study was conducted using electronic questionnaires posted to eating disorder sufferers who were recruited via Internet chat rooms. The study revealed that “psychological pressures inflicted by society, in particular through fashion marketing images, were felt to be very powerful influences on respondents’ self-image and dieting habits” (Parekh & Schmidt, p. 220). The study also revealed that respondents relied heavily on social acceptance in order to feel comforted in their social surroundings, and they believe that acceptance relies on how thin they were (Parekh & Schmidt, p. 220). We can deduce from this study how the comfort levels of teens rely largely on societal acceptance and how such acceptance is often sought to the greatest extremes.
Similar results in studies conducted by other authors are indicated. In a paper by Brown and Dittmar (p. 1088), the authors sought to evaluate previous notions that thin media models have a negative impact on young women’s body image. The paper specifically wanted to investigate the level of attention at which women processed thin images and appearance schema activation in relation to anxiety levels (Brown & Dittmar, p. 1088). About 70 women were included in this study. “Thin models increase weight-related anxiety to the extent that women internalize the thin ideal, but anxiety is heightened further under conditions of high attention” (Brown & Dittmar, p. 1088). The study again points out that when more attention is given to the thin ideal, the anxiety level of respondents in relation to their weight is also heightened.
In order to conduct a deeper analysis of the effect of media on body image, a paper was conducted by Bell, et.al., (p. 137). More particularly, the paper examined the effect of thin models in music videos on the body satisfaction of 16-19 year old adolescents. The respondents watched three music videos and afterwards answered questions which related to their body image and self-esteem. A major finding of this paper is that respondent teenage girls who are exposed to thin models in music videos registered with a significantly higher rate of body dissatisfaction as compared to girls who have had no visual input and those who were in the word recall group (Bell, et.al., p. 137). The results were the same, regardless of the self-esteem of the respondents. This implies that the music videos impact on the body image of respondents even if respondents already have a good self-concept. It also implies that images, more than words or lyrics, affect individuals especially those who are vulnerable to suggestion.
Conclusion
The discussion above points out that the fashion industry and the media have managed to significantly influence the body image of models, teenagers, and young adults. Since the 1960s, the image being featured in fashion magazines and in the entertainment industry has become thinner and slimmer. The voluptuous curves and full figures of models and celebrities have been discarded in favor of svelte and waif-like models. Many teenagers and aspiring models have been enticed by these images and many of them have been prompted to lose weight, not because they wanted to be healthy, but because they wanted to look like the supermodels and the celebrities gracing the big screen and the magazine covers. This thin image became the standard by which beauty was measured against, not just by society in general, but by the media and the fashion designers as well. Consequently, many teenagers and models sought to comply with such standard. Unfortunately, the lengths to which these teenagers and models have gone and go through in order to meet the standards of “beauty” have been extreme. With this, we saw the increased prevalence of anorexia and other eating disorders. And even though these disorders have been judged dangerous to people’s health, they are still resorted to as an alternative lifestyle for models, teenagers, and young adults. This skinny obsession has been exacerbated by the fashion industry as it has bombarded the media with images of the thinner supermodel and the latest weight loss measure. Consequently, what we now see is no longer just a trend, it has become a vicious, and in some instances, a fatal cycle.
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...Introduction: The fashion clothing industry is a demanding and highly competitive sector in the retail industry. As like other countries, UK retailers are also fighting to sustain their sales against the fluctuations in internal and external factors. Amidst of such high competition Primark is able to do perform remarkably well. Hence the current paper tries to observe the strategic management of company affairs of Primark to understand the secret of its current success as well as other constraints hovering the company. Company Profile: Primark is the major retailer in U.K, trading under the name of Pennys. Primark operates in 167 in UK, Spain and Ireland with one-third of its stores in...
17 Pages(4250 words)Case Study

Chinese Fashion Industry

...international magazines which had enjoyed some measure of success after their launching have fizzled out (Latham, 2007). This paper will look at the reason why this is so. Could it be the change in consumer taste, competition or other factors which have led to this scenario The writer, having been an intern at Vogue China offices, will try to look at this issue both from the layman's point of view and the insider point of view. To capture the views of the insiders in this industry, the writer will quote interviews that he conducted with the industry players. He interviewed fashion editors at Vogue China and from other fashion houses. The content of this magazine,...
20 Pages(5000 words)Essay

Fashion Industry

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1 Pages(250 words)Essay

Anorexia

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2 Pages(500 words)Essay

Anorexia

...or in built pressure of looking thin and maintain a certain body type; an idea emanating from a low self esteem. Such forms are also known as anorexia mirabilis and anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa, a type of the eating disorder affects the mental health of a person rather than anything else because it straight makes an impact on the self esteem and confidence levels of an individual. It is more common in young girls than boys, and especially in countries of America and Europe where high fashion and societal pressure is far more rampant as compared to other countries around the world. A person’s mind is affected rather than the kind of body image he or she has and...
10 Pages(2500 words)Research Paper

Anorexia

...that provides rational thought and serves to regulate the extent of emotional response. In the case of genetic factors contributing to development of anorexia, rational treatment options would involve surgical procedures or medicinal strategies as this type of irregularity or imbalance is independent of socio-psychological considerations as catalysts, thereby complicating offering assistance to the anorexia sufferer. Sociological Factors as Causes of AnorexiaAnorexia is most prevalent in adolescents and young adults, a period in life stages in which the individual actively seeks social belonging and social approval from important reference groups in their environment...
17 Pages(4250 words)Research Paper

Fashion industry waste

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8 Pages(2000 words)Research Paper

The Fashion Industry - Zara

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10 Pages(2500 words)Coursework
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