‘Ready, set, glow!’ ‘Your best body ever!’ The covers of Britain's key fashion magazines are missing something this spring; the cliché mantras of January diet culture. There are few ‘New Year, New You’ puffs to be found, even less ones which directly suggest the need to lose weight in order to be happy in 2021.
Perhaps it is an acknowledgement of the pandemic, and the reality that many of us have spent the last month comfortably watching Bridgerton on the sofa. Or perhaps the fashion industry really is evolving, finally ready to move on from the sample size-chasing tropes it has stuck to for decades.
The February editions of fashion magazines (which always arrive on shelves in the first week of January, right as everyone emerges from the indulgent holidays) have long promoted the idea that, as a sort of New Year’s resolution, one should consider a new diet. A lithe personal trainer in couture, a celebrity who recently lost a lot of weight, or a supermodel posing in spandex might be the face, the inspiration.
The magazine which stands out from the pack this spring is Cosmopolitan. Under the cover line ‘This is healthy!’, stand Morgan Lake, Sophie Butler and Callie Thorpe, three out of 11 women chosen to front the print magazine and its digital edition.
‘These 11 incredible women with 11 very different bodies are proving wellness isn’t one-size-fits-all,’ editor-in-chief Claire Hodgson wrote on Instagram of the 2021 cover. The magazine's February 2016 edition promised readers a '5-minute plan' to get more defined abs, a comparison which shows how much the language around body image has transformed in just five years.
Each cover star talks about ‘reclaiming healthy’ for themselves. Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds speaks of the confidence which her exercise gives her. Instagram star Callie Thorpe explains that she wants ‘other women to feel comfortable to move their bodies, whatever their size.’ British Olympic athlete Morgan Lake says she focuses on the ‘power’ her body can generate, ‘not how it looks.’
Alexandra Light, a journalist and body confidence campaigner, also features in the magazine story. ‘Diet culture is rampant in January - it thrives amongst the most vulnerable,’ she told her 314,000 followers of the reason she was so pleased to be included. ‘A feature like this, that lays out the concept that health is not one size, is incredibly helpful and is one that I hope will help relieve the pressure for so many people who are feeling delicate and susceptible right now.’
Of 791 covers released by 50 prominent fashion magazines globally in 2020, only 21 starred a plus-size model, according to The Fashion Spot’s annual Diversity Report. That was an increase from 2019, which saw only 15.
Widening the view on what is celebrated as ‘body beautiful’ will only help us all, mentally and physically, as we veer into another lockdown. If you’ve made positive affirmations of fitness, health or veganism this month, that is great. But if you had given them all up before Boris had even finished his latest ‘if’ list, then that’s fine too. The fashionable viewpoint this spring is to just ‘be’. Do a rom-com Mark Darcy and accept oneself 'just as you are'.
‘If you make any resolutions, make it a promise to be kinder to yourself,’ Hodgson said. I might only add to that; wearing a huge smile and some cheering colours (something like those modelled by these cover stars) will also brighten the darkest of January days.