On Thigh Gaps and Photoshop

A couple of weeks ago, it was a Target junior model in a bikini.  Then, it was a plus sized jeans ad for Old Navy.  What did these two have in common: an oddly suspicious thigh gap.

Let’s start with exhibit one, from Target:

If that’s not an example of photo altering gone wrong, then I’m doing an Ironman Triathlon this summer!  The other alternative is that this is how the bikini bottom is supposed to fit.  Gee, I hope not.

The image and commentary went viral. A Target spokesperson later apologized for the “mistake”:

“It was an unfortunate error on our part and we apologize,” Target spokesman Evan Miller said to ABC News, adding that the photo had been removed from Target’s website.

I’m curious what, in their view, the mistake actually was?  Was it badly altering the picture in a way that put Target in the running for worst photo shop gaffe ever?  Or were they truly apologizing for the very idea that they would need to add or accentuate a thigh gap on an already slender junior model?

The thing was almost so laughable as to make people pass over the actual harms of this type of thing.  I myself had an eye-rolling reaction more than a blood-boiling one.  But the fact is, on a junior model, modeling bikinis to an already body-conscious demographic, we could use some body acceptance.  We like to make fun of bad photoshopping, but this photo is evidence of a mindset.

The mindset defines what an acceptable body needs to look like in a bikini.  But no one is going to look quite like that in a bikini (thankfully, not so much because of the thigh gap but rather because if your bikini goes down your legs a couple of inches at the inner thigh, it’s not fitting properly.  If you like that look, you can get a boy short. Just saying.).

Okay, on to exhibit two. The plus sized jeans ad from Old Navy:This one is more interesting because Old Navy denied that they altered the photo. What they did do, they said, is pin the fabric back on their body form before taking the picture. According to this report:

In a statement, Old Navy says the thigh gap was not caused by photo manipulation.

“At Old Navy we strive to show our customers the most accurate representation of how product fits the body. This includes pinning garments on body forms to show how they will actually appear. While we do remove these pins in post-production, we do not use any photo-altering techniques to deliberately distort the actual look or fit of our product.”

Sure, but then the question is this (and you’ll have to forgive me if I sound ignorant of the ways of the fashion industry, because I am):  why not have body forms that fit the clothes you’re selling, or model the sizes that fit the body form you’re using?

Somehow the idea of pinning back excess fabric on a pair of jeans to “show how they will actually appear” just doesn’t sound like the right approach. If I have excess fabric somewhere where it’s not supposed to be in my pair of jeans, I assume (and again, I’m no expert) that those jeans don’t fit me properly.  It’s never occurred to me just to pin the excess back. But that’s just me.

And maybe I’m just so jaded or beaten down by the barrage of photoshopped images that come at me every day so fast that I can’t even process them, but I have trouble even getting all riled up any more.  Instead, I’m just weary and a tad confused.  It was one thing when we used actual models with genetics that put their body type out of reach for most of us. But photo shop has taken this thing to whole new lows of unreachability. Real people just don’t look like that. It’s seriously messed up.

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