From “Heroin Chic” to “Clean Girl” aesthetic, comparing the demands of aesthetic labour in the 1980’s to the 2020’s.

'Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels' (cosmopolitan 2022), this infamous quote said by Kate Moss in an interview with vogue communicates the demands of aesthetic labour in the late 1980’s and the type of labour required of the industry in order to achieve these demands. From the research acquired it is evident that in the last decade the industry has changed and so has the labour of aesthetic.

What are the demands of aesthetic labour in the modelling industry and how did they differ during society in the early 90’s and how have they changed in the years of the 2010s-20s, with the example of Versace and Vivienne Westwood. With the first fashion runway occurring in 1860, since then the fashion world has expanded and grown to be a very prestigious industry within society. The idea behind this thesis is to understand and determine what types of demands each different fashion house upholds and how do their models maintain these demands and aesthetics.  The example of two fashion houses have been chosen to aid the research for this thesis, those are the fashion houses of Versace and Vivienne Westwood. Over the course of this thesis the topics of aesthetic labour, political views of the fashion houses, society and trends are addressed for each house. In order to see aesthetic differences in demands of aesthetic labour. Included in this thesis is a study on how models achieved the aesthetic goals of the fashion houses, examples of good and bad ways these models went about achieving these goals, from healthy diets to drug use and cosmetic surgery. With reference to Holla Sylvia’s text (2015). For this thesis, a fashion show from each house was live streamed in order to further analyse and compare the demands of aesthetic labour from each fashion house. The overall conclusion of this thesis is that over the years each fashion house particularly Versace and Vivienne Westwood have upheld many high demands for their models in relation to aesthetic labour. In the 1980s models were encouraged to maintain their aesthetics by dieting and in some cases cosmetic surgery, in the years of the 2020s models are positioned to use healthier means, such as having a balance of healthy foods and adequate exercise. From the research it is evident that in both decades there were experiences of body issues for models within the fashion houses due to these trends that were used to achieve the desired image but as time’s changed trends became seemingly less toxic and harmful for models.

Image source: Kate Moss,Squarespace 2023