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How Fashion Travels: The Fashionable Ideal in the Age of Instagram

de Perthuis, K. & Findlay, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-8596-6880 (2019). How Fashion Travels: The Fashionable Ideal in the Age of Instagram. Fashion Theory, 23(2), pp. 219-242. doi: 10.1080/1362704x.2019.1567062


Despite the many transformations in aesthetics and technologies that fashion photography has undergone since its spread as an influential cultural form in the early twentieth century, one constant has always held fast: that the imagery depicts a fashionable ideal. The look of the fashionable ideal is, of course, ever subject to change. However, there are qualities that are always present: the body is subject to the authority of fashion, limitations to the autonomy of the body such as gravity or ageing are absent, and the figure is imbued with possibility and mutability, even as it freezes a momentary state of perfection.

These qualities become particularly marked in the present era, in which digital influencers simultaneously assume the roles of cultural producer, model and consumer while implicitly embodying the fashionable ideal. At the moment of their publication, the labor of producing these images seems to evaporate, as bodies with no material limitation are presented with immediacy, and figure, commodity and surrounds collapse into one.

This article interrogates how we can conceive of the labor of appearance and being in the fashion image, and considers how this style of fashion imagery draws on visual rhetoric of prior eras of fashion photography and is structured by the existing power relations of capitalism and the human and non-human actors of media technologies. In so doing, the concept of the fashionable ideal is explored in one of its contemporary iterations as fluid, aspirational, global, simultaneously embodied and disembodied.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture on 14 February 2019, available at:
Publisher Keywords: Instagram, influencers, fashionable ideal, fashion photography, social media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries
SWORD Depositor:
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