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The Changing Face of Fashion: Is Ugly the New Pretty?

Last year I went to Paris with my best friend. Aside from the ‘Blair and Serena hit Paris’ feels, the trip also involved a seemingly meaningless conversation about shoes which got me thinking. As I sat in front of a full-length mirror in our Airbnb, surrounded by a variety of makeup, tangle teasers and cabin approved suitcases, my friend stood behind me and swished side to side looking at her outfit in the reflection.

“I like my feet to look big, they are big, and I like that pretty fairy look with big ugly feet; it surprises people.”

She was wearing a balerina-esque combination of a pale pink tulle skirt and tight black body underneath, paired with chunky, black platform boots.

At this point I was pressed up against the mirror, frustratingly attempting to exchange the septum ring in my nose for a sparkly, party-appropriate number.

I used to hate my nose, I used to think it was too big and craved a smooth, petite, ski slope shape. My friend used to hate her feet, desperately drawing attention away from them. And yet here we sat, years later, utterly embracing our insecurities, labelling them as “ugly” and being proud of it.

2018 saw many “ugly” trends hit the streets and screens; from the return of bum bags to ugly sneakers and Balenciaga’s moment with crocks. It is clear that 2018’s message was to not take ourselves too seriously.

More than that, these “ugly” trends could be part of a wider movement. Though some may seem like “fashion for fashion sake,” they are part of a shift towards changing beauty, body, and style ideals; going beyond accepting our flaws, to flaunting them as assets and as key to our individuality.

Bum-bags taught us practical could be cool, baseball caps are once again front facing, and trainers with dresses have now made our nights out so much more comfortable. Beyond being inspired by a 90’s parent at Disneyland, these trends all have something in common: saying it’s cool to be uncool.

The past year also brought emerging new faces which are pioneers of individuality, and the runways are finally starting to see more diversity. Championing ugly as the new pretty is model Jazzelle Zanaughtti, known as @UglyWorldwide on Instagram. After catching the attention of photographer Nick Knight, Jazzelle has been pushing the boundaries of beauty ideals with her buzz cut, shaved eyebrows and fearless makeup looks.

“Ugliness means to me being your true self with all the bad and good in you. Sharing your inner demons and exploring your true self.” 

– Alina Zamanova

Instagram has been a prominent platform for many people to express their individuality and spread messages of self-love like Jazzelle. Among the community is artist Alina Zamanova. Alina has gained over 40k followers who are keen to see more of her ’Ugly girls’ paintings on their instagram feeds.

As a result of a dissertation topic exploring the “Representation of Ugliness and Beauty in Art and Fashion.” Aline has developed a unique and recognisable style within her work. Using her ‘Ugly girls’ as a way of exploring a new perspective of beauty and challenging her audience to think of it differently. The aim of ugly trends, whether in fashion, beauty or art, is not to fight beauty standards, but to shine a light on different kinds of beauty.

“The beauty “stereotypes have always been there and there was always this kind of gap between Ugliness and beauty. I think that nowadays we try to erase this line and translate the perception of beauty through a different perspective. It is incredibly inspiring to see many creatives dipping in the Ugliness concept and the unique approach to beauty stereotypes.”

– Alina on her thoughts on beauty stereotypes.

The concept of “one size fits all” has, thankfully, for some time now, been questioned – and this is not the first movement towards a new attitude on our judgement of appearances. However, these sometimes comically ugly trends suggest a more playful and amicable attempt at shifting those ideals. It is less about fighting a certain mindset, and more about embracing difference. Finding beauty in our individuality allows us to truly start dressing as we want. And the moment we start wearing what we feel best represents us and in turn what we feel comfortable in – be it navy classics or platform crocks – we start wearing new-found confidence, which always looks good.

by Emily Dempsey
cover photo: Gucci Campaign Fall 2018