One piece from perfect


Cinderella’s look was not complete without her infamous glass slipper nor Dorothy Gale without her ruby pair. Taking inspiration from these heroines I developed the habit of yearning for a single piece, with a belief in its revolutionary abilities. Any child born in the 1990s will recall the tantalising Lelli Kelly shoes adverts; the toothy grins of the child actors and the camaraderie provoked by the sassy sandals, made me covet a pair. Once acquired, as you may suspect, I was not suddenly surrounded by a group of like-minded girls who joined in my chorus proclaiming the joy of the shoes “oh yeah”. Yet I have seemingly failed to learn my lesson. Suffice it to say my tastes have refined somewhat since then. My latest longing was for the Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua foundation, that promises to make skin ‘delicate’ ‘glowing’ and boasts ‘perfecting’ qualities. It is clearly quite a simple leap from perfect skin, to perfect appearance, to perfect friendships, to a perfect romantic life and a successful in your degree-the logic was infallible and the key was this foundation. Perhaps unsurprisingly whilst the foundation was delightful, its powers extended little beyond making one’s complexion even.

The idea behind this belief in the ‘one piece from perfect’ dogma is telling of a broader trend; a trend whereby young women pressure themselves to be perfect. Never before has an aspiration of perfection been so pervasive. ‘Perfect’ is a resolute word and one which conjures numerous expectations, but today the pursuit of this accolade encompasses a multitude of facets. Every experience has the potential to be perfected; beauty, the body, the mind, the personality, friendships and appearance on social media. One can witness the apogee of this trend at Oxbridge.

Small screen counterparts promote the prototype provided by Hermione Granger, the darling of this generation, Rory Gilmore of the Gilmore Girls, Spencer from Pretty Little Liars and Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. Thus the high-achieving, very pretty, extra circular whizz who is bound for an Ivy League college became a stock character of American TV shows, the narrative is compelling and it has promulgated an ideal for its eager viewers.

Much media attention has been devoted to the circumference of Lily James’ waist in the most recent adaptation of Cinderella, but little to the archetype promoted by such films in which women who find happiness are shown to be the embodiment of perfection. Whereas beauty has been sufficient for perfection, here it is a pre-requisite and it reinforced by the desirable traits of being well read, courageous, always polite and charismatic. It is easy to see how the notion of perfection can surpass an ideal and become an identity.

Issues with perfection stem from its very nature, which dictates it is something to be encouraged, lauded, celebrated and ultimately an ever-shifting finish line. As such the effects of this pressure are too often forgotten in success or, worse, ignored all together. The work executed in the pursuit of perfect is immense, producing perfect essays, maintaining an ideal appearance and refusing to display any cracks can prove a dangerous obsession. This pursuit can be linked to disorders such as anxiety, depression, orthorexia and other eating disorders. Whilst perfection is doubtless a commodity of advertising, it extends beyond airbrushed skin or a photoshopped waistline and promotes an ambition to reach a perfect ideal that all-embracing.


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