Inspiration comes in many forms and from many different sources. But when it comes to fashion, more often than not, our inspiration for the clothes we buy and the style we choose comes from the glossy pages of a fashion magazine, glamorous images from Web pages, or from the television and movie screens. We are constantly surrounded by endless images of beautiful celebrities and models promoting the latest fashion and beauty trends. But have you ever asked yourself why we so diligently emulate the styles of celebrities?
Part of the answer is scientific, according to Dutch neuroscientists who released a study  this past month. The study showed that the part of our brain that is involved in cognitive decision making—the medial orbitofrontal cortex—lights up each time we see a celebrity of the same sex displaying eye-catching clothing or accessories!
Part two of the answer to our question lies in the enticing glamour, fabulous fame, and the elite social statuses of celebrities. We may not realize it, but we imitate them in the hopes to capture some of that essence for ourselves.
Fashion icons have been influencing the way we dress for decades. From Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white dress to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ impeccable fashion taste that spread like wildfire throughout the country - or even all the way to Sarah Jessica Parker’s inspirational shoe collection as Carrie in the Sex and the City empire, celebrities consistently create style trends. Fashion conscious stars such as Katie Holmes have the ability to sum up a mood of the season by just a few paparazzi snapshots.
We all remember the acid-washed jeans and shoulder pads of the ’80s, made popular by icons such as Cory Heart, Billy Idol, and Madonna. However, while many of us would like to forget much (or all!) of our ’80s wardrobe, it appears that celebrities are still hungry for clothing that represents that era, such as leggings and off-the-shoulder tees. That style has made a huge comeback this past year due to such celebrity enthusiasts like Hillary Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Heidi Klum, and Victoria Beckham. Suddenly, leggings are everywhere and off-the-shoulder looks are the hot new trend! This is no surprise, though. History has shown us time and time again that Hollywood stars have an undeniable ability to influence the style of the masses. Some of these looks are manufactured by stylists, however others are truly spontaneous. Shopping for an outfit reminiscent of the one you have seen your favorite star wear has been a socially accepted practice in our culture for decades, and it is also an exciting and pleasurable experience.
But what happens when women who used to enjoy such activities are suddenly thrown a fashion curveball when they experience a drastic appearance change due to medical hair loss or any other abrupt deviation from what our society considers “the norm”? Former admiration for beautiful and healthy celebrities is transformed into a very personal desire to feel attractive again. Women who experience sudden appearance change often disconnect from their normal life. They tend to feel alienated from fashion and fame. Whether or not we care to admit it, for women, our appearance does matter to us, and when fighting a battle against any disease, changes in appearance (such as hair loss) can be mentally devastating. It is important to realize that times like those are the most important to know how to love oneself.
Women confronting drastic appearance changes yearn for normalcy. I know when I lost my own hair, I was never more acutely aware of images of women with hair and how I lost my ability to relate. My sense of style remained, however none of my outfits or accessories looked the same without my crowning glory!
I’ve yet to find a fashion magazine that highlights women without hair when portraying the season’s latest trends. I’m patiently waiting for Hollywood to pick up the slack with its fictional female characters undergoing chemotherapy. From Murphy’s cancer battle on Murphy Brown, to Lynette of Desperate Housewives, and Samantha from Sex and the Cit— television has been a prime venue for Hollywood to portray a woman suffering from medical hair loss. Two current examples of Hollywood depicting medical hair loss are found in the series Brothers & Sisters and, more recently, General Hospital. As our former blogs on these depictions stated, the female bald characters were forced to wear a variety of unattractive and unfeminine head-covering options.
Example one: In Brothers & Sisters, character Kitty Walker is portrayed as a successful, bold, and defiant woman with solid conservative beliefs. When she loses her hair during her cancer treatment, her headwear options do not reflect at all upon her character’s steadfast outlook on life. Rather, the lumpy turbans she adorns call to mind the headwear of bearded Middle Eastern men!
Example two: In General Hospital, character Shirley Smith, a kind and classy older woman suffering from brain cancer, is thrown into the General Hospital cast to mix things up at the hospital with her frank and down-to-earth cool temper. Yet, what do they adorn her baldness with but a childish arts-and-crafts-esque getup!
Hollywood continues to further stigmatize women with hair loss by portraying them in old-fashioned and outdated headwear. Women still want to fit in with society when they lose their hair. They do not desire to stand out as different or sick. When Hollywood portrays female cancer patients in century-old turbans and lumpy head wraps, it seems as if writers and stylists don’t think their storyline would be supported without such typical head coverings. It almost seems as if the chosen headwear is meant to emphasize their illness. Don’t they get that woman can lose her hair and still remain fashionable and stylish? Don’t they get that when women are sick it is even more important to try and not draw attention to their baldness? Instead, the continued portrayal in unflattering head wraps causes the pubic to shudder at the possibility that if they were to be diagnosed with cancer and lose their hair, those outdated ugly turbans would be their only options.
The opportunity to help empower us through positive imagery is one that should never be passed up.
Calling all Hollywood stylists! You still have a chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of the bald and the beautiful. We’ve seen too many of these outdated options—it’s time to show us something feminine, flowing and fashionable. There are plenty of scarf options to choose from. Get with it and keep in mind: we’ll be watching!