Picturing Women

May 21, 2022
Tracey Toh
Images from Love, Bonito, Playdress, Pomelo and The Willow Label.

In our internet culture, images of women are everywhere.

Across Singapore’s consumer ads, product pages and influencer profiles, there is a striking homogeneity to the photos of women that proliferate online. The same skin tones and figures, the same poses and camera angles, on repeat.

When it comes to women’s fashion in Singapore, it can seem like there’s a standard repertoire of images.

Female apparel companies often recycle the same poses, ways of arranging arms and legs to show off their products.

Images from Le Chic, The Stage Walk and Zalora.
Images from Innisfree, Laneige and Sulhwasoo.

Major cosmetic brands have nailed the expressions that best amplify a fresh-faced, clear-eyed (and invariably fair-skinned) beauty.

But such stereotypical female beauty can also be used to market consumer products that have nothing to do with fashion or cosmetics… like smartphones.
Images from Huawei, Oppo, Samsung and Xiaomi.
Images from Lazada and Shopee.

On the other hand, seasonal sale ads tend to feature more cheeky, sassy or flirty poses, promising fun and unbeatable prices.

Female models can adopt any pose, as long as it is attractive to the mass consumer, who might also be a male consumer.

And if there’s a formula to posing for the camera, surely the IG-famous know it.

For images to be marketable, they don’t have to break the mould.

They have to be instantly identifiable and conventionally attractive.

On our feeds, there may be different styles of femininity.

Cute or coy, sweet or sexy, glamorous or girl-next-door — all conveyed with the same poses.

Images from @fionafussi, @mongabong and @speishi.

Behind the images that fill our feeds, is there a template for putting women on display?

And how do these images shape our cultural imagination of women?

This visual essay is part of a series by our youth resident Tracey Toh that explores what it means to be a woman in contemporary society. Read the next part here.

Images from @djjaderasif, @naomineo_ and @novitalam.