Slithers of fabric precariously strung together with spaghetti straps and metal hardware, cutouts so wide the garment may as well have been made in two pieces, peekaboo moments for sideboobs, underboobs and the more conservative classic boob cleavage. These are the hallmarks of “BBL fashion”, the trend that fast fashion brands are shipping worldwide faster than you can say “free next day delivery”. Its nickname comes from the final and most essential element of the look: arse, lots of it, most likely made bigger, perkier and more Kim K by a Brazilian butt lift (BBL) procedure.
For a prime example of the trend, take a look at Pretty Little Thing’s latest collaboration with Instagram model Demi Rose. “Dress your shape in silhouette sculpting styles and curve clinging ‘fits that are all about the body’,” persuades the brand’s website, neglecting to explain that by “sculpting” they mean strategically placed strips of flimsy fabric, designed to complement a very specific body type. Demi Rose looks quite literally unreal in the campaign images, sundrenched and serene as she develops tan lines stencilled from cutouts.
Clothes designed to flaunt curves are certainly nothing new. Ever since Kim Kardashian balanced a champagne coupe on her derrière for PAPER in 2014, it’s been well documented that mainstream Western beauty standards have shifted towards a more voluptuous ideal. In theory, this pivot from the often unattainably thin bodies that were glamorised in previous decades should be a good thing. In practice, our collective body image simply bends to find fresh insecurities that fit the new context. As of December last year, buttock augmentation surgeries had increased by 65.9 per cent since 2015, while bum lifts were up by 77.6 per cent. That makes arse-orientated procedures the fastest-growing cosmetic surgeries in the world.
Which brings us back to Pretty Little Thing – and Fashion Nova and BooHoo and any other brand you might find in the suitcases of Love Island contestants. When the Demi Rose collection dropped online, the response was pretty unanimous. “Why has everything got holes in.… like any normal person is just gonna have bits falling out and look like a pork loin,” Tweeted one user. Grace AKA @thebiggestyee put it more bluntly: “mass producing fast fashion catered to a very specific body type achievable almost exclusively through a surgical procedure with the highest mortality rate of all elective surgeries »> this is actually very good and safe for society!!!” A 2017 paper published revealed that one in 3,000 BBL procedures result in death.
“I’m a curvy woman, but I don’t have a BBL body,” says 26-year-old Iman from London. “I always feel pressured that I need to look a certain way. When I’m looking online for a going out dress specifically, I feel like I’m the problem.
“I don’t have a flat stomach, small waist, big bum and big waist. I have a big bum and boobs, and I have a stomach. All these models have flat stomachs, even the plus-sized and curvy models, and it makes me so self-conscious.” Iman believes that the hourglass figures seen on fast fashion brand sites are fuelling insecurities among young women today. “This is why we’re all out here buying Skims and shapewear, because we’re trying to make our stomachs flatter and trying to attain this body. Who created this look? The Kardashians. We can never look like that.”
Fatima, a 25-year-old content creator from London, also feels the strain. “I am slim with a small to medium bum and some of the clothes will never fit the look unless I get surgery,” she says. “Sometimes I buy the curve because I have a small waist but I always know when ordering that the bum the models have doesn’t come with it.”
Does she think the BBL fashion trend could be dangerous? “To me, no, because even though I want more curves, sometimes I still love my body. To young people, yes, because they will look at their figures and want it, and usually the only way to attain that figure is to get surgery. There are even plus-sized models getting BBLs or liposuction to remove fat from their waists to give that hourglass look.”
While Rose denies rumours that she’s had surgery, she has previously had a non-surgical bum lift. But whether her curves are a gift from genetics or Harley Street is beside the point. What matters is that when entire collections are designed for her specific body type, the vast majority of customers get left out. And you have to wonder where those with the curves to sport the trend are actually wearing these outfits. BBL fashion is not typically conducive to British summertime. What might look fire on the feed is probably a bit chilly in UK smoking areas on Saturday nights.
Of course, if you’ve got bountiful assets that are worth flaunting, by all means, live your best cutout life. If you haven’t? Don’t let influencer culture convince you that you need to book a bum lift to stay on-trend. The perfect hourglass figure has long been an idealised standard of femininity, but as trends rotate and regurgitate themselves every few years, there’s no point in going under the knife just to cop the latest PLT drop. Costing between £2,000 and £8,000 in the UK, BBLs are one hell of a pricey risk, so if you’re doing it just to fit into Fashion Nova bargains, you might want to reevaluate your finances.
Simply like big butts? Well, we can’t argue with that. Just make sure you do your research before opting for surgery and check the weather forecast before wearing your BBL fashion flexes. We wouldn’t want you to catch a cold in the pursuit of looking hot now, would we?