Photographer Captures the Painful 'Scars' Clothes Leave on Our Bodies (PHOTOS)

justin bartels impressionWe've all been at the grocery store, the office, a wedding, and felt ... uncomfortable. Maybe you're wearing heels that dig into your toes, shapewear that makes it hurt to eat or drink, or an ill-fitting bra that's cutting into you. But it's a sacrifice, because beauty is pain ... isn't it? That idea and its effects on women is something photographer Justin Bartels felt compelled to capture in a series he calls "IMPRESSION."

With his degrees in sociology and photography/imaging, Bartels tells us that he derives inspiration from everywhere -- people-watching and exploring "why people do what they do in society."

In 2010, he was spurred to develop and photograph IMPRESSION when he'd hear the same complaints from women he was dating during and after college -- all related to high heels, tight jeans, underwire bras, and uncomfortable undergarments. "I would pose the question as to why they wore uncomfortable apparel and shoes when there were other more comfortable options out there," he explains. "The responses I received typically came in the form of, 'I want to look this way,' or 'this is how women dress,' to 'I feel good when I look good.'"

At one point, Bartels dated a model who he says would wear tight-fitting clothing to "accentuate" her features, as well as high heels to make herself taller than just about any other woman there. "After seeing these articles come off, and the physical and visual proof of how uncomfortable these garments were, I was very perplexed as to why a women would put themselves through such torture," he says. 

Oh, the joys of being a guy!

As a way to tackle his bafflement, Bartels asked his model girlfriend if she'd allow him to photograph the imprints her wardrobe left on her skin.

Check out the powerful images, and what Bartels had to say about the "impression" his series has left on others.


Image via Justin Bartels

  • Brutal Briefs


    Image via Justin Bartels

    Bartels describes the series as showing what fashion women wear to attract, and how it literally hurts/binds/imprints on them.

  • Toxic Lingerie


    Image via Justin Bartels

    "I did a quick setup with a black seamless paper background, a softbox strobe light, and my digital camera," Bartels explains. "I asked [my girlfriend] to bring clothes that she knew left strong imprints on her skin, and she brought everything from her own closet that was photographed."

  • Dangerously Strappy Heels


    Image via Justin Bartels

    "Looking back at the images, I was certainly surprised at how strong the imprints on the skin came out," Bartels says. "Each article was only on the model from 40 minutes to an hour."

  • Bra Strap Burn


    Image via Justin Bartels

    "I was also certainly surprised at how viral the photographs went on tumblr," he confesses. "They had hundreds of thousands of shares in a short amount of time."

    Maybe because we've all seen marks like these on our bodies. And it's easy to wonder perhaps if it's absolutely necessary to see a reflection like this when we undress at night?

  • Not-So-Blurred (Underwear) Lines


    Image via Justin Bartels

    "My girlfriend at the time, who modeled for the photoshoot, thought that the photos came out great, and thought it was an interesting subject," Bartels notes. "She thought it was great to show how these clothes physically affected the body, and that it would be a great talking point for people looking at the photos."

    More from The Stir: Plus-Size Clothes Aren't Doing Women Any Favors

  • Killer Corset


    Image via Justin Bartels

    Did seeing the images change his girlfriend's impression of her own clothes? No. "After the photoshoot, she would still wear those same items going out, due to her need to appear a certain way in public," Bartels says. It's not hard to understand, as we all feel that way to some extent.

  • Stinging Shapewear


    Image via Justin Bartels

    Even though Bartels's girlfriend wasn't swayed by the images, the photographer hopes they may inspire change. "I want these photos to be a talking point, to get women who were silent about certain fashion styles to speak out," he says. "The fashion industry won't change its products unless the consumer demands it."

  • Pain-Inflicting Inseam


    Image via Justin Bartel

    "I truly feel that this series will help spread the message to the fashion industry to do more research and development, and to hopefully listen to their consumers' needs a little bit more," Bartels says.

    And he's hopeful that there's already been a shift, explaining, "I feel that the industry is headed in that direction, with some great comfortable and stylish options that are starting to come out."

  • Bullying Bodice


    Image via Justin Bartels

    "I hoped that women would question what they wear and why they wear it," Bartels says. "Women shouldn't wear clothes because of what society dictates; they should wear clothes that make them feel good physically and emotionally." 

    Cheers to that!

    More from The Stir: Women Kicked Out of Cannes Screening for Not Wearing Heels

  • Ghostly Marks


    Image via Justin Bartels

    "I certainly hope that society will perceive these photos as a voice of the consumer asking the fashion industry to change its ways," says Bartels. So do we.

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