There was a small change in the air at New York Fashion Week: the size of the models.
It was a very small change, but one that I sincerely hope will lead to bigger and better changes. Instead of the average model being a size 0, she was a size 2 or 4.
Yeah, not that much, really, but at least a baby step in the right direction.
Over the last few years, the open ugly secret of the worldwide fashion industry has gotten more and more press. I’m talking, of course, about the epidemic of eating disorders among catwalk models, and the unhealthy ways models often maintain the human hanger look everyone agrees is necessary for modeling purposes.
There are, of course, some women who naturally do meet the exacting weight standards of the industry, but not anywhere near enough to walk all those runways. Not everyone who is naturally that thin is also considered tall enough, chic enough. Some of them are actually interested in other lines of work. Those who are not naturally that thin are directed to find a way to get there…or else they won’t work.
As a new model at 15, Coco Rocha said she went to Singapore and lost 10 pounds in six weeks. When she returned to the U.S. she was so obsessed with food, she beat herself up over eating an apple.
“I’ll never forget the piece of advice I got from people in the industry when they saw my new body,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “They said, ‘You need to lose more weight. The look this year is anorexia. We don’t want you to be anorexic but that’s what we want you to look like.'”
And when you get right down to it, nobody is willing to take the blame for either the look or the amount of devastation it has caused. Designers, art directors, beauty editors…each blames another branch of the industry or the consumers.
Frankly, I don’t give a crap who started this game. I just want someone to stand up and stop it. An average size of 2 is better than an average size of 0, but when are women on the runways of the world going to match the sizes and shapes of the women who are actually going to wear the clothes?
I know that fashion shows are as much fantasy as anything else. I know pieces get shown that are not meant to be worn in any real situation. I don’t even object to an occasional size 0 model, so long as that’s what nature intended her to be. Real women are fat. Real women are thin. Real women have hourglass figures. Real women have pear figures. Real women have apple figures. Real women come in every color of the rainbow, every shape, size, height, and level of physical ability.
Wake up, fashion designers! The human body is part of the design challenge in clothing. The human body is not a hanger. It is a living, breathing, moving element of your work. What’s more, models are human beings. They need to be able to feed themselves as nature directs. When a fifteen year old girl is terrified to bite into a juicy apple bursting with nutrients her body needs for fear of losing her job, then we have reached a state of affairs in desperate need of fixing.
Some eating disorder groups have called for a minimum standard BMI of 18.5 for models and independant medical assurance that the models do not suffer from eating disorders. Dr. Susan Ice, director of an eating disorders treatment center and a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America health initiative, described this standard as ‘draconian.’ London has dropped their plan to require medical examinations for models due to lack of international support.
And so the cycle continues. Nobody accepts a part of the blame, attempts to change the system are met with massive resistance, and the unrealistic expectations continue to badger young girls and boys who grow up thinking this is simply the way things should be.
2 is better than 0…but not by anything like enough.