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September 21, 2008

Well, It’s Up From Zero

Filed under: Fashion Week — Twistie @ 11:36 am

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.


  1. I just finished standing up and cheering a loud cheer- ususaly the kind of GO TEAM GO Cheer I reserve for Phelps like accomplishments at Olympics and Military members returning home. Twistie, this article rocks and I am seriously hoping that those in the fashion industry stand up and take notice.

    I am concerned that there is not enough of a grass roots movement to narrow the desparity between fashion fantasy and reality. I know that this is not a cause that most will take seriously. I know that there are very realy issues that need to be addressed- lack of jobs, lack of health care, lack of nutrional food for all. I also know that the despair all women have felt at one moment or another in their lives over not looking like the models is something we can all agree is despair we can work at eliminating.

    So I say to the Fahionistas of the world who get that beauty comes in alll shapes and sizes- Bravo- to those that want to starve young girls in order to promote an unrealistic idea of beauty- we are on to you and we are not buying it.

    Bravo Twistie- Bravo.

    Comment by Kimiks — September 21, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  2. I agree with Kimiks that this is some good work on your part, Twistie.

    I don’t have as much of a problem with the fashion shows as I should – I guess I think of them more as some sort of perverse performance art, like Cirque du Soleil or Puppetry of the Penis. The sort of stuff that doesn’t even have to come with a “don’t try this at home” warning because, well, who would? Who actually looks like those models?

    The problem I have, though, is a direct off-shoot of the fashion shows, which is the fashion trickle-down. It’s one thing when haute couture designers want to create these over the top pieces, but it’s another thing when H&M’s affordable copies just straight up do not fit – and are not intended to fit – real bodies. These sorts of designer fashions are artistic, sure, but the styles are not practical for any more than maybe 5-10% of the population – if that.

    I’m 5’7″ and a size 12 and I cannot find anything stylish and flattering to wear. Classically stylish, yes – I look awesome in a suit and no one is going to tell me otherwise – but trendy and stylish? Almost never. Even many years ago when I wore a size 6 I was frequently on the cusp of too big for the latest fashion. And for that unforgivable sin, I blame the fashion Houses.

    I don’t care what size your models are. But please, please someone make a point (and I mean more than a one-off, for show and for publicity) of designing real clothes that real women can wear to look and feel good about themselves.

    Comment by Nemtynakht — September 21, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

  3. I’m with everyone–this is awesome.

    The models have more significance than you might realize–and beyond the impact of their massive overexposure in the media, because really, if you don’t care about fashion, you rarely see runway models. But runway shows for the vast majority of designers who actually need to sell things are actually about convincing fashion buyers to buy their line. And if there’s an industry standard that your models be super-skinny, and you want your runway show to be as good as possible, you design for what will look best on that body type and what will make the most impact when shown on that body type. If you design for real people, ironically, you may have trouble getting buyers to bite because the clothes aren’t designed for the people modelling them and thus don’t have the same impact as clothes intended for that shape. So changing industry standards for models may have impacts in way not initially obvious when it comes to actually being able to buy clothes in a store.

    Comment by Leah — September 21, 2008 @ 10:31 pm

  4. Leah brings up a good point, which shows that there needs to be a change in EVERY facet.

    The designers should design for the general public, meaning a range of body types.
    The clothes should be MODELED by said body types.
    Stores should buy these lines, not just the couture or superthin lines.
    Consumers should favor the ‘everyone’ lines.

    There is also the cycle of “people will buy what the industry tells them to buy”. For example, I don’t think half the nouveau riche would buy things like the hideously garish LV purses, luggage, etc. if they didn’t think it was ‘trendy’ or ‘in style’.

    I would like the industry to stop thinking in extremes. We aren’t asking that they remove every model under a size 4 and replace them with plus size models (and by that I mean really plus sized…size 8 is not Plus Sized, tyvm). I want a range of sizes and shapes. That includes people who are under 5’10” and over 130 lbs.

    I want to see a 5’4″ size 16 rocking it down the runway in something she looks good in, and a 5’8″ size 12 too. Behind her would come the 5’11” size 8 and the 5’6″ size 20, followed by the 5’2″ size 2.

    Which really brings me to the crux of the matter: Could any designer today pull of a line that looked good on all these women? I doubt it, which is why I think they’ll fight the hardest on any changes….they really aren’t as talented as they say they are, because they can only design for ONE body type. The designer who’s fashions look smashing on everyone is the one people will like, and I think several top designers today are aware that they dont’ have what it takes….

    Comment by De — September 22, 2008 @ 8:30 am

  5. Precisely, Leah and De. The problem is that everyone involved is doing this bizarre, ritualistic dance that contorts everyone hideously, yet everyone is so busy blaming another person doing the dance that they don’t actually stop dancing and do something that makes more sense.

    The cycle has been created and intensified by a lot of different elements working together. It can only be adjusted by someone – anyone – deciding to dance a different, less contorted figure.

    And I’m off to do a tarentella of annoyance on someone’s ass until I get a response that improves the situation.

    Comment by Twistie — September 22, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

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