much as I love the world of fashion--the escapism of turning a body
into a canvas, of referencing different eras, the unspoken dialogue
that a look participates in--I have to admit that there are a few
things about the industry that make me uneasy. Whereas styles,
fabrics, and colors in garments can be quirky, asymmetrical, or
mismatched, the same variety does not seem to apply to models. We all
know the look of a standard model: tall, emaciated at a size zero or
two, and her coveted vacant stare. Fashion writers in the past have
validated this by claiming that clothes simply have always looked
better on thin women, historically. But we know this is not accurate.
A Hawaiian beauty is our plus-size, as were the women of desire in
Renaissance Italy. In Medieval Europe, a large stomach and small
breasts were all the rage.
The weight of models and the photoshopping of celebrities for magazine
spreads has been accused of setting an unhealthy standard of beauty
for women and girls. These images, often depicting women with
dangerously low BMIs (Body Mass Index) are said to encourage eating
disorders and low self esteem.
do admire the work and dedication of Kate, Agyness, and Natalia. This
article does not aim to diminish the beauty and versatility that
current models have brought to the industry. But it’s sad that there
are no short, curvaceous runway models, no models over forty
advertising beauty products (with exception to anti-aging creams). We
need a greater variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. In short,
more Ugly Betties.
These issues, particularly in regards to the weight of models, was
brought to the public eye in 2006 after Luisel Ramo, a 22 Uruguayan
model, died of heart failure just off the runway. In response, Spain
mandated a minimum BMI (18) for runway models for the 2006 Madrid
Since then, there has been effort among the industry to remedy the
dangerous beauty standards set for girls (or, if you’re a cynic, to
remedy the public backlash). It’s rare that an issue of Teen Vogue or
Seventeen doesn’t address EDs or body acceptance (even if the
advertisements depict an unrealistically thin body type for most
girls). A refreshing outlook is Ashley Falcon’s “Big Girl in a Skinny
World,” a monthly column for Marie Claire that addresses a curvy
woman’s love of fashion and tips on how to dress, shop, and
accessorize well. In 2007, Nolita, an Italian fashion house, became
infamous for an advertisement depicting a nude Isabelle Caro, an
anorexic model weighing just over sixty pounds, with the caption “No
This aroused public debate as to whether or not the Nolita was
exploiting sufferers of the disorder or taking a serious political
stance on a health issue.
Dove’s ingenious advertisements “The Campaign for Real Beauty” feature
unprecedented images of women of varying shapes. A percentage of their
sales go to the self esteem fund, the goal of which is to “free
ourselves and the next generation of beauty stereotypes.” You can
learn more about Dove’s philosophy here (http://www.dove.us/#/cfrb/).
What do you think? Are minimum BMI mandates censorship of artistic
freedom? Do images in fashion magazines cause self esteem issues for
teen readers? E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.