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Article 19 - Aug 9, 2010
Back to Chic Weekly

FASHION CULTURE & HISTORY

On Shapes and Sizes

By Jessica Lynn Harris

As 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.
I 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 Fashion Week.
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 Anorexia.”
 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 montgomeryharris87@yahoo.com. 

 

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copyright 2010 Love To Sew
Article 19 Aug 9, 2010

 

 

 
 

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