View Full Version : From the underweight-model front...

M. Lopez
23rd September 2006, 23:34
More news from the fight against androgynous models. Milan is establishing a code of health and behaviour for models, one which is long overdue:


Relevant text:

Milan models to have catwalk code
By Mark Duff
BBC News, Milan

Milan models will have to carry a medical certificate

Italy's fashion capital, Milan, has announced a new catwalk code of conduct to protect young models vulnerable to anorexia and exploitation.

..."We will work together with modelling agencies, with the chamber of commerce for fashion and with doctors to ensure that - above all - modelling agencies and stylists do not favour this phenomenon of anorexia."

Milan's first woman mayor, Letizia Moratti, has backed the campaign to ban anorexic-looking models.

Under Milan's new code, which is due to come into force in time for the next fashion week, in February, models will have to carry a medical certificate showing they are healthy.

It's not as promising as an outright ban on underweight models, since the greater issue here is not just the health of the models themselves, but the detrimental effects that their images have on young women in general. Just because some size-0 models don't have eating disorders, that doesn't change the fact that they cause anorexia in others, which is why they should be banned. But at least it's a step.

- - - -

In related news, designer Armani has laid the blame for anorexic model on stylists and the media:



Armani said no girl needed to be anorexic in order to be fashionable.

"I have never wanted to use girls that are too skinny...Unfortunately though, the stylists and also the media have interfered and they now want models that are incredibly thin."...

Armani, whose client list spans Hollywood to high finance, is a bellwether for the industry and the most powerful fashion insider yet to speak out on the weight debate.

Is he simply trying to shift the blame? Maybe. What he says is undoubtedly true, but designers must acknowledge their own complicity in the problem. If Armani is not one of the designers who has created the situation, then he is an exception. Most commentators have precisely identified designers as responsible for imposing these anti-feminine starvation "standards," since they select the models who appear at their shows.

However, Armani's willingness to address the issue, and to stand on the right side, is significant, and could help influence others.

- - - -

Finally, for Project Runway fans, I found the following quote from an otherwise dismal article on the subject:

There was also a strong reaction this month to the models at New York's Fashion Week, said Tim Gunn, who stars on Bravo's "Project Runway" and is chair of the fashion design department at Parsons the New School for Design in New York.

"Some of the girls caused you to gasp," he said. "When the knee joint is wider than the thigh, it can be scary."
Let's hope that for once, the fashion industry behaves as if it had a trace of concern about society's well-being, and doesn't take "scary" to be a good thing (the way an adolescent boy eager to "shock" would), but "scary" in a truly reprehensible way, because many young women (including sometimes the models themselves) are becoming sick, and even dying, from their warped fetish for thinness.

24th September 2006, 04:02
One of the more interesting commentaries I've read concerning this issue is the following, from an English-language newspaper in India. The article itself is not very good, delivering a mixed message,


but the opening paragraphs make a compelling connection between abstract modern art and the skeletal, angular look of today's emaciated models:

FOR centuries, female rotundity had been synonymous with fertility, beauty, wealth and health. Both Eastern and Western art and sculpture had epitomised the full figure until the invention of photography and development of different forms and styles of art in later periods when shapes and body structures turned into lines and strokes or abstract images. In a curious reversal of roles, instead of art imitating life, the thin artistic lines on canvass have started setting new standards and trends for designers in the fashion world.

So much so that beauty has been redefined with lean bodies and re-dressed in thin figures. Pencil thin models sashaying and cat-walking on the ramp are the rage of Gen Next and they are role models for teens. They dream of attaining such ‘perfect’ figures...by becoming anorexic. In recent years, fashion models are becoming thinner and thinner so much that an organiser was impelled to say that they are no more than walking skeletons.

I know that precisely this point has been stressed on the Judgment of Paris web site for years, so I was fascinated to see it echoed in the press. I think this could well be the case -- that the same forces which destroyed beauty in the visual arts, and replaced it with the politicized, primitive ugliness of Picasso, Pollock, etc., also destroyed beauty in fashion, and gave us today's anti-feminine emaciated models.

I wonder if, in recovering womanliness in fashion, there might be a return to beauty in visual arts as well? I can only hope so...

24th September 2006, 17:03
The New York Times ran a pretty intelligent piece about this matter a few days ago:


It brought up some important points. The most revealing comments came from the head of a model agency:

We are minutes away from a catastrophe,” said David Bonnouvrier, the chief executive of DNA Models, which represents many of the top faces in the business. In an interview, Mr. Bonnouvrier said designers and model bookers were encouraging extreme thinness, so much so that several of the models he represents, when asked about their weight, have refused to seek medical attention for what are probable eating disorders.

“This goes against everything we stand for as an industry,” Mr. Bonnouvrier said. “I am kicking and screaming about it now because this should be an industry of beauty and luxury, not famished-looking people that look pale and sick.”...

“I feel that people are taking the wrong angle on this whole issue,” Mr. Bonnouvrier said. “These models look sick."

Important words- but only words. And you get the feeling that he's trying to deflect blame from the agencies, and pass it on to the designers. The designers, in turn, deflect the blame elsewhere, passing the buck as well:

Amanda Brooks, who assists Bryan Bradley of Tuleh with model castings, said a top runway model was turned down because she looked too thin. “You could see her hip bones,” Ms. Brooks said. “We couldn’t imagine putting her in a dress.”

Some designers dispute that they are solely to blame for models’ weight issues. “I think we’re all to blame,” said Michael Vollbracht, the designer of Bill Blass. “I’m very aware of these girls who look too thin or unhealthy, and at one point during the casting I had to walk out of the room. We called a model’s agency and said, ‘Do you even watch these girls?’ ”

"We're all to blame"- yes, I think that's absolutely right. At least it's gotten to the point where these people are recognizing that they could be culpable for their practices- for things that they've gotten away with, for decades.

Bonnouvrier says that if he complains to models about weight, they switch to another agency. This, and the general shifting of blame, makes the conclusion of the article pretty valid:

Milla Jovovich, the model and designer of a fashion collection called Jovovich-Hawk, said that dangerously thin models have been around since she was modeling as a child, as have the complaints, though little has ever been done in terms of prevention.

“There need to be more rules and regulations within the modeling industry,” Ms. Jovovich said. “A lot of problems that are very gray areas need to be put in black and white.”

If everyone in the fashion industry is simply going to keep blaming everyone else ("I can't change because of them"), then there's no question that regulation has to come from outside.

By comparison, the TV industry is regulated- and so it should be- so that for example it can't show pornography during prime time, because of how this could negatively impact young viewers. It's sleazy and degenrate anyway, but can you imagine how much worse it would be if there were no regulation at all?

The fashion world has a similar effect on society, and especially on young girls, and since it's obviously fixated on a degenerate aesthetic, and refuses to change, it needs to be regulated as well.

25th September 2006, 04:33
For centuries, female rotundity had been synonymous with fertility, beauty, wealth and health. Both Eastern and Western art and sculpture had epitomised the full figure until the invention of photography and development of different forms and styles of art in later periods when shapes and body structures turned into lines and strokes or abstract images.
This is very true, although the invention of photography is incidental to this development. Lillian Russell was, after all, the most photographed woman in America in the late 1800s, and she was visibly and unmistakably full-figured--and was adored precisely for her womanly appetite and well-fed appearance.

It wasn't technology, but <i>ideology</i> that destroyed Western culture in the 1900s. The same alien ideologies that formed the basis of beauty-hating modernism also fuelled the assault on the Classical feminine ideal. (Picasso was a notorious communist, as were most of the artists that championed the non-aesthetic of abstract modernism.) This point is made particularly well in <i>A Critical History of 20th-Century Art,</i> which Emily discussed in an important <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?postid=753" target="_blank">post</a>, earlier this year.<p><center>* * *</center><p>A statement in Kaitlynn's <i>New York Times</i> article identifies one of the common fashion-industry perceptions that is preventing plus-size modelling from becoming a viable alternative to catwalk emaciation:<p><blockquote><i>At a </i>Vogue<i> party on Monday for a young designer competition, the model Jessica Stam expressed similar dismay. "There are a lot of girls doing the shows who are very thin and frail," she said. "I don't know if they are healthy or not, but I don't think the frail, fragile look is very feminine, and I don't think it's attractive."</i></blockquote><p>Stam is mixing up two separate ideas. She is right to state that thinness is neither feminine nor attractive; however, a "frail, fragile" look <i>can</i> be feminine. Her words simply reveal a misguided industry belief that only emaciated models can generate a look of frailty and fragility, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Gaunt, shrivelled models do not look "frail" and "fragile," but malnourished--as if they are on death's door. Theirs is not the look of feminine frailty or fragility, but the look of disease, and imminent death.

In fact, the best plus-size models are perfectly capable of creating the same captivating looks of helplessness and neediness that their underweight rivals do, except that when the full-figured girls do it, they look irresistible, rather than repellent.

To use an analogy from nature, an opulent rose in full bloom is still frail and fragile (but luscious and healthy), whereas a dessicated plant that has been denied water is merely a thin, shrivelled husk, which will crumble to the touch. (Plus-size model = rose; minus-size model = husk.)

The reason why the industry doesn't seem to realize that plus-size models have this ability is undoubtedly due to the fact that in recent years, full-figured modelling has been dominated by the highly-unpopular faux-plus models--those six-foot-tall, size-10 girls with ropy muscles who look more like WNBA basketball players than feminine goddesses.

But models who are youthful, with soft physiques, full features, and expressive posing abilities (Christina Schmidt, Kelsey, Kailee, etc.) are perfectly capable of looking fragile, and in need of protection. Consider Kelsey's signature "vulnerable" expression (which is prominent in many of her very best images), or consider Kailee's fascinating MXM campaign, in which she looks as delicate as a blossom.

If designers wish to evoke feminine frailty and fragility, true plus-size models are perfectly capable of embodying this aesthetic. Hopefully, such opportunities will be presented to them, in the near future . . .

Kailee, safe in the arms of her warrior, from MXM, Fall 2006:<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ko/mxm04.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ko/mxm04b.jpg" border="0" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>- <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/archive08.htm#birth" target="_blank">"The birth of a whole new movement . . ."</a>

25th September 2006, 09:12
If everyone in the fashion industry is simply going to keep blaming everyone else ("I can't change because of them"), then there's no question that regulation has to come from outside...the TV industry is regulated- and so it should be...The fashion world has a similar effect on society, and especially on young girls, and...needs to be regulated as well.
This is a crucial point, and I don't think I've encountered it before. The comparison to TV regulation is right on the money. No matter how vigilant parents are, they can't keep their daughters from being affected by the media (short of moving to Amish country), and the fashion industry is a major part of the media, especially for young women.

The same grounds for regulating TV apply to the fashion industry, and unless it starts cleaning up its act, external intervention is necessary. In fact, it's long overdue.

Over the weekend, another article on this topic showed up in The Telegraph. It's riddled with mixed, messages, so I don't recommend it,


but it does include two important points. First, a spot-on diagnosis of the fashion industry as collectively thinking and behaving like a suffering anorexic:

Like a defiant teenage anorexic, it denied that it even had a problem...

Anorexic women, even as they plummet in weight, persist in seeing a f** woman in the mirror: the eye of the fashion industry has become similarly distorted.

The writer is exactly correct. The fashion industry suffers from a grotesquely distorted vision of female appearance, and it is passing on this distortion to society, literally and figuratively infecting the culture with its own illness.

Second, an admission that in the pre-feminist age, women did not suffer from the body-image agonies that plague them in our supposedly more "liberated" times:

...despite all this, women were certainly not tormented by the same degree of physical self-hatred as they are today.

If you look at a photograph of a beauty pageant from the 1950s, the girls seem, to our eyes, unusually [curvy]: but there they stand, cheery and confident in their own appeal, supremely unbothered by the little ripples of cellulite on their thighs. On screen, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell pranced and wiggled around the set of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, rejoicing in the ample overspill of flesh from their costumes, and queening it over strings of gawping men. Indeed, perhaps because, in a more prudish era, the male demand for sex outstripped the female supply, even perfectly ordinary girls seemed convinced that they were icons of desirability, forever at risk of being pestered by a male "wolf" or "octopus". In contrast, it is rather sad to see girls today constantly picking over their perceived, imaginary faults.

Whatever else men might be accused of, they cannot be charged with bullying women into anorexia: they are even more likely to fall for a Nigella Lawson than a Kate Moss. No, the cult of emaciation is a peculiarly female disease, and a fashion disease, and this folie à deux is becoming ever more weird and dangerous. Next year, London should follow Madrid.

All true, except one must add that many fashion designers are men who are not attracted to women (which cannot fail to affect their aesthetic). But the author's uneasy admission that women were actually healthier in terms of self image than they are today, after the rise of feminism, is refreshingly honest and perceptive.

26th September 2006, 02:25
"Anorexic women, even as they plummet in weight, persist in seeing a f** woman in the mirror: the eye of the fashion industry has become similarly distorted."
Thats a very important point. This is why the mindless relativism of "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is such nonsense. If the beholders eye is sick, if their vision is distorted, then what they call beauty isnt beauty at all. Worse, they will pass on their sickness on to others, if they are not contained. They will infect others with their distorted vision, and warp their perceptions as well. The fashion industry must either put forth a more natural, beautiful vision, or be prevented from spreading their distortion of women any further.

Just a couple of articles to add here. Besides the New York Times article linked in this thread, the paper also ran an editorial about the issue,


and it came down on the right side, saying "ending the parade of the starved and sickly seems like a fashion trend worth following."

Hear, hear. The generally positive media response to the Madrid ban may help undo some of the damage that the press has done, by parroting weight "epidemic" myths (funded by the diet industry) so uncritically.

Also, I found an article about the subject written for a university school newspaper:


Its unpolished, but the writer makes some great points about how ridiculous the "discrimination" argument is, coming from an industry that has done nothing but discriminate, for decades. But I especially liked her conclusion:

This new screening test for models will not only give women of all ages a healthier and more positive outlook on their own bodies, but it could also restore the meaning of the word “beautiful” in this world to mean something other than the skin-and-bones, super-skinny women we see blankly staring their way down the catwalk.

Its encouraging to see a young writer recognizing that this whole movement is not an attack on beauty, but a fight FOR beauty - a fight to restore timeless ideals of femininity, and put an end to an artificial vision that was never beautiful to begin with.

30th September 2006, 04:45
I'm happy to finally have something to add here. I read where underweight models have also been banned in local fashion shows in two U.K. cities.

One in Cardiff, Wales:


The article says, "Although professional models have been called in, they will be a mix of regular and plus size, bucking the "skinny model" trend which has been making headlines in recent weeks."

So the models will be both full-figured, and have professional experience, which is the right approach. No one will be able to criticize them for lacking modelling skill.

The other example is in Essex:


The article says:

Thurrock, Essex, announces plans to ban stick-thin models at its Autumn/Winter Fashions Shows this October...Amy Field, 26, from London adds; “I think the British fashion industry and to some extent, glossy magazines, should follow Lakeside’s example. I, for one, prefer curves to the waif look.”

Unlike Paris/New York/London, local fashion shows have sometimes used fuller-figured models in the past. But I think it's significant that these cities are making their decision with the Madrid ban on underweight models in mind. It shows that the Spanish decision IS having an impact - pointing out why this issue is important, and giving it the attention it deserves.

Still, for there to be a real change, the haute couture shows have to start changing their ways - not to mention the big-name fashion magazines.

That, or some plus-size magazines and runway shows really need to take off...