The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Too Thin

2006 Mercedes-Benz Fashion week in New York exhibited some of the top models in fashion. Shows like Michael Kors, Christian Dior and many more used models like Snejana Onopka, Natasha Poly to show their spring collections. Many would see no problem with this, however when these women walked down the runway people were in shock at their size, it was said that “…knees and elbows were larger than their concave thighs and pipe cleaner arms.”(Eric Wilson) Linda Wells the editor of Allure said, “What becomes alarming is when you see bones and start counting ribs”. The fashion industry takes pride in its models being stick thin and encourages this type of figure.
            After the shows in New York’s fashion week the organizers of Madrid fashion week took a drastic step. Madrid began to ban models with a height to weight ratio below the World Health Organizations standard for a healthy weight. The outcome was the models under 125 lbs were prohibited from walking on the runways. 5’8 ft is one of the shorter heights that are accepted for a model, with Madrid’s new rule that models had to weigh 125 lbs that would make their BMI 19.0, which is just above underweight. Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated by height and weight. Results lower than 18.5 are underweight, while 18.5-24.9 is a normal weight, while anything over 25 is overweight. says that that average model needs to be somewhere between 108 and 125, and a model with a height of 5’8 and a weight of 108 would have a BMI of 16.4, this weight is dangerous but widely accepted in the fashion industry. The website give advice for those looking to get into the fashion industry, they host a section titled so you wanna be a model? In that they say that it is necessary to be between 108-125lbs maximum, because the camera adds 15 lbs and any weight over that would not reflect well on the designers collection. They suggest you start at about age 15 due to the fact that models have short-lived careers. The characteristics they look for are tall, long legged and lean. They also point out that even if you have all of the above qualifications you will get nowhere without clear skin and perfect teeth.
            The collections designers put out on the runway is art. When they create their work they do not have a model in mind that will be wearing it, they being with a mannequin. Due to this a model needs to be thin enough to fit in anything, therefore the thinner the better. When the designer creates their collection they need not worry about making sure it will fit a size 2 or 3 because they expect their model will fit, if not they discard them and use the next one. With pressure like this being a ‘plus size’ model would be difficult. Lines are typically specially designed for plus size shows.
            Madrid’s 2006 spring fashion show responded to the crisis at hand. They did their best to keep the models in their shows healthier looking, but it would take more than this to change the fashion industry. In 2007 models continue to have severe anorexia nervosa, and malnutrition. In February of 2007 two well-known models died from these self-inflicted diseases. Luisel Ramos died from malnutrition while Anna Carolina Reston had heart failure as a direct result of anorexia nervosa; she collapsed after stepping off the catwalk.
            Progress for this issue has been extremely slow, whenever agencies are asked about their models, they refuse to answer or just dodge the question all together. While the United States seems to be making little to no progress countries like Australia have. Australia has a code of conduct that states models under the age of 16 with low body mass index should not be hired, and it requests that when retouching is done on an image it is announced.
The images captured of the models in the 2006 runway shows are evidence that this industry needs change. No longer can the public turn a blind eye when bones are present as they walk down the runway. The encouragement of this look is not healthy for the models and should not be tolerated by the agencies, however they are one of the greatest promoters. Other countries have started to adopt policies to help put a stop to it; the question is when will we?-Caroline Salozzo

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