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Debate : Should 'Underweight' Models be Banned?

elena miro.jpg

Image: Size 12-24 Models on the S/S 2007 Milan Catwalk from Designer Elena Miro

• Should Fashion Parades Include Women of a Variety of Sizes? (and sizes above a size 0)

• Would You Like to See More Average Sized Models Used in Fashion and Media Campaigns?

• Does Fashion's Obsession with Skinny Models Affect How you Feel About your Own Body? Does it Affect Your Actions?

• Do You Think Model Size Should Be Regulated?

Take part in the debate and leave your comments here...

Reader Comments (48)

I cannot believe that those are meant to be 'large' models rather than ordinary sized women!
October 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersusie orbach
I think regulating model size is a difficult idea to agree with. How can you justify it?

You may argue that only having skinny models causes harm to society through eating disorders and poor self-image. Maybe it does. But so does television, magazines, literature, art and societies view of 'beauty'. Should all these things be regulated too?

If you didn't allow skinny models - we could (theoretically) have the situation where naturally skinny girls are desperate to put on weight in order to be like their role models. Could this not also lead to similar image and health problems? Isn't this another form of manipulation of ideals?

Sure - it might sound far fetched - but once you start making solid 'rules' for things such as the size of models, it's very hard to control where it stops and what it's effects will be.

Who decides what is the 'right' size? Who decides what is 'healthy', 'natural' or 'ordinary'. These type of generalisations will open the law up to opinion and bias.

By regulating model size you are expanding the power of the law to cover ambigious and contentious issues.

In a society that doesn't require you to wear a helmet on a bike, it's a bit of a jump to regulate the body fat percentage of girls who walk down catwalks.
October 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRoland
... I don't think regulating the size would be that much of a help. Runways should definitely include models of different sizes AND SHAPE! Actual fashion defilee don't actually affect most people as they are not frequented by most people: the fashions however, do. Leggings? Ballon skirt?
October 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterÉmilie
The problem comes because the clothes for catwalk shows are constructed prior to model fittings (which usually happen at the very last minute) it is uneconomical to start making fashions to fit individual models (if one model fell ill the garment may not fit the next model etc).

And I realise this is RIDICULOUS - ie. that women are altering their bodies to fit fashion rather than cutting fashion to fit their bodies (a problem which didn't exist until the invention of standardised sizing which assumed women come in a range of sizes).

Obviously the best solution would be to represent a variety of female sizes on the catwalk (much like Jean Paul Gaultier did this season, with a variety of sizes AND ages!), But if fashion houses say this is too difficult in the time frame, surely the next best solution would be to have a healthy sized 10-12 standard for models versus the current sized 6-8 norm.

Having worked in the fashion industry, and with models, I know how many of them have been told by their agencies to loose weight in order to get work - which means most (I understand this needs further research) of the models you see are not naturally this skinny - and the standard weight should be raised, and of course svelte models can be represented, but ones which look healthy, not gaunt or sick.

This new model would still be aspirational, and also a healthy goal for the majority of women.
October 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterelise
If a measurement is used to measure health in people (and models), it should not be the BMI (Body Mass Index) which was invented between 1830 and 1850. It works by comparing heigh with weight and then classing people in health categories.
Using this method Brad Pitt and George Clooney are classed as overweight! And this is the system the Government use!

For a great article by the BBC visit:
October 18, 2006 | Registered Commenteranybody
I think, that models with different size- from XS to XXL is wonderful idea! Plump or obese women also want to look good & atractive. Perhaps sth like that would break the point of views of stubborn fashion creators! What's more, every woman could believe that eventhough she`s not skinny or slim - she can be also atractive and beautiful. Fashion would finally changed in something for REAL, NORMAL, HEALTHY people, not only for young skinny girls and sick fashion-bisnes. H&M, Zara, Prada etc.-these shops visit woman in all sizes, so why creators (especially Karl Lagerfeld- he admitted he prefers anorectic models) make their own clients to feel bad, standing in that sick point of view. I'm sorry, but it makes me nervous (as I wrote before- I`m suffering from ED) and it's hard for me to stay calm in such discussion.
ps. sorry for my weak English & mistakes :)
October 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKasia
I think we should embrace diversity period. The problem with banning a certain size is that it is reverse discrimination. I have a cousin that thin and it is natural for her. I think setting that up as the ONLY image for women is wrong, but we shouldn't be hypocrites either.

"Weight obsession is a social disease. If we cared more about CO2 than BMI there would still be time."
October 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterS Sanders, MA
The models used as "plus-sized" are not "fatter," but they do have a different body type. Instead of being ectomorphs, they are more like mesomorphs (muscular frames). That is why they look more "average," even though they probably follow very strict workout and diet routines.

Instead of focussing on fashion parades/shows, I think it is more important to focus on ready-to-wear store bought fashion. Fashionable clothes only come up to a size 14 (US). At 5'6" and only slightly overweight, but muscular build, I am almost too big to fit into "regular clothes." Forget about designed jeans and imported clothes (French/Italian). When you move into larger sizes the entire cut changes. It is a lot less fashionable. I think that not being able to fit into "normal clothes" because you are 5'9" and have a little meat on you is a lot more detrimental that watching fashion shows. More clothes should be available at a larger range of sizes.

As for regulation, I disagree with reglulation of anything that does not involve immediate health or safety concerns. Unnecessary regulation leads to beaurocracy. Matters should be handled economically - "moey talks." Support designers who are more sensitive about the images they portray and offer larger sizes. Support the stores that carry their lines. And support the magazines that show images of everyday people.
November 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterB. Levin, Florida, USA
I agree with the above comment in that ready-to-wear clothing needs to change to fit more of the population. But I strongly disagree that the plethora of skinny models on the runways 'does not involve immediate health or safety concerns' as I spent four years battling anorexia (a life threating illness) as a result of idolising such models. The implications are both serious, immediate and deadly.
November 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJannie, SA
Yeah, get some super sized BBWs in there! Even 500 lbs girls could be hot too.
November 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMitora
Obesity is far more of a social problem than 'weight obsession' that results in anorexia, bulemia or other 'skinny' diseases. In fact, the majority of people could do to 'under-indulge' a little more - bad nutritional information and advertising for junk food seems to have far more influence on weight than skinny models do, judging by the body types you squeeze past on the street even in fashionable London, where I live and work. I would argue that people innately find attractive bodies that are capable of rigorous physical stress, strain, exercise, whether that be for narcissistic reasons or for pregnancy, raising a child etc. Therefore, viewing an 80lb model as the norm may well be a shocking example of how unaware many people seem to be about body types (including their own) and why most people are not this size. But being attracted to a 500lb tub is fucking equally perverse.
November 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBateman
I do feel bad about my body when i see skinny models, i mean, when i try to buy jeans i never fit in, i do have hips, an di do have a small waist which everyone finds fabulous but designers never ever think about people with bodies. when i want jeans i have to buy the type with elastic things in the waist, c'mon i mean, im 18 not 98!!!

In my opinion when there are more normal sized models, the designers will have to design clothes for every body type instead of onlu for mrs skelleton, so i wouldnt have so many problems buying clothes so i would feel much more comfortable with ym body.
December 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBionda
i think models should definiately have to be of a certain bmi, because the bmi measurement takes into account height and weight. you can not be healthy if you are under 18.5 bmi. not by any stretch of the imagination. in fact you are more unhealthy if you are below the healthy range (18.5 - 24.5) than if you are slightly over it. as a counter argument to the 'naturally emaciated' (if they really do exist), i would say that they shouldn't advocate models who are above that healthy range either because then you are also promoting something unhealthy. not too thin but not too overweight either.
i think its unfair to project a certain clothes size as normal because people are all different sizes/heights/builds but i don't think it would be wrong to suggest that models should be within a healthy bmi range as that is an individual measurement.
December 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbitter_sweet
I am BMI 17.5 and healthy. Not emaciated at all, I don't diet or exercise more than walking 1/2-1 hour a day. This is just how I look. I don't look underweight, either. My stepmom is naturally a size 0, she's very small, and not unhealthy/anorexic at all.
December 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkillcliche
I am not here to piss and moan about how the fashion industry has victimized me... i fully accept responsibility for letting myself be so easily influenced, and i am fully aware that most people don't develop such a severely irrational obsession with body image as i did.
i am 22 years old, and i have just found out that i can't have children... and i am told that my infertility is a result of the years of abuse i inflicted on my body in order to be thin. 6 years of eating nothing but apples, cottage cheese and laxatives... starting when i was 14. i guess going four years without enough body fat to menstruate doesn't do a body so good.
i agree with somne of the other posters that women's ready-to-wear fashions are a key factor in the frustration that plagues the average american woman, because chances are, the clothes on the rack are all too often not designed for her body type. the beautiful clothes may not even be made in her size, and even when they are, they don't look the same as when the mannequin was wearing them... and she is bitterly dissapointed yet AGAIN.
and that, i do declare, is what wil drive a girl insane... you know, the kind of insane that is usually centered around the belief that you must be a freak of nature, or something, since they don't even MAKE clothes for people shaped like you! the only answer, at this point, is to stop at nothing to change your unacceptable shape so that it resembles the "standard" as closely as possible.
for me, i could never accept the fact that i will never be the same as the the "standard" and at the time, i told myself that if i died trying, then at least i wouldn't living as some chubby, short, flat chested freak.
obviously, i didn't die... but i didn't survive without permanent damage.
looking back, i wonder what might've been,had i only been able to find clothes that fit me anmd flattered my figure.... would i have been so self critical? who knows. .. i don't want to be so arrogant as to assign blame on anyone for my own personal torment and battle scars. i'm just saying that the ready-to-wear fashion industry really ought to actually educate themselves and open their ears when it comes to the needs of their female market. only an idiot assumes that all women are alike.
December 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVoluptu-Ass
I just turned 16 last week. I'm 5'11 and 115 pounds (BMI of 16.3). And I am certainly not anorexic. I eat just as much (perhaps more), than 'normal' weight individuals, and find it digusting that women who are thin or worry about their weight are villianized by feminist groups such as this.

The fashion industry is an industry. If they used chubby 150 pound women wearing many of their fashions, viewers of the runway shows would be repulsed. 150 pound woman don't look attractive in the close designers and their backing companies would imgaine for their shows. It's art. And art is fickle.
December 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAriel
I agree that there should be more of a variety in the size of models but i don't think "stick thin" women should be banned from the catwalk. I'm 5'9 and weigh just under 7 stone (bmi 14.2) and i've been bullied my entire life about being too skinny, which proves not all girls want to be skinny and almost all guys i know are constantly telling me i'm too thin.
People don't really consider that some women don't choose to be thin (like me, i'd love to be normal) and because of the media hype about how 'all thin people are anorexics and are bad influences' i constantly get lectures from random passers by about how 'i'm so disgusting and need to eat something'. When i was younger, the only thing that comforted me was seeing other skinny girls on the catwalk because it made me think that perhaps i wasn't so repulsive after all.
January 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl
Fashion is art. Regulating art is unheard of.

As a young woman who clearly sees the difference between what a normal woman should look like (and what's to say that a "normal" woman can't be a size 0?) and the fantasy presented on the runway, I DO feel sorry for those who don't. However, I don't agree with those who feel that fashion needs to promote "healthy" women with "normal" figures: I don't believe fashion needs to promote anything but itself.
January 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia
While I agree that diversity in body types and shapes should be embraced by all of us, we must be careful not to create body-image issues for those of us who are naturally thin and flat-chested.

If you have a high metabolic rate, putting on weight can be as difficult as losing weight is for people born with larger frames.
January 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterchristie
Hi Christie,
I just want to put AnyBody's view accross, so that it does not appear that we are victimising naturally sveltve models in our petition.

AnyBody's take on the model debate is that sveltve models will no doubt continue to be used for fashion week in the forseeable future, due to economic reaons of creating standard clothes to fit any model, but there is a difference between extreme thiness and natural thinness, and a difference between a healthy looking size 10, and a size 10 who is gaunt and looks starved and unhealthy, and for whom maybe this is not their natural weight.

We would put forward that models need to look healthy, and be healthy to appear on the catwalk, both so that they project a healthy aspiration to teenagers out there, and so the models themselves do not have to undertake extreme-diets and risk their health in order to succeed in their profession. The ultimate soultion is for a variety of sized models gracing the catwalk, but one obstacle at a time for now...

Best regards,
January 14, 2007 | Registered Commenteranybody

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