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A politician who says it like it is!

Fashion week's thin end of the wedge

- Michael Gove MP From The Times February 23, 2009

This week is, of course, British Fashion Week. Or as I prefer to think of it, British Famine Week. Or British Body Fascism Week. Because what strikes me about fashion - whether it's London, Paris, New York or Milan, whether it's the spring/summer collection or the autumn/winter shows, whether its street or couture, a capsule collection or a diffusion line - is that all the people wearing it are far too thin. Far, far too thin. I've yet to see a model anything near the normal side of slender allowed anywhere near a catwalk. And that sends a clear, powerful and very ugly message.

Designers, style magazines and their allies fondly imagine that each fashion week communicates a new set of principles to guide us towards what looks good. One season it will be tartan, tweed and brown leather, another season will be all about long hem lines, mustard yellow and batwing sleeves. But these efforts to signal what is "on-trend" and "directional" are overshadowed by the central message that the fashion industry communicates - none of it is worth anything unless you're thinner than a slice of air-dried Parma ham.

I'm sure every model who takes part in fashion week is as healthy as a butcher's dog, but that's not the point. For all the women - and especially teenagers - who cannot squeeze into a size zero without either starvation or surgery, the images the fashion industry sell are invitations to self-loathing. I know that fashionistas everywhere will accuse me of narrow philistinism and missing the point of their gorgeous creations. But if they were genuinely talented they could make women of all shapes, sorts and sizes look properly gorgeous instead of just draping angular lady-boys in creations that are little more than drawings come to life.

Reader Comments (9)

It is so great to see a politician talking in these terms and understanding the issues!
February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJo
The fashion industry works by creating needs that don't exist - hence the Trends industry - if women just wore the styles and colours that suited then, without chasing the fashion vehicle which operates by changing as soon as one has caught it up - we would all be much happier in our skins. So sure - fashion is great - but don't be brainwashed - buy what works for your unique body.

I was struck recently by a piece in The Observer about Doug Tompkins - founder of Esprit and The North Face, who has packed it all in and is now using his millions to educate the world about the plight of the planet, while living in Patagonia as a conservationist.

"Look, I'm not proud of how I made my money; the carbon footprint aside, fashion is one of the most intellectually vacuous industries. We had to manufacture desires to get people to buy our products. We were selling people countless things that they didn't need. It set the agenda for the other multinationals that shift disposable items in unfathomable bulk. The retail industry is a monster hoovering up the planet's vital resources."
February 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelise
The problem with saying "buy what's good for you" is, you have to actually find stuff that's good for you, which means that there as to be that choice on the market to begin with.
March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLL
Why are you so intolerant of thin women, but want overweight and obese women celebrated. You have to notice these inconsistencies. You HAVE to.

I man, you're calling thin women names like "lady boy". What the hell is wrong with you? If you truly believed that women come in all shapes and sizes and that should be OK, then you wouldn't say things like that.

You aren't empowering anyone; you're bullying people. While you have the right to say whatever you like about whoever you like, I think it would do you some good to step back, take a look at yourself, and try to figure out what your real issue is with yourself.
April 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTabatha Alcina
the lady boy comment is a quote from the politician - not this website - and maybe it wasn't an inspired choice of words - but to be fair he was saying he wants to see a variety of women on the catwalk - not overweight/obese women only. We are all about representing women in their diversity.
April 23, 2009 | Registered Commenteranybody
I like your entire article. Although some women are natural "ectomorphs," It is hard for me to believe that they are "as healthy as a butcher's dog." I have read about models confessing that even the minuscule percentage of them that are born a size 2 at around 5'11", starve themselves in the fashion industry.
July 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCordelia
*stands up and applauds* Bravo, my Brit brother! Bravo! I say it again: BRAVO! While I admit to learning my parents' unhealthy eating habits (I am changing these as best I can), this States-side sister despises seeing women on the magazine covers who are airbrushed, and skinnier, as you said, than sliced deli ham. I mean, let's get real here! I've watched Project Runway less and less as I see the models on that show get skinnier and skinnier, with some having virtually no visible bosom or hips.

Even my own boyfriend (who is something of a health nut) would rather see me a bit chunky than grossly underweight, though he does encourage me in my quest to live a healthier lifestyle.

But there are many women who are not this fortunate, who eat themselves into obesity over images that are unrealistic.

So bravo again to you, for speaking out on behalf of us women with CURVES!
April 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKat
It's amazing to see the picture. 
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