Ultra-thin, young models used in fashion shows could become the “thinspiration” of young people suffering with eating disorders.
The fashion world says it takes the issue seriously and “wouldn’t want to use very skinny girls” – but it has come under fire for using very thin and young-looking models to showcase collections, with women’s groups and body-image charities calling for the influential fashion designers to use a more diverse range of body types in their shows.
I know that some young women suffering from eating disorders take these types of photos and put them inside their wardrobe doors, using them as a goal to work towards.
These type of images do not cause eating disorders but they escalate and exacerbate existing conditions. There is overwhelming evidence that points to these images having a very negative and damaging effect.
If the appearance is of an extreme body shape or extreme youth, it still sends out a message to young women that this is what you should look like. The fashion industry does not just sell clothes but a whole look and style – and people buy into that.
The models look uniformly painfully thin and the image that gives to young women in particular is quite damaging.
Society is understandably concerned about the issues surrounding body image and eating disorders, and the dangerous and unrealistic messages being sent to young women via fashion journals. When it comes to who should be blamed for the portrayal of overly thin models, magazine editors are in the direct line of fire, but it is more complex than that. Designer outfits are created around a live, in-house skeleton. Few designers have a curvy or petite fit model. These collections are then sent to the runway, worn by tall, pin-thin models because that’s the way the designer wants to see the clothes fall. There will also be casting directors and stylists involved who have a vision of the type of woman they envisage wearing these clothes. For some bizarre reason, it seems they prefer her to be young, coltish, 6ft tall and built like a prepubescent boy.
It is too simplistic to blame misogynistic men, although in some cases I believe that criticism is deserved. There are a few male fashion designers I would like to personally strangle. But there are many female fashion editors who perpetuate the stereotype, women who often have a major eating disorder of their own. They get so caught up in the hype of how brilliant clothes look on a size 4, they cannot see the inherent danger in the message. It cannot be denied that visually, clothes fall better on a slimmer frame, but there is slim, and then there is scary skinny.
Despite protestations by women who recognise the danger of portraying any one body type as “perfect”, the situation is not improving. If you look back at the heady days of the supermodels in the late 80s and early 90s, beauties such as Cindy Crawford, Eva Herzigová and Claudia Schiffer look positively curvaceous compared to the sylphs of today. There was a period in the last three years when some of the girls on the runways were so young and thin, and the shoes they were modelling so high, it actually seemed barbaric. And personally, I’m not comfortable witnessing teen waifs almost on the point of collapse.
Health can come in all shapes and sizes. And I do want to see diverse bodies around me reflected positively in media, advertising and, yes, catwalks, including all kinds of sizes, shapes, ethnicities, abilities and more.