An Evolving Sense of Beauty

After years of celebrating bone-thin models, the fashion industry is finally taking a stand against thinness.
An Evolving Sense of Beauty

Photo: Stephen Chernin/AP

It may have been the fashion industry's kyoto moment. In September 2006, Madrid Fashion Week placed a historic ban on severely underweight models with a body mass index (BMI) of 18, taking a stand against the escalating thinness of its female models.

The ban had been a long time in the making: since "heroin chic" of the nineties, the average size for a model's clothing sample dropped from size 6 to size 2, then to zero in 2005. After the gruesomely detailed starvation of two models in 2006, organizers finally decided it was time to draw the line.Like the famed protocol, the Madrid ban initially caused an uproar and was snubbed by some of the industry's worst offenders: Chanel shrugged off eating disorders as a "false controversy" and insisted that "the fashion world is not responsible for anorexia," while Elite Model Management complained that the ban would discriminate against models who had a "naturally" skeletal frame.

"Take care of your children, no money is worth the life of your child. Not even the most famous [fashion] brand is worth this." -- Ana Carolina

In time, however, the tide began to turn: a month after the ban, Italian designers (including legends such as Giorgio Armani) signed a joint declaration that they would not use anorexic or underage models. In Milan and Paris, sick-looking models started being turned away at fashion shows. Grudgingly, the industry began to jump onto the bandwagon of healthy chic – not just because it's sexy, but because it sells. Not long after Dove began using fuller models in its Campaign for Real Beauty, its lotion sales famously jumped 700 percent in the UK.

Unilever and Armani, however, may not be the answer -- much in the same way that Shell and Chevron can't be viewed as the trailblazers of the green movement. Their constant bombardment of ads featuring bone-thin models has spawned a generation of women insecure in their own bodies. Today, nearly 80 percent of teenage girls are on a diet, 10 percent go on to develop eating disorders and 1,000 young girls die of anorexia. Companies have been pressured for years to use more realistic models, yet they did nothing until consumers started to boycott their products.

So long as women let big businesses dictate their standards of beauty, their self-image problems will never be solved. Miriam Reston, the mother of one of the fashion models who died of anorexia shortly before the ban, warned parents not to let their daughters copy the models they see in magazines: her own daughter, Ana Carolina, had been one of them. Lithe and pretty at 112 pounds, the young model had spent years terrorized by the industry's demands on her body. "Take care of your children," Reston warned. "No money is worth the life of your child. Not even the most famous [fashion] brand is worth this."

_Jenny Uechi

34 comments on the article “An Evolving Sense of Beauty”

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Amy Alkon

If images of thin women indeed cause eating disorders, why, as a UCLA study found, are there so many women with body image issues and the ensuing problems in Iran -- more than in the women studied...in Los Angeles!

Remember, they're not allowed to see western media in Iran, and women are only seen covered from head to toe (no ankles showing even).

Amy Alkon

If images of thin women indeed cause eating disorders, why, as a UCLA study found, are there so many women with body image issues and the ensuing problems in Iran -- more than in the women studied...in Los Angeles!

Remember, they're not allowed to see western media in Iran, and women are only seen covered from head to toe (no ankles showing even).

Little Richardjohn

"If images of thin women indeed cause eating disorders, why, as a UCLA study found, are there so many women with body image issues and the ensuing problems in Iran --"

Because extreme religion also needs to make women fear and mistrust and despise their bodies. The wimple, the chador, the catwalk. Same prison, different coloured cells.

Little Richardjohn

"If images of thin women indeed cause eating disorders, why, as a UCLA study found, are there so many women with body image issues and the ensuing problems in Iran --"

Because extreme religion also needs to make women fear and mistrust and despise their bodies. The wimple, the chador, the catwalk. Same prison, different coloured cells.

Theresa

When men also decide that thin isn't in, I think more women will listen, since, unfortunately, so much of their weight drama comes from trying to please men.

Theresa

When men also decide that thin isn't in, I think more women will listen, since, unfortunately, so much of their weight drama comes from trying to please men.

Rich

Sorry but to reply to a comment that said men need to decide that thin is not in. Sorry but I don't dig the thin chics and please don't assume that men are the ones. Not saying that there are none that do think thin is better, Im saying we all don't think that. I think the bigger problem is Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general. Not someones preference! But maybe women need to take their own destiny in their hands. You cannot rely on the industry to change itself. If it is the men then explain why my girlfriend feels the need to tell me everyday that she needs to lose weight. I don't know how else to let her now she is beautiful. Women need better leaders, what happened to the womens movement?

Rich

Sorry but to reply to a comment that said men need to decide that thin is not in. Sorry but I don't dig the thin chics and please don't assume that men are the ones. Not saying that there are none that do think thin is better, Im saying we all don't think that. I think the bigger problem is Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general. Not someones preference! But maybe women need to take their own destiny in their hands. You cannot rely on the industry to change itself. If it is the men then explain why my girlfriend feels the need to tell me everyday that she needs to lose weight. I don't know how else to let her now she is beautiful. Women need better leaders, what happened to the womens movement?

Anonymous

Too true. I am a woman who refuses to wear uncomfortable shoes. (80 percent of podiatry patients are women - there's a reason for that.) I have never had a man say anything about my shoes - but other women just roll their eyes at me.

I'll be the one laughing in 15 years when my feet are still fine and they are having bunion surgery.

Anonymous

Too true. I am a woman who refuses to wear uncomfortable shoes. (80 percent of podiatry patients are women - there's a reason for that.) I have never had a man say anything about my shoes - but other women just roll their eyes at me.

I'll be the one laughing in 15 years when my feet are still fine and they are having bunion surgery.

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