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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Little Richardjohn

'Fashion' is the process of hijacking design. In this case in order to promote an imprisoning image of women.
This garbage is everywhere and we hardly notice it anymore.

extremehttp://www.flickr.com/groups/776913@N21/pool/

Little Richardjohn

'Fashion' is the process of hijacking design. In this case in order to promote an imprisoning image of women.
This garbage is everywhere and we hardly notice it anymore.

extremehttp://www.flickr.com/groups/776913@N21/pool/

Andrew

The bigger victory is not that we as a culture are celebrating the industry's recognition of the truth, but rather that we are pursuing the truth of our own innate nature, and the fashion industry, and therefore mainstream fashion advertising, recognizes that.
Like many people have said, women have curves; well, some women don't, does that make them unfeminine?
What does that mean? For the skinny guys out there, for the skinny girls out there, what does this mean?
It means a return to valuing the individuality of our own selves, our uniqueness; this is not a celebration or a renewal of one form of feminine humanity, but rather a renewal for the value of the uniqueness of every woman's femininity.

Andrew

The bigger victory is not that we as a culture are celebrating the industry's recognition of the truth, but rather that we are pursuing the truth of our own innate nature, and the fashion industry, and therefore mainstream fashion advertising, recognizes that.
Like many people have said, women have curves; well, some women don't, does that make them unfeminine?
What does that mean? For the skinny guys out there, for the skinny girls out there, what does this mean?
It means a return to valuing the individuality of our own selves, our uniqueness; this is not a celebration or a renewal of one form of feminine humanity, but rather a renewal for the value of the uniqueness of every woman's femininity.

rehash

Attitude can be contagious -- Iranians as a majority may not watch "western media", but direct exposure is not the only way it leaks into their culture.

Thank god for the internet. Remember when there was no internet, and you just had to take everyone on TV's word for reality? The internet is so credible. Sometimes, I feel like I can't see the forest from the trees.

rehash

Attitude can be contagious -- Iranians as a majority may not watch "western media", but direct exposure is not the only way it leaks into their culture.

Thank god for the internet. Remember when there was no internet, and you just had to take everyone on TV's word for reality? The internet is so credible. Sometimes, I feel like I can't see the forest from the trees.

twiilght guardian

It's actually pretty easy to not fit into the social norms that are plaguing our society. Here I am: An 18 year old Canadian girl, 40 or so pounds overweight, addicted to anime and literate fanfiction, love to read, write, play DDR on my Playstation 2 and roleplay on internet chats with my friends. I don't have Facebook or Myspace, and doubt I ever will. I have a drawer full of make-up and cosmetics that are gathering dust, as I never use them, and the only magazines I have are Anime Insider. I enjoy swimming, playing badminton and enjoy hating all other sports, as I am prone to hurting myself - even in bowling. I could care less about celebrities and didn't find out about who Paris Hilton was (and why she was everywhere) until at least 6 months after she started to come into the media. I don't drink or do drugs - I've never even sucked Helium from a balloon, though I admit I got a lot of laughs from listening to my friends sing 'The Song That Never Ends' with high-pitched voices until their voices became normal again. I do absolutely nothing with my hair, and have kept the same hair-style since I was 6. I only recently got into electronics when I was about 10, using our new computer for learning games like Milly's Math House and Sammy's Science House or for more entertaining purposes such as 'Dogz and Catz', and only daring to get onto the internet when I became 12. My favorite sites are yahoo, gaiaonline.com, fanfiction.net, wikipedia, veoh, winglicans, various rpg sites, and an animal encyclopedia in which I've been waiting for it to complete. While yes, I do spend a lot of time on the computer, a lot of the things that I do ARE beneficial for me. I roleplay to increase my literacy, I watch anime for both enjoyment and to help with my learning of japanese, I go onto fanfiction and fictionpress to read and write my own stories, and I go onto various websites to learn how to draw anime better. Most of my sites are to a degree educational.

twiilght guardian

It's actually pretty easy to not fit into the social norms that are plaguing our society. Here I am: An 18 year old Canadian girl, 40 or so pounds overweight, addicted to anime and literate fanfiction, love to read, write, play DDR on my Playstation 2 and roleplay on internet chats with my friends. I don't have Facebook or Myspace, and doubt I ever will. I have a drawer full of make-up and cosmetics that are gathering dust, as I never use them, and the only magazines I have are Anime Insider. I enjoy swimming, playing badminton and enjoy hating all other sports, as I am prone to hurting myself - even in bowling. I could care less about celebrities and didn't find out about who Paris Hilton was (and why she was everywhere) until at least 6 months after she started to come into the media. I don't drink or do drugs - I've never even sucked Helium from a balloon, though I admit I got a lot of laughs from listening to my friends sing 'The Song That Never Ends' with high-pitched voices until their voices became normal again. I do absolutely nothing with my hair, and have kept the same hair-style since I was 6. I only recently got into electronics when I was about 10, using our new computer for learning games like Milly's Math House and Sammy's Science House or for more entertaining purposes such as 'Dogz and Catz', and only daring to get onto the internet when I became 12. My favorite sites are yahoo, gaiaonline.com, fanfiction.net, wikipedia, veoh, winglicans, various rpg sites, and an animal encyclopedia in which I've been waiting for it to complete. While yes, I do spend a lot of time on the computer, a lot of the things that I do ARE beneficial for me. I roleplay to increase my literacy, I watch anime for both enjoyment and to help with my learning of japanese, I go onto fanfiction and fictionpress to read and write my own stories, and I go onto various websites to learn how to draw anime better. Most of my sites are to a degree educational.

Anonymous

"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" - Where?

Anonymous

"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" - Where?

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