In 2006, a 22-year old fashion model died of anorexia-related heart failure. The public was outraged, and they demanded that fashion executives re-evaluate their hiring practices. Nonetheless, we find today that it has been eight years and runway models are not getting any heavier or healthier.
The average size and weight of models in the fashion industry is at an all-time low…(T)he minimum height for a female should be 5’8, which the most acceptable range being 5’9-5’11. This woman should be approximately 115 pounds, and she should measure, bust to waist to hips, 34-24-34. At 5’9, this makes for a body mass index measurement of 17. 18.5 is where women become infertile and ill. 16 is where the WHO says it gets severely dangerous. 15 is where they often die.
Taking a good, hard look at the fashion industry reveals some powerful answers to the question of why models are so thin. These are harmful rules by which the fashion industry plays:
– Models are made to fit clothes; clothes are not made to fit models.
– Curvy, healthy, vibrant women would “upstage” a designer’s creations.
The primary aim of fashion designers is to sell their product to retailers. The collections are also considered drafts, and those drafts are fitted to a mannequin that is size 0 or 2 dress size.
The other concern of the designer is for the garments to flow as well as be mesmerizing on the catwalk and the way to accomplish that is for the dress, pants, gown etc. to be long. The only way to fit a long garment is with a model who is thin and tall.
So clothing is designed for its own appealing shape, not for how it fits actual human beings. Models have often been called “human clothes hangers” for this precise reason. Models are slim, so young, so angular, and so often the antithesis of healthy body shapes because industry executives deliberately want them to be invisible.
Models in the popular presses must fit into the sizes already produces: the size fours, twos, or zeroes that come directly off the backs of women on the runway. There are no bigger samples available, and it doesn’t matter much anyway, since the industry knows that long, lean clothing sells, even if it will never drape off of a “normal” woman the way it does the “fit model” or a mannequin.
Much as we might think of models as impossibly beautiful, they are not necessarily chosen for this fact. Yes, they must have a particular “ferocity” or “verve.” They must have the stage presence a designer is looking for. But if they were too beautiful or too buxom they would be distracting.
They are not chosen for sexual appeal. They are not chosen for their astounding womanhood or beauty. They are not chosen to be beacons of vibrancy or health. They are chosen for their potential to be a hanger…An object…something that is not seen. If that’s not reason to buck the fashion industry’s heavy-handed anorexia-mongering, I don’t know what is.