For a very long time, models have been tall and skinny. Sweeping, thin lines characterize fashion illustration and a 5’10," 120 lb. woman is the closest designers can come to incarnating their drawings. For a long time, women of all ages and shapes have idolized models. For a rather short period of time, relatively speaking, models have come under the scrutiny of the media, who have criticized the fashion industry for expecting them to remain impossibly thin and promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and body image to women everywhere.
Several years ago, some European countries imposed minimum BMI (body mass index) standards for models walking the runways. The actions never caught on, however, and designers continue to use younger and younger models to obtain the desired size that comes naturally with being a prepubescent girl.
Advertisers perpetually edit campaign images to slim models down even further and often times to make them look like aliens, unintentionally, of course. Models are fired for eating on the set of photo shoots and given advice on how to avoid eating at all. Karl Lagerfeld, the Kaiser himself, has made several infamous comments about the Great Weight Debate, including declaring that, “No one wants to see curvy women. These are fat mummies with their bags of crisps sitting in front of the television saying that thin models are ugly.” Real mature, Karl, just attack the fat mummies who don’t have time to work out and simultaneously starve themselves.
The Great Weight Debate has come to the forefront of the fashion industry’s attention as influential style bloggers express their outrage at the multitude of “thinspiration” blogs floating around the web, available to millions of impressionable, self-conscious girls and adult women, for that matter, at the click of a mouse.
In 2010, designers sent models of all ages and sizes down their precious runways in an effort to show the world their concern for the health of their models and their ability to see inner and diverse forms of beauty. Laetitia Casta, age 31, opened for Louis Vuitton’s spring show in Paris and Elle Macpherson, age 47, closed. In an interesting twist, Robbie Myers, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, called Macpherson “not a skinny girl.” Wait… WHAT?! Even Lagerfeld employed plus-size model Crystal Renn for his spring show. He also used Stella Tennant, age 40, Ines de la Fressange, age 53 and Hudson Kroenig, age 2. Um...hello? Child labor, anyone?
So, is all this diversity a sign that the fashion industry is changing its ways? Well, let’s see. Has Hell frozen over? Although, with all this talk of global climate change, it’s a distinct possibility in the near future. I digress… It’s called a gimmick, people! Lagerfeld didn’t send Crystal Renn down his 1148 foot long runway because he wanted to send the message that Chanel looks good on every shape of woman. He sent her down as a tongue-in-cheek publicity stunt to cover his own tail. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not the only one jumping on the beauty-comes-in-every-size bandwagon. And don’t think I completely agree with that bandwagon’s platform either, but for the love of fashion, don’t believe them when they say that the times they are a-changin’! Towards the end of 2010, the French model Isabelle Caro, who spoke out about her lifelong struggle with anorexia, died at age 28. How’s that for proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same?