Another Normal Women Vs. Size Zero debate

Another day means another debate about the use of “real women” against thin women in the fashion industry. This ongoing dispute is long and complicated; it’s not the fashion industries intention to promote an unhealthy lifestyle or eating disorders, thin models are used because they are there to sell the clothes (or whatever the product is). Longer, thinner limbs photograph better, and sticklike figures means the designer can concentrate on his creation and artwork rather than making the clothes look flattering on that woman.

Alexander McQueen has said that if he could have hangers floating down the runway he wouldn’t use models again. The point is that “real women” aren’t supposed to look like models. Models don’t even look like models; there’s so much re-touching and make-up application, they’re just like any other “normal” thin girl you know.

On the other side, having these extremely thin women dressed glamorously in advertisements, and appearing to have it all, is going to be aspirational to some. Seeing this same message used constantly will lead women to think that if they are thin then they’ll be happy.

In 2006 the fashion world was rocked after a string of models, including Uruguayan sisters Luisel and Eliana Ramos, died after extreme dieting. The Council of Fashion Designers of America recommended that runway models be aged over 16, Spain banned models weighing less than 8st 11lb from Madrid’s Fashion Week and Italy banned stick-thin women from Milan’s fashion shows.

In January 2007, Spanish shop window dummies were increased to size 10 following an agreement between Spanish retail chains such as Zara and Mango and the country’s health ministry
A couple of months ago Alexandra Shulman launched a war on “size zero” by writing to all of the largest fashion houses to tell them to stop making their sample clothes so small. Just a few weeks ago plus-size model Lizzie Miller caused a small storm when she was photographed showing a roll of tummy flab in American Glamour magazine. “Finally!” the headlines shouted, “a real woman!”

Two weeks ago there was the “scandal” at Mark Fast’s show for London Fashion Week (which turned out rather well for him, really) when he used three size 12-14 models to show his collection. The Guardian commented on this recent fashion for the larger women: “we wondered if they were capturing the dawn of a new age for the more average-sized among us”.

This time the issue has been brought to our attention from Germany’s most popular magazine, Brigitte, who claim that they are “fed up of fattening girls up on Photoshop”. In what is seen as the latest attempt to stamp out the “size zero” model, the editors of Brigitte said it would in future only use women with “normal figures”.

“From 2010 we will not work with professional models anymore,” said Andreas Lebert, editor-in-chief, adding that he was “fed up” with having to retouch pictures of underweight models who bore no resemblance to ordinary women.

“For years we’ve had to use Photoshop to fatten the girls up,” he said. “Especially their thighs, and decolletage. But this is disturbing and perverse and what has it got to do with our real reader?”

He said the move was a response to complaints by readers who said they had no connection with the women depicted in fashion features and “no longer wanted to see protruding bones”. However, critics have accused Brigitte of seeking a cost-cutting strategy at a time of declining magazine sales, and dressing it up as a campaign issue to attract new readers, but Lebert insisted the “ordinary women” would be paid the same amounts that the magazine would otherwise pay model agencies.

Will plus size models become the new size zero? I really doubt it. It seems that the fashion industries interest in the larger women is already starting to thin (pardon the pun). I’ll just leave you with this news: notoriously ‘curvy’ Lara Stone (she’s a UK size 8-10 and has been hailed in Italian Vogue as the shape of things to come) told Elle magazine that she didn’t “want to be the fat one anymore” and is working out to lose those supposedly extra pounds. It looks like the revolution will have to wait.