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Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Disappearing Models

Inspiration: Ban on skinny models shocks fashion world
Images: bwgreyscale.com and style.com

Madrid, not particularly known for great fashion, has decided to make its mark on the fashion world by instituting a minimum BMI requirement of 18 for its fashion week models. As the article states, this BMI requirement would rule out most top models, including Kate Moss - who isn't nearly the skinniest of all the models and wouldn't be caught dead at Madrid Fashion Week anyway. Of course, the Madrid city government's decision brings up an interesting question. No, not the obvious question about the relationship between the fashion industry and the promotion of anorexia, bulimia, laxatives, and cocaine. I mean the less heavy-handed, though related question of how we want our models to look.

According to the National Institutes of Health, a BMI of 18 is classified as just barely "underweight." A 5'11" 130lbs. model would meet this requirement. Gisele Bundchen would not. Gisele is commonly listed at 5'11" 127lbs. Though surely thin, she looks healthy and athletic. Gisele actually looks like she went through puberty and has not devoted her adult life to eradicating those gains. However, Gisele is also now a more mainstream model, rarely doing runway work. The "working" models are under much more pressure to keep their weight down. The ideal stat for an aspiring model is 5'9"+ 115lbs. Some girls carry this little weight better than others. Below are 4 models from the Spring '06 shows. As you can see, all of these models are thin. None of them meet the BMI for the Madrid shows. But only two of them look starving, while the other two look passably healthy. Can you tell the difference?

Julia Stegner at Pucci & Valentina Zelyaeva at Hermes

Julia Stegner, Pucci Spr.06
Valentina Zelieyva, Hermes Spr.06

Hana Soukapova at Alexander McQueen & Elise Crombez at Versace
Hana Soukapova, Alexander McQueen Spr.06 Elise Crombez, Versace Spr.06

Whew, that was hard. I suppose my point is that models who look like they are starving should be encouraged to put on some weight, while the models who are thin, but not scary, should just be left alone. What fun would fashion be if the models just looked like people off the street? Though people off the street tend not to have BMIs of only 18, making a strict numerical cutoff seems rather silly. They should just look at the model to make the judgement. Does it look like you could slit your wrist on her clavicle, rib, or hipbone and end your BMI 22 misery? Do you see hunger pangs in her eyes? Is she jittery and taking frequent bathroom breaks? If she only meets 2 out of these 3 criteria just let her in your damn show!

Seriously, though, the solution is to have a fashion show that has models of different sizes walking at the same time. There shouldn't be a need to shun the skinny models or shuffle all the curvy models into the dreaded 'plus-size' ghetto. Most designer collections have outfits that complement both curvy bodies and not so curvy bodies. They would be doing themselves a favor by using the right models for each design. It's true that no one wants to see a plus-size girl in horizontal stripes and hot pants, but no one wants to see a flat-chested girl's sternum in a halter dress either.

Stay tuned for next week's musings on the need for racial integration in the fashion world. I mean, Prada never uses black models. And they are really skinny!

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