Dress sizes are forever at the heart of the debate concerning the ‘irresponsible’ image that is projected by the ubiquity of very thin models in the fashion world. This, however, is a suggestion that can be rebuffed with ease. In response to the death of size zero model Ana Carolina Reston in 2006, Milan Fashion Week officials banned size zero models from their shows, proceeding from autumn/winter 2007 collections. A ripple effect immediately took place, with fashion houses Prada and Versace joining the campaign. With such high-profile pressure, it was inevitable that healthier models would start to appear. Now we can see Adele gracing the cover of the October issue of British Vogue, discussing how she’d never sell her name to a product “unless it was full-fat-Coke”; this is followed by Rihanna covering the November issue. Both women are a far cry from size zero. Similarly, TV personality Kim Kardashian, when promoting the Kardashian fashion line with Sears department store, preached that “skinny is a style of jeans, not a goal”.
Concerns about models’ health are also often exaggerated or fantastical. An assumed diet of salad leaves, energy drinks and the occasional hit of something more illegal is enough to make most casting agents scoff in amusement. Beauty starting from the inside is more applicable than ever in the modelling business. A model’s health defines his or her employability; if a malnourished model looks unattractive, they won’t be hired. Model Daisy Lowe recently commented on just how much of an ‘athlete’ you need to be to survive Fashion Week. The long hours and excessive travel needed to take part in up to 15 shows require excessive energy, therefore a well-balanced diet is necessary. Furthermore, the prejudice against models is clear, since the same regime is used by professional ballerinas, gymnasts and athletes yet it is their career achievements that remain the focus of the media.
When discipline is mistaken for starvation and judgement becomes the norm, we need to correct the errors. It’s time to stop talking about size zero; if we don’t talk about it, critics can’t listen and this storm-in-a-teacup can dissolve just as quickly as it developed.
Many are convinced that the fashion world and its elite finally have a handle on this sensitive subject which continues to dominate fashion headlines, rather than the fashion itself. On the contrary, size zero very much appears to continue to be the LBD of clothing sizes.
Flipping through the pages of Vogue or watching a fashion show almost becomes indoctrination as the models seen before you, wearing the season’s must-haves, appear firstly as regular women, until you snap yourself out of a clothing-induced haze and realise that these girls are far from normal.
The Erdem show, which took place in February of this year, was heavily criticised for its use of painfully thin models. It is this bizarre championing of the prepubescent form which many in the fashion world continue to lean towards. By using child models in an adult-focused industry, such as Lena-Rose Blondeau, the ten year old who was featured in French Vogue, the ‘old’ models have little choice but to compete and lose the little weight which makes them healthy.
A recent novelty, as a response to the use of such skinny girls in fashion, is the launch of amateur modelling competitions for ‘plus-size’ women. I say ‘plus-size’, but these women are UK sizes twelve to fourteen. How this is considered large, I will never understand, and if that is the case, myself and the majority of my friends are all apparently on the bigger side of the clothing rack. Two main players in the fashion industry, Lara Stone and Adriana Lima, were both hailed as being a retaliation to the extreme size zero image requirements sought after by fashion photographers, editors and designers. I feel this is somewhat ridiculous as I fail to see how either of these women could possibly be called ‘curvy’.
You know the situation is serious when women such as Erin O’Connor, who loves fashion and is actively involved in advocating the industry, described models backstage at London Fashion Week as having “the dimensions of a reed”. That says it all really.