Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Paper 3: cultural debate

cultural debate in fashion.

How thin is too thin and how does this relate to fashion?

Runway models dressed in the latest high fashion collections of Chanel, Jean Paul Gautier, Marc Jacobs, and other hot designers walk the catwalks of New York, Paris, and Milan. Models have come to represent a beauty ideal, however it is an ideal that is impossible to achieve for the majority of women. Only 1% of women naturally have this super tall super thin body type. So where does that leave the rest of the women, starving? In many cases that is what these models are doing, starving themselves and creating unhealthy body images and eating habits for young women in America.

After several runway models have died of being malnourished in South America and Europe, many cities, like Milan and Madrid, have put a minimum requirement of body mass index on models who want to walk the runway. Where the debate comes in is that while many people in the industry and out support this requirement and think it should be required in every fashion capital city, many models believe it is their body and their right to have it look the way they wish, and many designers believe it is their creative right to achieve the look they want from these waif like models. And "While shows in Milan and Madrid have taken action to ban models deemed too skinny, the British Fashion Council said that regulations were "neither desirable or enforceable."" (London Fashion)

While actresses like "Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz have [] spoken out against the trend towards "size zero" models," some people in the industry support these super thin ideals. "Fashion photographer Mario Testino told CNN that the fashion industry had no cause for concern. "We are in a business to sell clothes. Clothes look better on a thinner person, but I don't think that clothes look good on a skeleton, myself." (London Fashion)

In the New York Times article "When is Thin too Thin?," Eric wells writes, "Linda Wells, the editor of the beauty magazine Allure, said there were moments during the shows when she could hear gasps in the audience at their appearance. “What becomes alarming is when you see bones and start counting ribs,” Ms. Wells said." David Bonnouvrier, the chief executive of DNA Models, says "“This goes against everything we stand for as an industry.. I am kicking and screaming about it now because this should be an industry of beauty and luxury, not famished-looking people that look pale and sick.”" (New York Times) Models have always been thin, but when industry insiders become alarmed we are obviously entering dangerous territory.

I think that models need to be regulated by their agencies and the designers they are working for to ensure that they are having healthy eating habits. There is a difference between someone who is thin and healthy and fit and someone who is clearly starving themselves. Not only is this endangering the health and lives of these models, but it is affecting the self esteem of young girls and endangering their health. I think that there needs to be more positive role models for young girls in the fashion industry, and that fashion can sell on someone who is a size 2 or 4 as well if not better than it sells on someone who is a size 00 and unhealthy.

The images that saturate our media have a negative impact on the body image of teenage girls. The images promote an ideal that is incredibly and almost impossibly thin for the average teenage girl. Super thin celebrities and runway models, as well as the models used in advertisements send a message that a girl can only be beautiful if she is thin. In "Think "Thin" and Feel Bad," from the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, they state "Correlational studies have linked exposure to media that contain ultra-thin ideals to increased body-dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, self-discrepancies, and eating pathology," in women.

I believe that our society promotes an unhealthy and unrealistic ideal for what beautiful should be. This cultural debate that is taking place within the fashion industry not only affects the runway models and fashion designers, but it affects the mental and physical health of fashion consumers, admirers, and young girls all over the world. In a USA Today article, Frederique van der Wal, a former Victoria's Secret model, is quoted after attending New York Fashion Week, ""This unnatural thinness is a terrible message to send out. The people watching the fashion shows are young, impressionable women."" I think that designers are entitled to their creative liberties, however when the use of these extremely thin models becomes dangerous to the health and wellbeing of many people that goes beyond the realm of creativity.

The most vulnerable target of advertisements in the fashion industry are tweenage and teenage girls. This is the age group where the industry has the power to hook these girls and make sure they are consumers for life. This in itself is ethically questionable, but when fashion takes it a step further and influences body image and perception of self for the rest of these girls lives, we need to reexamine our values as a society.

Extremely Thin Model Picture

Body-image pressure inundates teen girls- CNN.com


Do thin models warp girls' body image? - USA Today

Fashion industry launches inquiry into health of models- The Independent, UK

Grant, Isabel J, and Graeme R Stephen. “Buying behaviour of "tweenage" girls and key societal communicating factors influencing their purchasing of fashion clothing.” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management. 9.4 (2005): 450. 20 February 2007 .

Halliwell, Emma, Helga Dittmar, and Jessica Howe. “ The impact of advertisements featuring ultra-thin or average-size models on women with a history of eating disorders.” Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology. 15.5 (2005): 406. 3 April 2007 .

London Fashion Week hit by skinny row- CNN.com

N.Y. considers banning ultrathin fashion models -CNN.com

When is thin too thin?- New York Times