Should Models Have a Minimum Weight?

What The Size of Models Really Promotes
Models over the past decades have become noticeably thinner and thinner creating an ongoing debate: Are models becoming too thin? For a recent example, Bethaney Wallace, a teenage model, dies at the age of 19 from starving herself to death, all for the sole purpose of selling clothes. Model deaths are one of the many reasons that have caused the fashion industry to discuss implementation of a minimum model weight standard. This issue has been in debate for a long time now, but standards have never been enacted. Most people would do anything for a job they loved, including purging, starving, and excessive exercising. But when there’s no line drawn, how does someone know when enough is enough? Not only is the idea of ‘thin is beautiful’ hurting models, but it is also damaging the frail body images of most young girls. We unfortunately live in a world where fashion is promoting an unhealthy image for young women to aspire to, but with a set of standards this could create progress for a change. Because the majority of models in today’s society are unreasonably thin, and because media images are a major factor in girls’ images of themselves, a weight standard should be set for models to promote better body image for themselves and other girls.

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The evolution of fashion models is vast if comparing the size of the models. Surprisingly, the fashion industry wasn’t always obsessed with caloric intake and the size of models that stomped the catwalk. “Addressing her fellow beauties on the matter of their ample cabooses, newly elected president of the Model’s Mutual Aid Society, Lucy “Lucky” Janishevski, admonished her sisters to lay down their baguettes and wage a war on calories to keep their figures svelte and their jobs secure. After all, the slender Brits and Americans were rapidly invading French fashion territory. In a news report issued by the North American Newspaper Alliance, published on this day in 1957, Lucky recommended a reducing regimen of exercise, carrot juice, and a ‘microscopic slice of dry toast’” (Lloyd). “Lucky” was one of the first woman to suggest an unhealthy guideline for models to follow in France. “Lucky and a former American model, Dorian Leigh, established the first successful modeling agency in Paris, importing trimmer models from Sweden, Italy, England and America.

By the late 60s, the modeling world had shed its Bardot hips in favor of slim, boyish bods, with models Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy leading the way” (Lloyd). Twiggy, a high fashion model of the 60’s, joined the fashion industry at 16 and is commonly blamed for the revolution of stick-thin models. Even though skinny became all the rage, not every designer wanted stick figures. “Avant-gardist André Courrèges preferred curvy girls to show off his (…) designs. He did not ‘care about their measurements or their weight,’ according to a 1967 Vogue interview. When the interviewer inquired whether he had ever asked a model to lose weight, he said he ‘often ask[ed] them to gain weight.’

The always-prescient Courrèges paved the way for more voluptuous models, with supermodels Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford and Brooke Shields emerging onto the scene in the 70s and 80s.” (Lloyd) The era of fit, curvy models remained strong into the 90’s with supermodels like Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington storming the runways and covering the pages of Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar. Lloyd claims, it was only when Kate Moss ushered in a new wave of waifishness as the poster child for heroin chic that curves once again fell out of fashion. Idolizing models like Brazilian beauty Gisele Bundchen, a Victoria’s Secret model with remarkable voluptuous curves, became a short-lived fad, replaced by girls with no hips. “In the mid-2000s, Gemma Ward, the youngest model ever to grace the cover of Vogue, ushered in the era of gaunt models. Draping fabrics and billowy silhouettes hung on these skeletal girls as though on showroom racks.

Like a dysfunctional family secret, the fashion world refused to recognize that the industry ideal was abetting anorexia. In 2006, it took the deaths of Luisel Ramos, a 22-year-old Uruguayan model who subsisted on lettuce leaves and Diet Coke, and Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, for the industry to take notice” (Lloyd). Quickly following their deaths, Milan set a minimum weight requirement, Madrid established a minimum BMI, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America issued guidelines to help designers recognize eating disorders and weight issues of their models. These requirements and guidelines are “a promising step in the right direction (…) to real change. But it is worth noting that the guidelines only apply directly to runway models, leaving magazine shoots,
advertisements and other fashion media untouched. Can the fight for healthier models be won if only fought on one front?” (Krupnick).

The Weight Standard Would Be Beneficial For: Model’s Health

Most runway models meet the body mass index criteria for anorexia, according to an editorial pictorial in the January issue of PLUS model magazine. Twenty years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23 percent less, it said. When asked for its source, the magazine cited the website of Rader Programs, which treats those with eating disorders. Keeping up with the grueling world of the fashion industry is a difficult task. Most models feel as if the only way to compete and keep their spot in the industry is to stay below a certain weight or maintain a particular look. Some models don’t even recognize that once they are below the healthy Body Mass Index for their age group, it is extremely harmful to their health.

Doctors say adult women that are “underweight (BMI less than 18.5) may be malnourished and develop digestive system issues, certain types of cancer, depression, type 2 diabetes, etc.” (“Body Mass Index”). For a model, looks seem to be everything, creating many issues concerning models and their way of losing weight. A huge majority of models develop eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binging disorders that can truly harm them. These dramatic ways of losing weight can have serious consequences, even as severe as death. By creating a weight standard, it would give models more room to be a bigger size and therefore be accepted because of it. It would also help in stopping the uncontrollable amount of eating disorders models have in the fashion industry.

Many feel that a minimum model weight is discrimination against those who are naturally thin and not taking drastic measures to make themselves that way. Others say it is a profession that involves high risk to your health, which is the model’s life choice to make and not the client’s. Supporters also face the predicament of how to determine what the weight standard should be, since everyone has a different combination of body chemistry and height. It is true that models that are naturally thin could feel attacked when weight standards are enacted, but it is more important to ensure safety of models’ health and improve the physical standard in which young women
look up to. It is also true that it is the decision of the model to risk their health, but if standards were established then models could feel accepted even at a heavier weight. Since everyone has a different body chemistry and height, standards would involve BMI (Body Mass Index), a system that measures both weight and height to determine how underweight or overweight one’s body is. The Health Of The Viewers

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