The fashion world is without a doubt the most highly berated industry for causing a multitude of body related disorders, be it anorexia, body dysmorphia, or body image complexes. With identical looking models gracing countless catwalk shows and fashion billboards, it is no wonder that the impressionable viewer is imprinted with the tight-cast singular view of beauty that the fashion industry so readily fosters. When these images feature skeletal, childlike models, it is easy to see where the problem lies.
This is not only a problem stemming from the top-end elitist designers; it is ubiquitous amongst high street fashion chains as well. You need go no further than American Apparel, a household name on both sides of the Atlantic, to find fashion that seems to cater more for malnourished children, than fully grown adults. Looking at the jeans, the leg length appears to cater for the elusive 5 foot 10 inch model, whilst the waist is more suitable for a pre-pubescent teen. Equally, regardless of American Apparel becoming famed for their knitted jumpers, even the large sizes would only fit a fourteen year old. These clothes do not promote an ideal of beauty or body image, they merely foster unhealthy and distinctly unrealistic aspirations of body size in creating clothes that simply do not mirror normal body proportions; they are either getting something seriously wrong with their sizing, or they are catering for a seriously unhealthy niche.
It is not only in the clothes themselves that promote these unobtainable ideals of body size; equally their advertising editorials which are plastered all over their shops, the internet and billboards around cities, promote a disturbingly childlike image. Most people comment on the over sexualisation of the imagery, with semi-nudity and regular pseudo-sexual posing. Yet this is not what I find shocking; it is rather the child-like, flat chested and frankly formless models that are so frequently used that I find the most shocking. With images like these so readily visible in the public media of the fashion world, it without a doubt has a destructive impact on its viewer. People readily berate the over-sexualisation of fashion imagery, such as the Diesel 2010 ‘Sex Sells’ campaign. Yet a campaign with comparably healthy adult looking models, it really isn’t this that we should be worrying about.
This problem has had some tragic consequences; complications caused by anorexia caused the death of two sisters Eliana and Luisel Ramos; both prominent fashion models in their own right. Whilst new legislation and universal boycotting against the use of anorexic models has been instated into most areas of the fashion industry, it is undeniable that the unobtainable size of fashion models still features heavily wherever you look. Likewise, despite the fact that many model agencies have now expanded their view of beauty to larger women in creating plus size sections to their model boards, the number of plus sized women on these boards is not only small, but the amount of plus sized women featured in editorials is still shockingly few, and most importantly, these so called plus sized models are still, for the most part, slimmer than the average woman. So can we really say that enough is being done to mitigate this chronic problem?
It’s surely time that such visible marketing campaigns are vetted slightly more strongly to avoid the glamorisation of an unhealthy body image and to protect the impressionable viewer from inevitable body related issues. It ultimately comes down to a redefinition of what we and the fashion industry define as beauty; moving away from a childlike formless physique to a more healthy and realistic image.
Ana Carolina Reston, left, and Luisel Ramos both died in 2006 from anorexia.