There is a reason that the LBD has become a staple of every woman’s wardrobe; universally flattering, adaptable and chic, it will always inspire confidence in the wearer, and is the one dress that every woman knows can make her look a million dollars. Regardless of shape or size, a little black dress can tuck in your worst bits and accentuate your best, allowing for the Marilyn Monroe curves or the flat (ish) stomach we dream about. But what is it about the LBD that so many women rely on? Clearly, we are all aiming for a certain look, and the flattering nature of this dress implies that a slim silhouette is the collective goal.
It is only in the past sixty years or so that skinny has become the new beautiful, and it is a trend rife with controversy. With the emergence of the likes of Twiggy all the way through to the constant promotion of the tiny Victoria’s Secret Angels, women in the public eye are constantly scrutinised for any visible excess (ignoring the hypocrisy of then ‘worrying’ about whether the same person praised for their slender physique has an eating disorder in the next column). For everyday women this frame is often unachievable, and to be perfectly honest, undesirable. Yet it is a different question for models themselves?
New York Fashion Week is currently on-going (finishing on Valentine’s Day) and will be followed by London, Milan and then Paris, and one thing you can guarantee, is that every single model, whether male or female will have a much higher number of protruding bones than the vast majority of people you’ll see walking down the high street. The models with their stomachs on display will also be showcasing the exact location of their ribs, any wrists are so tiny a four year old would start to question their own weight, and when a top is low cut, eyes are drawn to the collar and chest bones, more than the (lack of) cleavage. These men and women are quite clearly slim to the extreme, and are criticised for this, however is this really a problem?
Models are meant to showcase clothes; their very role is to promote the latest fashions. Does it matter, therefore, what shape they are? Clearly, the answer is yes. Not, in my opinion, due to the need to set a role model, but due to the nature of their job. They are, crudely, walking mannequins; any extra shape that they have will inevitably affect the way the clothes fall. New York Fashion Week has already broadcast shows which highlight perfect examples of this. Son Jung Wan’s showcase, for example, saw tiny models looking as though their hips were almost double the size they should be to be in proportion to their tiny waists. Any normal sized girl in this outfit risked looking overweight, therefore definitely not creating the affect the designger was hoping for. Lacoste’s performance alternated between huge shoulder pads with fitted skirts and shapeless fabric, which did not allow the spectators a detailed, look at the model’s figure. Had larger models been wearing the outfits, the contrasts between the shoulders and skirt, for example, may not have been as defined, and the shapeless jackets may have gained shape from the model’s own body. The designers have created outfits to fit a blank canvas, and this blank canvas is a skinny model.
Models choose their profession, and, whilst standards should be in place to prevent extreme interpretations of slimness, and exploitation of the men and women who participate, it does not seem unreasonable for the fashion world to employ people who will best be able to demonstrate their clothes. It is not, therefore, a question for us not in the fashion world to ask; ultimately the designer chooses the medium by which they show us their clothing; our job is to enjoy it.