As the iconic scene in The Devil Wears Prada dictates, the fashion industry has had a huge effect on everyday life since Eve ate the apple and humans felt the need to cover their naked bodies. Even those of us who don’t spend time flicking through Vogue or choosing their outfits carefully, we still rely heavily on fashion each and every day. For many however, replicating the body image we see on the runway can become the obsession of a lifetime.
It’s no secret that there’s a lack of body shape diversity on the runway. Take a look at New York Fashion Week that’s taking place at the moment and you can expect to see troops of models, all at least 5ft10” and able to fit into sample sizes which are usually around a UK size 8. Now, you may be thinking that a size 8 is quite reasonable, a far cry from the size 0 made popular in the late 1990’s era of ‘Heroin Chic’. However, with the average UK woman being a size 16, the clothes on the runway are hardly a reflection of real life.
In order to reduce the number of emaciated looking models in the industry, two major fashion firms, LMVH and Kering, who represent brands such as Dior and Alexander McQueen, have pledged to stop using underweight models on the runway in line with new French legislation that comes in to effect on October 1st. The law states that all models shouldn’t be thinner than a French size 32 (UK 6) and should have a medical certificate proving that they’re physically fit to work. France is not the first to pass such a law, similar legislation already exists in Italy, Spain and Israel. The question is, will this have any effect on the thousands of people who suffer from eating disorders?
two major fashion firms, LMVH and Kering, who represent brands such as Dior and Alexander McQueen, have pledged to stop using underweight models on the runway in line with new French legislation that comes in to effect on October 1st
This new legislation is certainly a step in the right direction, but is it necessarily in the right countries? France, Italy, Israel, and Spain don’t have the same weight issues as the USA or the UK. Parisians are known for their slight figures, the Mediterranean diet popular in Spain and Italy for being rich in vitamins. Of course, these countries do still suffer from eating disorders but I think this legislation would have a much bigger impact on the other side of the Atlantic. Vogue, British and American, are the biggest fashion editorial magazines in the world and could really pioneer a change in the industry. Not only could we then see a wider range of body shapes on the runway, but this revolution would eventually spill into film, TV, and music. Perhaps a more diverse runway would inspire high street shops to stick to a standardised sizing chart or produce clothes that aren’t just designed for a Gigi Hadid-esque woman and then made in bigger sizes (we can but dream).
Some in the industry have hit back at criticism over the weight of models, saying that what is seen on the runway is not intended to be a reflection of real life, with designers choosing models that will wear the clothes in the way they’ve been envisaged. This is true in a sense. Some of the ensembles paraded at fashion would likely not be worn in their entirety on the street. However, the ‘ready to wear’ collections are supposed to be just that. They’re the collections that trickle into high street shops, they’re what women can wear fresh off the runway. And they’re still being modelled on painfully thin girls.
I find it hard to believe that stick-thin runway models are solely to blame for the rise in the number of people suffering from eating disorders.
In the age of social media, I find it hard to believe that stick-thin runway models are solely to blame for the rise in the number of people suffering from eating disorders. Without a doubt, they’re a contributor but there’s also a sense of distance from them. These models are paid and coached to keep their bodies in prime condition, a luxury which is not available to most of us. Much more damaging to self-esteem, I find, is the constant stream of photo-shopped, filtered, or well-angled snaps on Instagram, Twitter, or especially Tumblr. These sites allow people to doctor their lives, show only the good parts, which can have a colossal impact on others who feel less successful or unworthy. This is not to say that people shouldn’t be proud of their achievements, success should never be seen as negative, but unnecessary pressure can be applied on young people who want to imitate their idols.
The use of #eatclean or #cheatday doesn’t always promote a healthy relationship with food. Celebrities who post a cheat day picture of them with one chocolate digestive imply that even a tiny deviance from a strict no-carb, no-sugar diet can be viewed as a failure. People are encouraged to live their best lives but unfortunately this is being misconstrued as live a perfect life. There are few things more difficult than trying to maintain perfection, it is exhausting and a difficult cycle to break.
The fashion industry is not perfect and it still has a long way to go. From the chain-smoking days of the 90’s to the raw pressed juice 2010’s, a happy medium is yet to be found. Points for trying I guess. The over-used favourite expression of my local doctor springs to mind, “Everything in Moderation”. It sounds daft but it’s never been truer.