Does Fashion Industry Promote Anorexia? Do Models Eat Tissue Paper To Stay Thin?

The most recent wave of criticism against anorexic-looking models was launched in 2009 with the publication of a Ralph Lauren ad campaign featuring fired model Filippa Hamilton, who was photoshopped to look exactly like these images.

The debate over fashion’s obsession with ultra-thin models has continued unabated since then, with little turning away from the down-sizing of the healthy body, original ’90s supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell. Most of those size 4-6 supermodels are considered plus-size models today, compared to our typically androgynous-looking size 0 models.

Brazil’s Star Models You Are Not A Sketch Campaign

Brazilian modeling agency Star Models has recently launched an innovative eating disorder awareness campaign featuring your typical fashion sketch on the left, and models photoshopped to look like the illustration on the right. The impossibly long-legged fashionista on the left has been with us for decades. Photoshopping a real model to look like a fashion illustration is a more recent phenomenon.

Fashion insiders tell women that neither image should have any impact on our psyches. Any intelligent woman isn’t impacted by these visions of the ideal female body because we know they are only ads. The same argument applies to Barbie. Are people seriously suggesting that Barbie be banned.

Besides, many clothes don’t look good on women with curves and breasts. They just don’t hang right. This common view among the more tyrannical of designers, fashion editors and casting directors begs the question of the purpose of the clothes in the first place: presumably to look good on women customers.

A 2012 industry survey conducted by Model Alliance resulted in 64.1 percent of models saying they had been asked by their agencies to lose weight. Over 30 percent of the models responding admitted to suffering from an eating disorder.

Vogue Italia launched a health initiative in 2012, leading all of its editions in pledging not to “knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.  These are small steps in a significantly larger battle over the argument that women’s psyches — and especially those of young women — are impacted by fashion’s obssession with increasingly thin models.

Model Scouts in Anorexia Clinics?

Although the incident occurred last year, modeling agencies in Sweden came under fire last week, following claims that model scouts were soliciting young women outside eating disorder clinic.

“We think this is repugnant. People have stood outside our clinic and tried to pick up our girls because they know they are very thin,” Anna-Maria af Sandeberg, the center’s director and chief physician, told Metro newspaper (according to a translation by The Local). “It sends the wrong signals when the girls are being treated for eating disorders.”

Kirstie Clements, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia

The Vogue Factor

In her new book ‘The Vogue Factor’, fired model as editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia Kirstie Clements writes that models eat tissues to stay full but thin. Indeed, she says that models eat zero calorie paper to maintain their industry-preferred physiques.

“Most people accuse editors of photoshopping images for the girls to look slimmer, on occasion we had to do it the other way around,” Clements told Australia’s Entertainment Tonight. 

The former editor does say that she experienced some guilt by working in the business. “I did consider myself to be part of the problem, to tell you the truth,” Clements admits. “I felt that that everybody was complicit in it. … As an editor, as a woman  as a mother, I would make my judgment calls as the models passed me…as to whether I felt that they were too thin…and you had to make that call every single day, but  yes, the industry is complicit in some of these areas, definitely.”

Stressing that not every model suffers from eating disorders, Clements argues that the casting directors and modeling agencies put enormous pressure on the women to be thin. “I think it’s essentially from the casting for the shows, whether that’s casting directors, designers, stylists, editors. There’s a pretty small pool of very influential people that dominate the fashion arena worldwide,” she concluded.

Returning to the new Star Models campaign, the tag line to ‘You Are Not A Sketch’ is ‘Say No to Anorexia.’ W

AOC has a long history of writing about body image and the downsizing of models from an industry standard 4-6 to size 0. More articles here.