Alexandra Shulman Sends Fashion Model Size Ultimatum

British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman made an even bigger name for herself this weekend, with the London Times reporting that Shulman sent a strongly-worded letter to big name designers about their preference for size zero and smaller models.

In a letter not intended for publication but seen by The Times, Shulman accuses designers of making magazines hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” by supplying them with “minuscule” garments for their photoshoots. Vogue is now frequently “retouching” photographs to make models look larger, she said.

Alexandra Shulman’s hit list included Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, and designers at Prada, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and more.

The always challenging and generally cynical Gawker Media takes issue with Shulman today. I’ll spare you the expletive, but non-fashion industry writer Foster Kramer calls Shulman a hypocrite, given her history of promoting Kate Moss and the disturbing heroic chic look of the late nineties.

Everyone agrees that Shulman has been an advocate for “real women” models in the last few years. Foster Kramer does raise a valid challenge regarding Shuman’s complicity in creating this body image monster of a problem.

I located just now an article from 1997, in which Shulman insisted that the designers, not the editors, define the model-size strategy for magazines.

Given the interconnections among designers and their brands, editorial but also advetising revenues, it’s possible that editors don’t have as much input on model size as we believe. Yet, I can’t imagine that Vogue’s Anna Wintour hasn’t blessed this smaller size trend. When Anna talks, designers listen.

Alexandra Shulman insists that the clothes have become so small that currently successful models must lose more weight. Followup fashion industry interviews published this morning share this consensus that the clothes are smaller than ever.

Retouching model’s bodies to make them appear larger is an astounding statement if true.

I have my own private thoughts on why men designers prefer emaciated women, rather than Smart Sensuality women like Michelle Obama or even Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour. And, women themselves help to perpetuate this situation.

Vast numbers of fashionista women want to see images of consistently thinner models, confirming the argument that this is a fashion industry problem that spills into women consumers. There’s a lot of blame to go around, and perhaps Alexandra Shulman’s initiative will not only create dialogue but action.

Women will evolve to a more realistic body image standard for fashion editorial, with support and coaxing from the industry. As for size four women wanting to view size 12 women modeling their designer fashions, we’re a long way from changing those minds. Anne