Too little, too late?

Everyone’s talking about the ban on underweight models taken by major French fashion companies, but is it really worth all the attention? New Fashion editor, Lydia Varney, gives us her take on the latest change to the runway.

With the news emerging that as of October 1st, two major French fashion giants will be banning underweight models, it might seem like times are changing, and progress is being made. Finally, models will have to supply Doctor’s certificates proving that they are fit to work, whilst psychologists will also be employed to work alongside them and provide them with emotional support. Yet something about it seems bittersweet. Yes, it’s a step in the right direction. But is it a step too late?

Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci are amongst some of the fashion labels set to enforce this change. What’s worrying however is that such well known brands have, up to this point, been using both underweight and underage models. In a supposedly liberated society, we have been, for many years, inundated with images of ‘ideal’ body types, many of which are actually extremely unhealthy.

Image: The Independent

It’s a sobering thought, and what’s worse is that the effects of this are only just beginning to come to light. Behind us lives a generation growing up surrounded by body ideals that are, to be frank, completely unobtainable, at least not healthily. A few months back I was struck by the way an eight-year-old girl stared, rapt, at a screen showcasing barely-there models strutting around in their underwear whilst her mother tried on a new bra in Victoria’s Secrets. How has our society come so far in raising awareness in some issues, yet seems so behind in areas of the fashion industry? 

It’s no wonder the industry has a reputation as being a tough place to work. It’s great that models will now have support from psychologists, but it’s still concerning that their work environment creates such a need for psychological help. Maybe, as well as providing counsellors for models, big brands should try to provide stable work, without the threat of losing your job if you eat too many bags of Doritos. Maybe that’s a bit too much to ask, but let’s not lose hope for the industry that has the power to potentially change body image ideals for the better.

The more I think about this supposedly great new ban, the less ‘great’ it seems. Now, models can’t be smaller than a size six. But for many, size six is wholly unobtainable. I think we can be forgiven for demanding a bit more of the fashion industry. In fact, I think we need to demand more than a ban that cuts out the unhealthy, but still allows fashion to promote the idea that skinny is best. 

I, for one, don’t want to see a generation brought up surrounded by the super-skinny. How about a runway filled with models of all shapes and sizes? Not just the ‘plus-size’ models with the perfect curves, but models with the diversity of the real world. Models with big hips, models with a little bit round the stomach, models with real muscle. Healthy, human models. Now, that would be something worth celebrating.

Lydia Varney

Image: girltalkhq