In the 80s and early 90s, the Supermodel made her debut. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Linda Evangelista ruled the catwalk with their tall, slim, and muscular figures. Then came Kate Moss, who changed the face of modeling. Not only was she considered short by fashion standards (5’7″) but she was wafer thin, a significant physical change from the amazonian supermodels from a few years earlier. She ushered in a new look of “heroin chic” where hollowed faces and protruding bones were de rigueur and reflected the mid 90’s obsession with drug culture. Next, Gisele Bundchen and her fellow Victoria’s Secret Angels brought back the sexy supermodel look, albeit a much thinner version. And finally, we land on the current fashion climate. High fashion is still hungry for the razor thin and very tall frame. But there’s a problem: very few women are 5’10” and can fit into a sample size (generally a very small size 0 or 2). So what’s a modeling agent to do?
Apparently, they are left to scout teenagers in treatment for eating disorders at hospitals. These vultures swoop in to pick over the bones of the very sick and mentally unwell.
According to Slate:
…the clinic had to change when and where patients could take their daily walks around the grounds because girls kept getting approached. One 14-year-old was handed a business card; an agent interviewed another girl who was so emaciated that she had been confined to a wheelchair.
It’s a sobering reminder of the human condition: the powerful preying upon the powerless. But it shouldn’t really surprise us – this nearly unattainable body type is represented on fashion runways and in suburban malls. Walk into any retail store and look at the mannequins. Most likely, they’re very tall and extremely thin, wearing size 2 pants with the extra fabric secured by a clip. I’ll admit that when I see a “larger” mannequin, I’m taken aback. Is the store trying to make a point? Did I just walk into a plus-size specialty retailer?
Our country is facing an epidemic of obesity, with an astounding 69% of American adults and 32% of children considered overweight or obese. But our obsession with thin continues, to the point where thin is fat and emaciated is normal. Just 20 years ago, models on average weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today’s models weigh 23% less than the average woman. As women have gotten larger, models have gotten smaller.
Could this trend reflect our self-loathing and desire to be our physical selves’ polar opposite? If fashion is fantasy, maybe we’re dreaming of a world where our clothes hang rather than cling, where we scour the racks for the smallest size available, and where our friends beg us to eat our food.
Scouting models at eating disorder clinics is despicable, and unfortunately par for the course for the majority of the modeling industry. They continue to show godless indifference to the women (and often girls) who enrich designers and who hawk their wares season after season, sometimes for little to no pay. Maybe this latest scandal is a sign that the modeling industry’s tactics have hit rock bottom. They’ve got nowhere to go but up.