Skinny Law: Fashion Industry May Regulate Weight of Models

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In September, The Spanish Association of Fashion Designers moved to ban the use of models who had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18 (note that the UN apparently suggests a BMI of between 18.5 and 25). Brazil’s fashion industry recently required that models be at least 16 and in good health. The Brazilian move came in part as a response to the death of Ana Carolina Reston who was 21 when she died of anorexia. Italy’s fashion industry is now moving to impose similar regulations. The move comes after the Italian industry’s lobbyist met with the government’s Youth Minister. It is a voluntary regulation imposed by the industry on itself. An aide to the Youth Minister indicated she favored a ban based on low BMI and said “In the Third World, if someone has an index of less than 18.5, they send in humanitarian aide.” Does this mean that similar to boxing, models will try to make weight before they can be on a catwalk (though models would I suppose gain to make weight)?

The article also noted “There are calls for a return to the slim but more curvaceous models of the 1980s, like Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer.” This sentence seems to lend itself to further issues regarding the fashion industry, health, and personal image. One can imagine unhealthy skinniness and cosmetically enhanced body parts to meet this new criteria. Still for an industry often touted as being shallow and as offering inane notions of beauty, the move to address a real problem is fascinating and may even lead to more changes. I am not going to hold my breath on that last part, but one can hope.

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2 Responses

  1. John Armstrong says:

    One can imagine unhealthy skinniness and cosmetically enhanced body parts to meet this new criteria.

    Actually, this line made me think of a particularly disturbing possibility for circumvention: body modifications.

    I don’t know if the specific regulation is more detailed than “BMI above 18”, but for the moment let’s say that’s it. Now what is BMI? It’s an individual’s mass divided by the square of her height. If we take these terms with their normal meanings and measurements, then what’s to stop an unscrupulous model (or agent) from having heavy implants — say non-ferrous metal rods along the legs — in an attempt to artificially increase weight?

    If “cosmetic enhancement” opens the door to surgical procedures, then there are all sorts of surgical tricks one could imagine that might be brought in.

  2. Frank says:

    Yes, this is a positive development. Here is an interesting perspective from Laura Fraser:

    “Most of us don’t recognize that the social forces that keep pulling us towards thinness are every bit as constraining as the corsets that kept our great-great-grandmothers from actively participating in the world. Nor do we realize that the inner corset we wear is one of the strongest and most insidious remnants of oppression against women that we still have to put up with.”

    Fraser, Losing It: America’s Obsession with Weight and the Industry that Feeds on It 282 (1997).