Sunday, June 28, 2009

You can be too rich or too thin: Repugnance and fashion

Well, maybe you still can't be too rich (although let's wait until all the government bailouts settle down before we rush to judgment on that). But
Now even Vogue thinks you can be too thin.
"A brave editor has exposed fashion's dark secret - that it is the designers themselves who demand ultra-skinny models"

"Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, has written to international fashion designers complaining that their sample garments - displayed on catwalks or sent to magazines for photo shoots - have in recent years gradually shrunk. Now they are so small, the only models who can fit into them are flat-chested, hipless, and so emaciated that Vogue is fearful of readers' horror if they put them on the cover. Even the superwaif Kate Moss struggles. Post-motherhood, post-30, she has newly acquired breasts.
Shulman's letter is brave: in taking on her own industry she risks scorn, snubs and precious advertising revenue. But she is also clever to cut to the heart of the long-raging size-0 debate. Before, the glossy magazines or model agencies were blamed or the models themselves made scapegoats. In 2006 the Spanish Government decreed that any girl with a body mass index of less than 18 should be banned from fashion shows. Many balked at the notion of gazelle-like teens being publicly weighed like livestock. Designers insisted that these were just naturally slender young women and that they sized their samples accordingly.
Shulman's letter exposes the dark truth, that the pressure to use ├╝berskinny models emanates from the designers themselves. In gradually shaving millimetres off sample sizes they force a model, who already has only a few ounces of body fat, to starve herself. To choose, perhaps, between Prada and her periods. (Italian and French designers are the most didactic body fascists.) And if a glossy magazine wishes to publish the latest collections by, for example, Dior these are the girls they must use. Indeed some newspapers - with less “edgy” values and older readers - now resort to retouching catwalk shots to make the models look bigger, less scary."

Understanding repugnance to some transactions is so tricky because it so often involves many things other than pure repugnance, such as the incentives that competition in certain professions may give members of those professions, and how such competition might therefore be regulated for the public good (e.g. no life-shortening steroids for athletes). The repugnance involving ultrathin young models may be akin to the repugnance that society feels to prostitution.

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