Catwalk models grow fat!

No one doubts that woman’s figures have been changing over time and this has had an impact on the fashion industry.

In 1960 the average British woman weighed 3 kilograms less than today’s women.

Every woman wants to look thinner than they are and over the years they have been assisted by the fashion retail business that has been putting smaller sizes on the labels of their clothes for the simple reason that they know woman will buy more clothes if they do.

In the late nineteen fifties the Americans set commercial standards for woman’s clothing sizes with sizes ranging from 6 to 20 and above.

Strangely, these figures bore no relationship to a woman’s actual body measurements.

It did not take the retail industry long to realise that women preferred to buy clothes with a smaller number on the label and if they started this practice it would translate to more sales.

Apparently, a small number on the label made many women feel slimmer and was a way of conferring to other woman how thin they were.

Women could prove they had lost weight by simply saying to other women that they could get into a small size dress and showing them the label.

Eventually, the practice of vanity sizing as it was known then, became so wide spread that the commercial standard was eventually dropped some twenty-five years after it was introduced.

Over the years the numbers have been getting smaller for any given size and a size 12 from the 1960’s is equivalent to size eight today.

Unfortunately for young girls, the race to get thinner has not abated and size 0 is commonly worn by catwalk models.

BMI to the rescue? 

This race to get thinner is having a profound affect on young girls who often starve themselves to look like the models.

Because of this a lot of different organisations have weighed into the debate on what should be a healthy weight for young women. To assist this debate the body mass index (BMI) has gained in popularity as a medical measure of what is a healthy weight.

Over the years the fashion industry has been under a lot of pressure to present a good example to young impressionable girls by showing models that are not too skinny.

Unfortunately, this is counter to the way fashion designers see it. They believe and so do those in the fashion industry, as well as the public, that clothing worn by slender models hangs better and is seen as being more elegant.

Some would say that models are nothing more than coat hangers for the clothes and should be as thin as possible.

This reasoning as well as imagined competition between designers to employ the thinnest models has resulted in some retailers offering the smallest cloth size of 00! (In 2007 Banana Republic began offering size 00 in its online catalogue).

Rightly so, this argument is no longer sustainable as lifestyle diseases such as anorexia are becoming more common amongst young girls who do not see themselves as dangerously underweight and are always comparing themselves with these size 0 models.

Although fashion shows in general feel they are not to blame and are not out to promote health, in 2006 the organizers of Spain’s top fashion event, the Pasarela Cibeles, responded to this criticism by saying they wanted their show to project “an image of beauty and health”.

To prove their sincerity they reached an agreement with the fashion designers of Spain to ban any model with a BMI of 18 or lower – between 18.5 and 24.9, the person’s weight is normal. Below 18.5 they are regarded as underweight.

Despite the voluptuous look being out and the Kate Moss look in some fashion designers have taken the hint and are beginning to use a variety of sized models on lesser known catwalks than the prestigious ones such as Paris or Milan.