Alexandra Shulman, one of the most important figures in the multi-billion-pound fashion industry, has taken on all the largest fashion houses in a strongly worded letter sent to scores of designers in Europe and America. In a letter not intended for publication but seen by The Times, Shulman accuses designers of making magazines hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” by supplying them with “minuscule” garments for their photoshoots. Vogue is now frequently “retouching” photographs to make models look larger, she said.
Her intervention was hailed last night as a turning point in the debate over model size that has raged after the deaths of three models from complications relating to malnutrition, and the decision of leading fashion shows to ban size-zero models.
Wait...Vogue has to retouch photos of emaciated, anorexic-looking models to make them look less gaunt and ghastly? How sick is that?
Shulman claims that the clothes created by designers for catwalk shows and subsequently sent to magazines for use in their photoshoots have become “substantially smaller”.
The garments are typically sent to magazines six months before they appear in the shops and editors have no choice but to hire models that fit the clothes or fail to cover the latest collections from the leading designers.
Perhaps, if fashion designers won't quit designing clothes incapable of being worn by human females, the industry ought to strike back by draping the clothes over a broom and photographing that instead. The broom may have to be sanded down a bit, though, before fashion designers will be able to look at it without calling it "fat."
I think women have been aware for a long time how drastically the fashion industry's ideal of the attractive female differs from anything even remotely achievable by the average women. What makes this story heartening is that it's someone very much inside the industry who is calling for a change. It's about time, too; we all know how serious body-image problems can be for young girls and young women, and how many of them fall into the trap of anorexia or bulimia, not to mention the ones who develop lifelong unhealthy eating habits including serial dieting, yo-yo dieting, and the like.
The truth is, real women have real figures. It's not that hard for fashion designers to create clothing that can be showcased hanging gently off the bony shoulders of an emaciated stick-girl whose bright lipsticked smile hides a host of health problems brought on by chronic under-eating. It would be much more difficult for them to have to create their artistic triumphs with real flesh-and blood women in mind. But perhaps with a few more nudges from inside the fashion industry, a few really good designers will prove that they're up to the challenge--and that's something all women can benefit from.