Fashion's Full-Figured Failure
Givhan, Robin, Newsweek
Byline: Robin Givhan
Don't like your body? Don't blame the models.
The spring 2013 runway shows, which finished in Paris this month, were filled with impossibly skinny, extremely young gazelles. So were the fall glossies. Fashion as usual, perhaps--yet this was supposed to have changed.
In the midst of the ongoing battle between an industry intent on creating idealized images of women, and critics who believe those images do grievous harm, the 19 editors-in-chief of the Vogue brand banded together last May to announce a detente. They promised not to "knowingly" use mannequins under the age of 16 or those who appeared to have an eating disorder, and pledged to be "ambassadors for the message of healthy body image." To demonstrate their seriousness, they dedicated issues to the cause. American Vogue mounted a splashy cover story on Olympic athletes, while Gisele Bundchen's perfectly round derriere took center stage at French Vogue.
But the lure of teenage models proved irresistible. By fall, Vogue China had broken the pledge and featured 15-year-old model Ondria Hardin; its counterpart in Japan suffered a similar lapse.
This was only the latest industry failure. In 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America created a similar pledge, which has since been broken--most notably, by designer Marc Jacobs, who unapologetically included a 14-year-old Hardin in his fall 2012 show, her baby face barely visible under a giant, fur hat.
The fashion industry simply loves a skinny young girl. And for the average woman, fashion continues to deliver a brutal, frustrating fantasy. But are the models to blame for women's psychic battering?
To most critics, skinny models seem to exacerbate the occurrence of eating disorders. But over time, it hasn't mattered if the models-of-the-day were waifs or Amazons. …