#1796 Is there a solution to the skinny model debate?

Victoria’s Secret came under fire last week when Angel Candice Swanepoel showed up at a promotional event for the brand looking “shockingly thin”. While it’s no great discovery that a supermodel might be vastly skinnier than everybody else on the planet, the photo comparison of Swanepoel in November versus Swanepoel in April was cause for worry: one showed a woman with (dare I say) curvy hips and thighs and clearly defined abdominal muscles; while the other depicted her as being significantly slimmer than she once was. A vaguely dismissive response was issued: “I’m heartened to know how much everyone cares about me, but in this case, everything is normal and good,” she said. The Cut‘s Amy Odell weighed in, saying, “Like, can you believe she is thin? Can you believe this Victoria’s Secret supermodel would dare to maybe even be a tiny bit thinner than she was a few months ago or perhaps — oh, God, could this be possible — have stayed the same size? Can you believe these two photos of her? Why, they’re — they’re just … so … shocking!!!” And then, like with everything else in fashion, something else occurred that was exciting or scandalous or pretty and everybody forgot all about it.

But then this week Victoria’s Secret signed a new Angel, 18 year old Kate Upton (star of the Youtube clip above), apparently in response to the criticism. Upton is described as “curvaceous,” with a “healthy figure,” and, hopefully, “a return for Victoria’s Secret to its original roster of curvy models that made the brand so famous.”

This time, Amy Odell had something a little more serious to say: “So yay for Kate Upton, who may represent a healthier, more attainable body type than many of her colleagues, but who may also have her fellow models in a quandary about how they should look if their current figures are no longer the ideal. For famous women, there is seldom a right weight.”

And I reckon that final sentence is about the best thing I’ve ever read about the problem of putting so much emphasis on ‘ideal’ body types. Whatever is in vogue at any particular point of time will alienate a giant chunk of the population at large (no pun intended). So what’s the solution? Selecting models based on good personalities? Or encouraging designers to showcase their clothes on a myriad different sized women?

Call me a pessimist but I’m of the Anja Rubik school of thought: “I don’t think it will ever change because… There are too many girls who would do the job if you don’t do it, so I don’t think it’s possible to unite all of the girls say, ‘No, we want this and these conditions.’ I think that’s crazy, It’ll never happen. I think it’s mission impossible.”


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  1. anon says

    Anja rubik’s quote is probably one of the more ridiculous thing’s I’ve heard. Opposing change due to it being apparently too difficult is ultimately just lazy and self-involved.

    Some of the responsibility falls on designers and editors to promote not an ‘ideal’ image, but one that at least starts to reflect an idea of healthy body. Using girls that are over 18 would be a good start.

    Some of the responsibility also is that of the models themselves; if you’re starving yourself to attain a weight that you can’t achieve normally find another career path. Why waste potentially some of the best years of your life worrying about what you look like to the point of starvation and death?

    Finally, it’s up to the consumer, if you’re opposed to unhealthily thin models, use your money to support those that don’t promote a harmful role model to young women

  2. Geneva says

    Why arent agencies better at protecting their models? Individual models have little power, but you woud think that agencies would ensure basic standards, As for whether its socially acceptable, um, no. She obviously is emaciated, anyone who thinks that that amount of leg gap is healthy (even for a model) in a post-pubescant woman is deluded. And i totally agree with the previous poster, apathetic and self-involved is exactly what that attitude is.

  3. says

    I think there’s a solution! Definately.

    Simply, I think: Being skinny is not bad at all, unless it is damaging to your health.

    And this situation is kind of like the smoking-is-not-cool or pro-environment type movement. Where not everyone will follow the solution we can come up with, but it requires a joint effort from everyone who does believes in it – and it really does makes a difference when each person does something.

    {To protect the models} : The employers (clients/agencies) should not be allowed to pressure them to hurt their health to do their job.

    {To protect the public} : Let it be known that there is a risk of damaging your health in the quest of being thin, and that without health you won’t be your most beautiful anyway!

    I have to say… there is nothing wrong with skinny!
    If you want to see less-thin people in fashion, let yourself be heard, and when there is demand – sure, a less-thin magazine/brand might be made. There is nothing wrong with less-skinny, and nothing wrong with skinny!

  4. says

    Who could judge how skinny is too skinny? It’s all a case by case basis. There are skinny girls who are unhealthy, and skinny girls who are. It’s all so variable. Either way, the girls have to fit the clothes if they want to do the job. The most logical thing would be to increase sample sizes to be a bit bigger than they are.

  5. says

    “And then, like with everything else in fashion, something else occurred that was exciting or scandalous or pretty and everybody forgot all about it.”

    LOL. So true. But so sad at the same time.

  6. isaaclikes says

    In regards to your statement, “Some of the responsibility also is that of the models themselves; if you’re starving yourself to attain a weight that you can’t achieve normally find another career path.”

    I think you’re missing the point entirely. What Anja Rubik is saying is that because modelling is seen as possibly the most glamorous and aspirational job any young girl can do, it doesn’t matter if older, more established models choose to take a stand against weight issues, because there will always be young girls waiting in the wings who will snap up a job no matter what the costs might be to them and their health. Because let’s face it: young, inexperienced girls are not going to have the power, the clout or the confidence to turn around and tell their agents/the clients that are booking them, “No, I’m not going to lose any more weight. I’m fine just the way I am.” Because if they do, the agents/clients will most likely drop them.

    It’s not as simple as you imagine.

  7. isaaclikes says

    Or maybe the agencies won’t drop them, but they will choose another girl who will go that extra mile.

  8. fashion westie says

    There is no solution because you cannot force people to conform to anything: belief systems, environmental choices, what music you must listen to, what books you must read, what language to speak, what career to follow….what body type to have. Yeah it sucks that we will probably never have the ideal world to live in but people have free will. Freedom of choice. If you choose to be influenced or aspire to certain things that is your choice. Young and inexperienced or old and wise: it’s your choice. If you CHOOSE to aspire to a body type that is natural to you or not, to try and/or succeed in an industry [modelling] well known for it’s constrictions [or minimum entry requirements] then it is your choice. Yes, those horror stories are there- too thin, starvation, collapse, death. There are also horror stories of aspiring med students dying from overdosing on drugs trying to stay awake and alert to accomplish all their study and succeed. There are horror stories of suicides from extremely pressured law students so stressed to make it that they can’t handle it all. There are horror stories of peolple suffering for their CHOSEN career in ALL types of industry. We cannot continually use fashion and modelling as the face of blame for “impossible ideals”. They exist EVERYWHERE.

  9. anon 2.0 says

    Go with Mardid. BMI of no less than 18. Stop this “naturally skinny” ignorrance. The majority of the population are not naturally built like stick insects. Maintaining a much more healthy -yet still miniscule- BMI of at least 18 is possible for most, if not all models.

  10. says

    Wow, did you read Red Eleven’s response to this all?


    I am baffled that they think by booking very skinny models they’re not tacitly consenting to a beauty standard that sells consumers that thin equals the best. And samples being made in a size 8 because models are that size? Um, try vice versa. I’m so disappointed by a lot of the language used in that article too, such as saying that a size 6 is ‘gross’. Ugh, my head is spinning with problems I have with that article.

  11. Anon Fashion Lover says

    But why do you want to ruin how the clothes look when you an be perfectly healthy with a BMI of 18 nobody wants to see plus size models like in Madrid it just lessen the shows.

    I personally work very hard to maintain a good figure and do not think we should reward girls for binging on junk I think we should ban plus size models not those with a BMI below 18. After all if we are trying to send out a health message Obesity is the one of the top killers.

    If we enforce a BMI of greater than 18 (plus size) you may as tell the designers to not bother trying because nothing looks good on that and personally I love the fashion industry and don’t wish to kill it.

  12. says

    So you don’t think someone with a BMI of over 18 can be healthy, or that the way I look (size 10) is sending out a negative message? It’s great that you work hard to look your best, but I personally don’t give a fuck about what size I am, and I’m pretty mortified that you believe someone of my size looks terrible no matter what they wear. It’s not your right to impose your beauty standards on me, and I don’t do so for other people. The notion of ‘flattering’ is a fat-phobic one, because it implies that all clothes should make people look as skinny as possible, but I dress to show off my curves and my shape because I am proud of them.

    I am perfectly aware that some girls are naturally skinny, but the vast majority of girls just aren’t. Evolutionarily, females are designed to hold body fat. As long as girls aren’t damaging their health, they should be allowed to be whatever size they want, but with models dying of starvation literally I think it’s safe to say we have a problem.

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