Over the past year, there has been a decent amount of publicity regarding how thin models are and what to do about it (as well as the deaths of two South American models last year). The Council of Fashion Designers of America met recently and discussed proposals for the fashion industry to respond to the growing concern and restrictions put in place in Madrid and Milan.
According to a New York Times article, no requirement of meeting objective measures of health were discussed at the meetings. A nutritionist consulted by the CFDA seems to think that BMI (a standard measure of healthy weight) is not fair to all:
“It’s not so much about whether they can be 18 [BMI] or higher and still look fabulous,” she said. “I’m not for mandating certain B.M.I.’s because I don’t think that is fair.”
The Academy for Eating Disorders, an international medical organization, insists that age and height requirements for models are necessary.
From the New York Times again:
"We believe the fashion industry should take responsibility for the health of its models,” Dr. van Furth said. “The way they are presenting their guidelines really shows they are not acknowledging the seriousness of the problem of eating disorders at all.”
According to the academy’s guidelines, models should be at least 16 years old and have a body mass index — based on a formula of height and weight and known as B.M.I. — greater than 17.4 for female models under 18 years old, or 18.5 for models over 18 years old. For a 5-foot-9 model over 18, that would mean the weight requirement would be 126 pounds.
I think the Academy of Eating Disorders has the right idea, but the fashion industry isn't really willing to take that step. The chief executive of the National Eating Disorders Association, a U.S. based prevention group, hits the nail on the head, saying, “Their response looks like a P.R. cover on a real problem.” I miss the days when models looked more like real women, like Cindy Crawford.
There are no easy solutions, and eating disorders will still exist regardless of the fashion industry's take. But presenting healthy images of women, not ridiculously thin women who appear to be on the brink of death, would be a huge step in the right direction. I fail to see how a 5'9" model over 18 who weighs 126 pounds is unacceptable to the fashion industry.