PSY 663 Eating Disorder Assignment
PSY 663 Eating Disorder Assignment
Eating Disorders & Emaciated Models:
How the Fashion Industry is Creating Unrealistic Expectations for the Female Body
In this paper, I will be discussing how the high-fashion industry is promoting an unhealthy body image through its models and how that is translating to eating disorders amongst teenage girls and beginner models. In today’s growing fashion world through social media, models have a much larger influence on how young women and society view the female body. When one thinks of a model, the immediate picture is tall, skinny and gorgeous: Gigi & Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Karli Kloss. This has become the desired body type for almost every woman you could ask, but it comes with a price. The extreme wants for a Twiggy-esque silhouette has driven many models and young girls to insane diets, anorexia and bulimia and even some, unfortunately, to death. Women’s bodies have a wide variety of shapes and sizes that should be embraced rather than judged.
A 2015 article on Eating Disorder Hope’s webpage sites Dr. Pamela Peeke, a women’s health expert, “The average American woman is 5’4” with a waist size of 34-35 inches… weighs between 140-150 pounds, which equals a dress size of 12-14…”(Peeke, The Fashion Industry & Body Image, Eating Disorder Hope). For most readers of this article this sounds shocking. These measurements show the extreme difference in high fashion models and the average woman bodies. While this is considered a regular body type, any 21st century girl would read this and consider the measurements of a 34-inch waist to be much curvier than normal, this is due to the growing influence of the “model body” look that is plastered all over any social media outlet. To compare, the New York Better Business Bureau says, “high fashion models need to be, ‘between 5’9” and 6’ and weigh between 110-130 pounds…”(Bloomfield-Deal, The Fashion Industry & Body Image, Eating Disorder Hope). The pictures that are posted by high fashion models create an unrealistic image in the minds of young girls that then think they are fat if they don’t have the sculpted body that is presented. In a women’s health journal by Suzanne Abraham, the explanation of the origin of eating disorders is described, “In Western culture, contrasting messages about food and eating are offered by society, and particularly by the media. The first message is that a slim woman is successful, attractive, healthy, happy, fit, and popular. Most teenagers believe that being slim will help them to be chosen for a good job, find a boyfriend, be popular with their peers, be and look fit and healthy, and get on well with their family.” (Abraham, Eating Disorders: The Facts). The issue of being skinny even plagues beginner models themselves. Entry level models must be exactly what agencies are looking for to even get close to being considered for a job. A 2017 article in Vogue magazine wrote, “Twenty-one percent (of models) were told by their agency that they would stop representing them unless they lost weight. Over 9 percent had been recommended plastic surgery.” Since the business is so competitive, any girl can be immediately replaced with another if they don’t “have what it takes.” The fashion industry has placed such a large importance on being ‘skinny as can be’ that almost no girl is safe from the harmful world of eating disorders that follow. A French fashion model, Victoire Dauxerre, spoke out about her experience with anorexia and the modeling industry to Independent magazine, “Dauxerre claims bulimia and cocaine-use are two widespread methods used in the modelling industry so that the models keep thin. However, she says this rarely transcends to the top, household name, models who do not have the same pressures to stay thin to be booked for shows” (Blair, Former Model Victoire Dauxerre on Speaking Out About Her Anorexia Triggered by Fashion Industry). These unhealthy behaviors have become more and more popular and with this, organizations have come out to fight it. For example, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) as well as the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) have created online chat rooms and phone hotlines for people of any gender to call if they are suffering from any form of eating disorder.
Analysis & Recommendations
The uprising of eating disorders in the fashion industry and how it has spread to young girls has created a very grim image for fashion. The fashion world is constantly plagued by the clichés of eating disorders because of its strict sizing in its models. In the textbook, The Business of Fashion, the problem of sizing and the choice of fabrics for the right body shapes is recognized, “It would be ideal to select a fabric that looks good in a wide size range, but this not always possible. Some styles look best in certain sizes. Thus, the style may be offered in a limited size range.” (Burns, Mullet, Bryant 244) The restrictive sizing leads to models being thinner to fit into the clothes, thus putting a pressure on weight and leading to eating disorders. When young girls see these models on their Instagram and Facebook feeds, it causes them to question what their bodies should look like when they are out in public. Any modeling agency that has models dying of anorexia will not be viewed in a positive light in the public and therefore may lose clients and the reputation they have worked hard to build. To fix this issue, I recommend that organizations that work with eating disorders, like NEDA, partner with popular high-fashion brands and create two types of action plans: (1) create laws and rules to ensure the health of models in the industry and (2) create new ad campaigns with more size inclusive models in specifically high fashion brands. NEDA and ANAD have the most knowledge regarding the dangers of eating disorders, they can use their knowledge to ensure that models are not being criticized and mistreated to the point of starving themselves to fit into clothing. An article by Libby Rodenbough on the webpage In These Times, tells the gruesome story of one particular model’s lost battle with anorexia, “On Aug. 2, 2006, moments after stepping off the catwalk in Montevideo, Uruguay, 22-year-old fashion model Luisel Ramos collapsed and died from heart failure believed to be triggered by self-imposed starvation. Ramos’ father reported that she had been subsisting on a diet of lettuce and Diet Coke…” (Rodenbough, In These Times) This is only one story out of many from models that have died because eating disorders are so accepted in the industry. If organizations worked to create laws and regulations to ensure that models are eating a proper number of calories and exercising to maintain a slim figure, the number of high-fashion model deaths would decrease, and it would create promotion of healthy eating habits to maintain a fit body shape. As well as creating rules, the high fashion industry should include a wider range of body shapes on the runway. There is only one body type predominantly seen on the runway: skinny. To ensure in the minds of young girls that all body types are beautiful and acceptable in society, high fashion designers should consider accepting women and men of all shapes and sizes onto the runway. This will also show audiences that any clothing item can look good on any body shape and that fashion should be a form of expression, not just flaunting your body.
In conclusion, eating disorders are presenting themselves as a bigger problem with every passing day. Models and regular teenage girls are suffering with starvation, bulimia and heart failure because of the pressures of being skinny and how society will accept their body. The fashion industry is caring too much about the numbers of a female body rather than the overall beauty. According to eating disorders statistics estimated by the National Eating Disorder Association, “…in the USA up to 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder” (Mirror Mirror: Eating Disorder Help). Eating disorders are a mental illness plaguing girls around the world as well as models just trying to make it in the fashion industry.
I personally have experienced the struggles of eating disorders in myself as well as in my close friends. If I was a professional in the fashion business and was either creating my own runway lines or had my own modeling agency I would make sure to be size inclusive to all body shapes. As well, I would create campaigns to promote positive body image such as ads with models of all shapes that contain messages warning about the dangers and statistics of eating disorders. Fashion should be an artistic world for people all over the world to express themselves through their clothing, not a vice for unhealthy behaviors just to reach a certain weigh goal and attain the “model body” that is so desired in present day.
- Burns, Leslie Davis, et al. (2016) The Business of Fashion: Designing, Manufacturing and Marketing. Fairchild Books, an Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc.
- Farrar, T. (2014). Eating Disorders Statistics and Information. [online] Mirror-mirror.org. Available at: https://www.mirror-mirror.org/eating-disorders-statistics.htm [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018].
- Rodenbough, L. (2011). Killer Fashion: An Industry in Denial. [online] Inthesetimes.com. Available at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/7072/killer_fashion_an_industry_in_denial [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018].
- Blair, O. (2017). This is how the fashion industry destroyed one model’s health. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/victoire-dauxerre-model-anorexia-fashion-industry-speak-out-why-a7610036.html [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018]
- Abraham, S. (2008). Eating Disorders: The Facts Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK, pp. 255, ISBN 978-0-19-955101-9. European Eating Disorders Review, 17(5), pp.402-402.
- Bloomfeild-Deal, MA, PLPC, E. (2015). The Fashion Industry & Body Image; Transcending the Acquisition of Thinness. [online] Eating Disorder Hope. Available at:
- https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/the-fashion-industry-transcending-the-acquisition-of-thinness [Accessed 23 Oct. 2018]. PSY 663 Eating Disorder Assignment
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