Striking a Blow for Ethics and Women’s Heath
Brava, Anna Wintour! The most powerful woman in the fashion industry, the editor of Vogue, has struck a blow for women’s physical and mental health, which will likely save the lives of millions of young girls and women. Beginning with the June issue, all Vogue editions will feature healthier-looking models; gone will be the underaged and emaciated waifs that have been setting the pace for the female body image. This unrealistic body type has seduced untold numbers of teenage – and even pre-teen – girls to develop eating disorders that has cost some of them their lives and robbed the rest of their health and mental focus.
With Ms. Wintour and Vogue leading the way, it is hoped that designers and modeling agencies will follow suit. According to the Forbes article, designer Marc Jacobs very publicly flouted this new approach, calling into question the ethics of exploiting minors; I’m confident, however, that Anna Wintour’s clout will turn the tide. And, Vogue’s policy doesn’t stop there; a mentoring program will be put in place as well as encouragement for designers to provide a healthy environment for models, which would include nourishing food options, reasonable work hours and larger sample sizes for normal-sized models.
A study by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health reports that some seven million American females suffer from an eating disorder, and that approximately six percent die of the disease and others suffer from irreversible emotional and physical health consequences. It is also estimated that as high as 10 percent of college women suffer from a “clinical or nearly clinical” eating disorder.
Models, too, are suffering. The wake-up call apparently came in 2006 when 21-year-old Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died from complications of anorexia; she weighed just 88 lbs. when she died. Subsequently, Ms. Wintour became involved in the development of the 2007 guidelines of the Council of Fashion Designers, which echo Vogue’s new policies.
This problem, however, is decades old. The fashion industry has historically promoted the ultra-thin model, one of the most famous being Twiggy in the 1960s; she graced the cover of Vogue and other fashion magazines. The 1970s brought the Women’s Movement, which freed women to wear free-flowing dresses and pantsuits, styles that lasted into the 1980s. But, the underfed waifish look returned in the 1990s with a vengeance, led by Kate Moss. This unrealistic look and very unhealthy condition has adversely affected the lives of millions of teenagers by convincing them that this is the standard by which normal people should look. It is a travesty.
Ironically, in the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, which was based on the novel of the same name, the character of Amanda Priestly, allegedly inspired by Anna Wintour, tells her new assistant, who is tall and slim, that that she must be the “fat girl,” alluding to the fact that every woman who works for Ms. Priestly’s fashion magazine is fashionably thin, meaning size “0.”
Whatever damage the fashion industry has inflicted on women, especially, by inducing them to force their feet into shoes that ruin them, clothing that they don’t need and handbags and accessories that break the budget, it looks as though a new day may be dawning. By encouraging the use of older, normal-sized models, there is hope that the highly influential fashion industry will encourage teenagers and young adults to focus on health and fitness rather than trying to achieve a skeletal frame. And, perhaps this initiative will result in a more reasonable approach to fashion in general.
On the flip side, society is also coping with an epidemic of obesity. Neither extreme makes sense, from health, lifestyle or career perspectives. For people of all ages, striving to maintain a healthy weight based on your height, frame and age will not only make you feel and look your best, but will also save you a ton of money on all those products that prey upon people’s insecurities about their body image. If you need assistance improving your health and achieving your proper weight do so, but avoid the gimmicks and include your doctor in the plan. And, if you want to do your part to help Ann Wintour’s historic decision make a positive difference in your life as well as the lives of millions of other young people, support designers who support this enlightened and ethical movement.
Until next time,