U.S. Designers Down On Super-Thin Models?

There's nothing average about the average fashion model. A lot more women wear a size 12 than a size 2.

Many models go to extremes to get and stay skinny. And many female consumers, particularly teens, do the same as they try to look like the women on the catwalks.

Now, reports The Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith, with the big New York Fashion Week coming up, designers in the United States are expected to suggest steps to discourage models who are too thin.

Smith points out that in an industry where trends change quickly, thin has been "in" for decades. But for many models, it's hardly the perfect fit.

Model Christine Alt told Smith, "I remember, one time, going about 10 days without eating."

Alt used to try to squeeze herself into smaller sizes.

"The industry," she says, "makes you be a certain way and fit into a certain mold that not all women can fit into. It's an unobtainable stereotype."

In September, attitudes began to shift. Organizers of Madrid's Fashion Week banned models who didn't have a body mass index — a measure of body fat based on height and weight — above 18, meaning Kate Moss wouldn't make the cut and Giselle probably wouldn't, either.

Nutritionists such as Health magazine contributor Samantha Heller applauded the move.

"To be as thin as many of these women and girls are," Heller told Smith, "they really have to restrict their calories a lot and it is not a natural or a healthy thing to do."

Some, though, thought the underweight ban was overblown.

Fashion show producer Kelly Cutrone says, "Clothes look better on younger, thinner, taller people. It's very simple."

In November, an 88-pound Brazilian model died of anorexia.

Milan, Italy, announced in December a ban of ultra-thin models in shows there. And speculation began to grow over whether American designers would follow suit when Fashion Week starts in New York next month.

Smith says it appears there won't be an outright ban, "but designers will be outfitted with some guidelines."

This week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America is expected to recommend that designers schedule photo shoots during daylight hours so models can get more sleep, provide healthier backstage catering, and identify models with eating disorders

Heller is shooting the ideas down even before they're formally approved, saying: "I think these are completely ridiculous. Models getting more sleep is a great idea, but if they're anorexic, they're not going to eat healthier food at the service table, anyway. And who is going to be the one identifying the people who having eating disorders? You need specialists and experts to do that."

Still, concludes Smith, in a business some say is starving for reform, many see the likely moves as a step forward, perhaps even a trend that will last.

Others contend we won't see the end of super-thin models until consumers demand it.
  • Brian Dakss

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