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Urban Outfitters Likes Its Girls Thin and Hungry

We can no longer ignore that we're a nation of fatties in the U.S., and if we tried, there's always shrieking personal trainer Jillian Michaels to light a fire under (and beat the stuffing, literally, out of) some poor slob on prime time TV. (Aren't you so glad that's not you? Better hit the gym!)

At the same time, the fashion and retail industry seems determined to give us the the most unnatural images possible -- as a way to sell clothes to women. The latest in the oh-no-they-didn't series is a new item for sale on the Urban Outfitters website. It's a wafer-thin V-neck cotton t-shirt with the words, "Eat Less," written in delicate white cursive.

Plenty of us do need to eat less (a full 68% of us are overweight, says the National Center for Health Statistics). Problem is, this chain caters mainly to teen-age girls whose body images take quite enough battering during those formative years. The last thing they need is an overpriced hipster store telling them to skip lunch.

It doesn't help that the pale, twiggy little model in this catalogue photo looks like she could really use a burger. And get a load of the product description: "Eat less or more or however much you'd like in this seriously soft knit tee." But the shirt doesn't say "Eat More," now does it?

Did Urban Outfitters do this for (free) attention? You know, the kind a paltry media budget couldn't touch? Could it possibly be worth it? And could the company possibly not understand that they're promoting anorexia?

This latest development comes on the heels of an Ann Taylor online campaign for its summer line that features a photoshop-of-horrors, where models look like they could play for the WNBA (except that they weigh about 90 pounds).

Even more egregious, Ralph Lauren launched a print ad last fall where the model looked exactly like a bobble-head doll. (Head bigger than the body, probably about twice the size of the hips). Firestorm ensued.

There's been plenty of chatter lately about unnaturally skinny supermodels, with marketers and fashion publishers talking a good game about using "real women" with curves in advertising and editorial. But for every tiny step forward, there seems to be a giant one back. Urban Outfitters, wittingly or not, has just landed itself smack in the middle of this controversy, but with the added gut-punch of targeting impressionable young girls. I'd say I hope to see "Eat Less" hanging on the clearance rack, but I'd rather not see it at all.

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