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The Verdict: U.S. Skinny Model Guidelines Deemed "Cop-Out"


On Tuesday, I mused about the guidelines the CFDA would soon be presenting to Designers at New York's Fashion Week, wondering if the US would issue similar edicts to those that have been issued by Spain, Italy (Italian National Chamber of Fashion recently issued a Code of Ethics), and Brazil. According to the New York Times, the answer would be a big nuh uh. publisher Ernest Schmatolla calls the guidelines a cop-out, scoffing that "the best this group could come up were some non-binding "guidelines" for designers that included providing more nutritious food backstage at fashion shows, scheduling fittings earlier in the day for young models, and encouraging them to get more sleep."

Even editor Marilyn Kirschner, who recently said, "Other than the ‘Man Upstairs’, who is really in a position to decide who is too thin, who is naturally thin, and who is literally starving themselves," appears to have had a change of heart, commenting on a recent spread in the January 2007 issue of Harper's Bazaar that, "I have always felt that to a certain degree, what constitutes as “too thin” can often be subjective, a matter of taste, and an aesthetic call. (I happen to be very thin so what I consider to be too thin may differ from someone else’s point of view). That said...I was immediately struck by images of a young model...she appeared to be shockingly emaciated. She was literally skin and bones, with rail thin arms and legs, and protruding collarbone... you may be unable to put your finger on something or know exactly what "IT" is until you see it -- these photos exemplified "IT".

It goes back to what I was ruminating on before - that comments from president Diane Von Furstenberg like, "It is important as a fashion industry to show our interest and see what we can do because we are in the business of image...But I feel like we should promote health as a part of beauty rather than setting rules," promotes a sense of aggrandized entitlement based in fear. There seems to be a perception that, despite a real epidemic of starvation, self-hatred, plaguing so many women, (hungry women are a top cause of subway delays), the fashion industry feels that by taking a strong position, they will lose control of their industry. Perhaps another underlying cause is a bit of anger and resentment that after working so hard to become sucessful (i.e. thin) all that body obsession might have been for naught?

And really, I would like to hear more from the models themselves. It bugs me that the industry and the media hasn't really bothered to ask them, and it bugs me more that they haven't spoken up for themselves. I'd also like to see the media stop choosing celebrity stylists, fashion designers, and directors of modeling agencies as experts, and instead include more commentary from body-image experts, fat activists, feminists, women and men from all walks of life. It would be so much more productive to use this media buzz as an opportunity to start a real discussion about a society eager to play the "is she or isn't she" anorexia game on TV and pay far more attention to a women's bones than her brains.

About the author: Crosby Noricks

Known as the "fashion publicist's most powerful accessory," (SD-UT) and the "West Coast 'It' girl of fashion PR," (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks is a brand strategist, author and founder of PR Couture. Crosby was included in the iMedia 25 Class of 2012 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, and enjoys helping fashion and lifestyle brands connect with their audiences in meaningful and creative ways.

One Comment

  • Posted January 15, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for bringing such an intellectual and analytical perspective to what’s going on in fashion. Good job and keep up the good work!

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Meet Crosby Noricks

Hi. I'm Crosby, Founder of PR Couture, Fashion Brand Strategist and PR Girl Mentor. I care about supporting and celebrating fashion publicists as well as helping companies connect with their audiences in more meaningful ways. Recently, iMedia included me in their annual list of 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, along with people from Starbucks, Twitter and Volkswagon, which I think is pretty neat. Like Elle Woods, I am a Gemini-vegetarian (that's about where the similarities end). Let's connect: Check out my full bio, Brand Elixir sessions for brands or shoot me a note at