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

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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.

Lookonline.com 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 This Author

Known as the “fashion publicist’s most powerful accessory,” (San Diego Union-Tribune) and the “West Coast ‘It’ girl of fashion PR,” (YFS Magazine) Crosby Noricks put fashion public relations on the digital map when she launched PR Couture in 2006. She is the author of Ready to Launch: The PR Couture Guide to Breaking into Fashion PR, available on Amazon. Crosby spends her time managing PR Couture and mentoring fashion publicists through PRISM and Instappable, as well as the biannual NYC workshop, Fashion PR Confidential. Occasionally, she opens up limited consulting spots for emerging brands through her signature offering, The Brand Elixir.