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Monday, 17 April, 2000, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Should models have to be thin?
Are you filled with envy when you see a waif-like model sashaying down the catwalk, or do you accept that being thin is part and parcel of being a clothes horse?
The UK's minister for women, Tessa Jowell is so concerned about the obsession of teenage girls with being skinny that she is calling fashion bosses and health experts to a special summit on the matter.
In a society where eating disorders are on the rise, there are concerns that a media full of stick-like women makes young girls feel inadequate.
Do you think women are under constant pressure to conform to an impossible image of what is beautiful? Should the fashion industry use people of all shapes and sizes to model their clothes?
Why is it just women that are being looked at here? Do you know what its like driving along seeing another poster of a 'perfectly-toned, muscles-perfectly defined-probably got-less-brains-in-him-than-an-ironing-board' man grinning at you?
I keep myself reasonably healthy and I work hard every day and keep myself reasonably toned, but I don't have the time or energy to work out enough to get one of these perfectly laid-out bodies and its soul-destroying and confidence-bursting to see these pictures.
Anthi Benge, USA
Many of these skinny girls are not naturally thin, but are virtually starving themselves to keep the weight down. The girls reading the magazines try to look like them, and end up trying the same tricks, and potentially get into the same problems with eating.
Go to any club, the guys don't go for the skinny girls, they go for the girls with the hour glass figure. Look at the beautiful women that you see every day, and I'd say less than 5% have that stick insect shape the young models have.
de Min, Netherlands (now UK)
Of course fashion and the media in general should portray a representative picture regarding the female image and shape. My seven-year-old daughter asks me every morning before going to school if her hair is nice and if she looks good. It makes me sad - and angry. Women should be encouraged to look healthy, be fit and to be confident, no matter what size or shape they are.
Why do we care about what the fashion industry thinks. There are more important things in life than looks.
What's with the large floral prints and wide borders at the hemline of blouses - do the fashion designers really think my hips are my best asset? I think if there was a better variety of clothing in larger sizes more young girls would be comfortable with their appearance - because face it, no teenager wants to look like her grandmother going to a Bingo game in a hideously outdated outfit.
Let the models be anything that their purveyors want them to be. Ordinary people should be less gullible than to believe that that is the only way to be.
I say images, because this resonates the illusionary ideals that the world we live in tells us is acceptable. Intelligent women are starting to stand up and say "NO" to the beauty myth. I hope that in the future when my daughter reaches her wonder years, that modelling will not be held in such high esteem and surrounded by the sycophantic 80s and 90s hysteria that colluded in the death of so many young women's minds, bodies and self worth.
Isn't it interesting that the people who seem to take offence at what Tessa Jowell is saying seem to be men on the whole?
If people stopped being so rude and stopped commenting on how others looked I'm sure a lot of weight and confidence problems would also stop. I know that when I hear a comment on the street about my looks or size I feel very embarrassed and ashamed though I know I shouldn't be. These comment generally come from guys - so are we really blaming the right people (they may only be a small proportion of the males - but I don't hear those sort of remarks coming from models or other females!)
In a land of hot spicy curries and kebabs, it's a crime to see some women entertainers and models look like dry, bland, mozzarella sticks!
Medha Soni, Ukraine
J Tetley, UK
Designers do not sell clothes only to skeleton looking people. These skinny models look like they are dead-alive and it is not attractive. Clothes look good on others just like they do on skinny models. Sometimes, clothes look even better on thicker women than skinny ones. As a male, I prefer a moderate and healthy looking lady. Nonetheless, the UK government will not change anything about the designers and the public opinion and therefore they need not to waste their time.
I prefer a women who looks healthy, not one who I worry about cutting myself on her protruding bones. Bring back the hour-glass, a la Kim Basinger and Helen Mirren!
Mike Holmes, Scotland
In the Information Age the Fashion industry is still looking for a Skin and Bone model. They should go out and walk around and see that the average person are not like that and maybe then they could start to re-think this concept.
When are people going to realise that a happy woman is far sexier than any shape or size. Women are 'queer cattle' (so John Buchan wrote) therefore, shouldn't we judge them with a more abstract yardstick than a tape measure!
A few people in the fashion industry earn big money dressing up skeletons in ridiculous clothes. The media earns big money selling images of the skeletons. The public pays big money to look at the skeletons, says how ridiculous they look and then tries to emulate them.
When is this Government going to learn to stop interfering with the business community. Does this Tessa lady really believe she has a right to say who models clothes? Isn't this really Government interference the a person or company's freedom of rights/speech etc
I get fed up with this idea of "normal" shape. I'm sure all the skinny people out there must be most offended by being told they're "abnormal". It's just personal preference and the way people are made, and designers should take more notice of this.
I nearly choked when I saw the phrase "Minister for Women" ... what about a "Minister for White Males"? Offensive, eh? How do you think I feel, then? As for the issue itself, this is a social and cultural phenomenon that will change and evolve ... as ever. The alternative extreme is obesity, fraught with its own dangers; life is full of these problems!
I don't buy fashion magazines because they make me feel fat. But I still can't avoid the images - every ad, billboard and TV show is full of thin women. At just over 5ft tall, I exercise regularly and eat a reasonably healthy diet but still remain a size 10-12.
Phil White, England
I think models ought to be of all shapes and sizes. I don't believe that thin models are the sole cause of eating disorders, however it could be a contributory factor. When I look in a magazine, I don't see images that I can relate to. Most women above the age of 25 don't look like child/women with no bust or hips. To answer the question, should models be thin - they should be woman-shaped.
Why are models constantly being told that is "wrong" to be slim and attractive? Reading through the opinions that have been submitted, the over-riding view seems to be that is quite acceptable to "let yourself go" and care nothing of your appearance, yet it is wrong to consider vanity to be important.
She regularly complains about how fat she looks even though she is only 60kg, absolutely gorgeous and constantly has every guy around trying to pry her away from me. Despite the attention she gets she remains convinced that she is fat and ugly and if anyone says that the pressure applied to models to keep them abnormally thin is healthy I would strongly contest.
Myself and her family have to fight her thoughts about herself and continually reassure her that she is an extremely attractive woman and definitely not fat just because she puts on half a kilo. Thankfully her condition does not seem to be reappearing but that takes effort. I just wish to thank all those fashion promoters for nearly ruining her life and those, I am sure, of many other women and their families.
Good grief. Surely everyone realises now that skeletal models on the catwalks promote a "look" which, if emulated, results in the Posh Spice head-on-a-stick mentality. I have one piece of advice for my female friends (most of whom are thankfully sane enough to resist the temptation to starve themselves): EAT! Bones are not meant to be seen, they are supposed to support the rest of you!
Mahender Singh, Switzerland
Everyone here is going on about how thin models make themselves sick. Well, supply and demand: The designers wouldn't use thin women if that wasn't what the public were buying. You consume fashion, therefore you support the system. Basic Economics! Save the rhetoric for politics! In any case the greatest models (Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson et al) have hips and busts and look quite healthy to me, sexy, in fact.
As a Brazilian, I prefer voluptuous models like Giselle BŁndchen than Jodie Kidd and other skeletons that are currently walking down the catwalk.
Every culture is a beauty culture -
though the definitions of beauty vary.
The fact is that many thin models
look like ill. Yes, western
culture prizes skinny appearances.
disorders -particularly bulimia are
wrong because they mean a terrible
waste of food that could go to
starving people on the other side of
Richard T. Ketchum, USA
Fashion models rule! If somebody
wants to be fat, that's fine with me!
But that doesn't mean I'll have to
say she is beautiful! For every
story of bulimia and anorexia there
are many more suffering from different
illness resulting from being overweight and
As a counter argument about weight, for every waifish woman in society, there are a dozen overweight women, which is worse in regards to health? Body Image? Instead of complaining about the waif, perhaps focus on the main problem, and that is the growing girth of both genders in Western Society!
Women don't need to be thin to be pretty Sophie Dahl and Dawn French are both very beautiful and there not stick thin!
Salman Khan, India
I'm a young male and am quietly bemused at women's obsession about 'how they look'. Women are beautiful whether they are fat, thin, tall, short whatever. Personally I prefer women who don't wear makeup, they seem more genuine people.
I have always been underweight, skinny
and thin although my diet has always been
full of fat and sugar.
I have desperately tried to
put on weight with no result, visited
many doctors and got the same response:
I have high metabolism that burns
my body-fat very quickly. Even after
my pregnancy I couldn't keep some
Despite all these I am fed up
of people always asking me what I do
to keep myself thin and some
think that I am anorexic...aaaggghhh!
Thin people only show thin clothes off well - can the designers not design for anything else? - I also find thin models unattractive - some are positively child like - not like women at all.
Joe E, UK
As a man, I am always attracted to
women who are somewhat plump, because
that gives a healthy look. Moderation
is what we need. Good health is
what matters ultimately.
Eating disorders are a combination of an individuals problems and fears, they are nothing to do with models. Society would rather blame fashion than itself.
Speaking as a bloke (which I am) I prefer a more traditional hourglass figure to a stick insect. I'm sure most men do. But then again if I was a woman (which I'm not) and was paid silly money to keep thin then I would.
It's a personal point of view and I happen to think slim (not skinny) girls look more attractive than fat ones. It seems to me that the number of overweight (often grossly overweight) people is a far greater problem than those with "eating disorders". Just a thought: when people had just enough (or barely enough) money to eat, I don't remember hearing of so many eating disorders.
All this goes to say is practise "moderation" in every aspect of your life.
The focus should be on a healthy diet and a regular exercise to tone
down your excess body fat.
We have to distinguish a thin person, an overweight person and a healthy
person. And everyone has to ask which one is her/his pick and work
No RULE OF LAW can change a person's choice!
Sarah Clark, England
It is so sick to see models so slim. I think the dress designers have to change their designs to make it good for ordinary girls. It is time to change this attitude. Because it is affecting their health. I saw many of my friends even avoiding lunch so they could become slimmer.
Anyone who is comfortable with her appearance should model. Looks are all about confidence and nothing else.
The emphasis on being skinny is against the nature itself. A girl shouldn't be allowed to become anorexic. By portraying skinny models as the nature's sample of beautiful women by the fashion houses is totally against nature's own pattern.
I believe you should be healthy looking.
Slim not thin. I think that carrying extra weight is not good for your heart and doesn't look too good in the fashion place either.
I feel physically sick when I see pictures of "waif-like" models. Having had to come to terms with a member of my family suffering with anorexia nervosa, it makes me angry to see such thinness promoted as fashionable.
I was under the impression that many eating disorders were caused by lack of self-confidence amongst other things and that many of the girls that suffer from these disorders weren't overweight to begin with. So perhaps the emphasis should be placed on finding the real cure for the problem?
Give me a woman with decent hips, a full (not fat, but that isn't the discussion!) bum and an hourglass figure! Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate body beautiful, was certainly no 'waif' and she could have had any man she wanted in her day!
Girls have to remember that being so thin is not attractive to most people.
The driving force behind the having models so thin is to basically have a walking coat-hanger, that looks like the vision of a woman through a gay fashion designers eyes.
That is, as unfeminine as possible.
Referring to the comments from Janet (UK), who says the models are "anorexic, asexual, brainless, coat hangers"? Firstly, the clothes do look better on tall, thin models than they do on the average woman. Secondly, most women would never wear the clothes we see on the catwalks as half of them look ridiculous - OK for fashion shows but that's about it! I don't think the fashion industry makes people anorexic and shouldn't be blamed for the rising numbers of sufferers.
If, during it's development, the human race had decided that having one arm cut off and attached to the top of you head was attractive, there'd be queues of models outside hospitals waiting for the operation. As it is, there's just no queues of models at Tescos waiting to buy food.
Women with a bit of meat on them will keep you warm and are something to snuggle up to. However I would certainly not advocate the use of obese women as models either as this is as bad as encouraging waifs.
Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland
I was amazed to read the comments from Tony Moss. He says the only reason we have thin models is to show clothes at their best. So what about the constant pressure on models to remain waif like so that they continue to be employed, and the influence they have on many young and influential girls who see these models as glamorous and would wish to be just like them.
Those women who carp on about this would be better placed either settling for how they are and getting on with their life, or using the time they waste whining on about other people being too thin to lose some weight themselves.
PS Scotland, Scotland
Impossible role models are set for today's young women. They feel they have to be slim to be beautiful and are ugly and ignorant if they are heavier than a size 10. Much more education should be given towards healthy eating and more emphasis should be placed, at a very early age, on a beautiful mind.
I think it unlikely that derogatory terms for overweight people would be tolerated on these pages, so why should it be for thin people? Being thin doesn't solve all your problems.
I wonder if people really want to look like the models they see in magazines. Certainly in the case of men's magazines, the fashion pages are filled with miserable, depressed-looking people against grim, forbidding backgrounds. They're not really something to aspire to.
With being a fuller figure girl myself I think that fuller figure girls should be models too. Big is Beautiful and big girls are glamorous too.
Actually obesity is a far commoner, faster growing problem than eating disorders.
It's not only women that face these eating disorders, it's men as well. At the end of the day, fashion needs to advertise fuller figures, of which Sophie Dahl is prime example.
Never mind the effect on young people, which is bad enough. How about getting designers to prove that 'normal' people can look good in their clothes too!
Mikko Toivonen Finland
All these bench marks are created by the fashion
industry. People should understand that being skinny
doesn't mean that you are beautiful. I think the media
has a very important role to play. It should discourage
people from blindly doing whatever they can to
Eating disorders are not CAUSED by pictures of skinny waifs - I should know, I have still got mine! However, all the emphasis on "thin is beautiful" makes it harder to escape the feeling that you don't measure up unless you are less than seven stone. I will NEVER be that weight, I'm happy about that and I can live with it.... It just depresses me that all women, and myself included, are judged against very young, sometimes ill, drug addicted skeletal women who are held up as perfect examples of femininity! Why?
Apparently I am one of the majority in the UK i.e. I am a size 14. Bearing this in mind I should have an endless choice of clothing from the High Street. Unfortunately, it couldn't be further from the truth. Many stores only stock up to a size 14 so given the demand I find it increasingly difficult to find anything that fits. Although I am not overweight for my height and build I can't help but feel ignored by fashion.
There is pressure on women of all ages to look slim. But I think a woman looks far sexier with curves, than a woman that is too thin.
Danny Kirk, England
I think a lot of teen girls should be reminded that the thin sickly looking models are not what all members of either sex like. I think there is a big difference between looking in good shape and looking almost ill like a supermodel. They would look a bit nicer if they put on a pound or two and developed some curvature instead of permanently looking like undernourished 10 year olds.
From my experience I would say that women do feel under a LOT of pressure to conform to a certain shape. How many times have I heard 'God I feel so fat' from a friend whose figure I thought was fantastic and slim? Women equate what is publicised as beautiful with what they themselves and partners should want. So, do I think that models should be thin waifs? Well, yes if you want semi-human unbelievable's parading the collections. With fashion show footage I spend more time staring at the straight-up straight-down mechanical bodies than the clothes. Should we aspire to this "impossible image"? Unfortunately, these stick people prove that the image IS possible, if only for the few and at great personal cost in some cases.
Women or men cannot escape the media. The media I think does portray that if women are slim then they can live in a fantasy world - they'll get guys, they'll get the riches and the world will bow to them; they'll be famous. Can you blame them? I am under constant pressure to be slimmer and I used to not eat but now I have seen sense; pretty soon a race of intelligent, sensible women will be gone if this continues...
Can anyone explain to me what these anorexic, asexual, brainless, coat hangers who strut up and down the catwalk have in common with us women?
Models shouldn't have to be thin, this puts pressure on young girls to conform to this image of beauty. But face facts, if the larger models were found as attractive by the general public, fashion houses and the people who ultimately by the clothes, then why isn't their usage more widespread? Than the occasional staged "hey big girls can look great too" shots.
I am 25 and the vast majority of my female friends have eating disorders, I am sick to death of hearing "Do I look fat in this", "I can't eat this and that", "no chips/chocolate etc" for me thanks. AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH it drives me mad! Let's have some normal sized models strutting their stuff for a change.
Beverly Brewer, UK
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes - it's not what you've got, it's what you do with it. So stop worrying, dress to kill, and sashay away!
If you are advertising food, you would not set the photograph of the food in a filthy kitchen, so when you advertise clothing you put the clothes onto a model that looks the best. There is no conspiracy theory at all, just an opinion prevalent at the moment that thin women are more beautiful than fat women. This will change with time, as it has always changed before.
Instead of blaming thin models for other women's lack of confidence, why not focus on the self-confidence issue itself. There needs to be more done to treat the symptoms at the moment, than to apportion blame.
Tony Moss, UK
Personally I don't find skinniness attractive. A healthy woman looks attractive - both mentally and physically, in body-language and body form. That includes appropriate curves.
Thank God most of the clothes we see on the catwalks never make it to the High Street - I wish the same could be said of the industry's attitudes towards female beauty.
Also - to any women who say buying clothes is difficult because they are not waif-sized, I take the most average size in male clothing, and as a result have extraordinary difficulty in finding the right clothes myself, precisely because certain manufacturers don't supply enough in average men's sizes. It's a funny old world....
Everyone knows that women have different shapes and these other shapes also are extremely beautiful, not just the skinny girls. It makes our girls all over the world diet unwillingly just to satisfy the fashion industry.
David O 'Leary, UK
It's interesting to note that nowadays models are on average 23% lighter than the "normal" woman. A quarter of a century or so ago, the differential between the weight of models and average women was only 8%. Have models become thinner, do women on average weigh more, or is there a combination of these two factors? In any event, whatever the reason, the image of women portrayed by models in the media is much further away from reality than it was in the 1970s - and surely that can't be good.
Graham Bell, Brazil
It doesn't really bother me that super models are waif like, as they are essentially clothes horses (skinny bits of wood supporting clothes). The problem comes when these are presented as ideals for women and girls to aspire to.
To say that size 16+ models would not make clothes look as attractive as size 6 is ridiculous. You just have to look at people like Dawn French whose designs look just as attractive and sexy and are made specifically for larger sized women.
The fashion industry should use people of all sizes to model their clothes. It must be very difficult for fat people to find beautiful clothes to wear, as nobody seems to think about them when designing collections.
My wife suffered anorexia as a young woman and has now recovered. This was undoubtedly due to the pressure on teenage women to be like the stick insects we see in women fashion magazines rather than the "normal" sized women we all see in the street.
The fact that the clothes will look nothing like as nice on an average female body is a sad one but unavoidable. If "average build" models were used, the clothes would look more realistic and less attractive.
Many of the catwalk shows are for high-fashion women who can afford personal trainers, dieticians etc who can help them mould their body to match the models' shape. If this is the target audience, what is the point in using 16+ models for the sake of political correctness? The fashion-conscious won't be attracted.
Yes, on one hand I do feel jealous of skinny people but on the other I don't. Yes I'd like to be slimmer than I am presently but I wouldn't want to be like the girls that walk around today who look ill, fragile and ridiculous in today's fashions because they're too skinny.
In Texas we like our women to jiggle.
Simon Bayliss, England
I think magazines should be able to print what they like. It isn't the role of the government to interfere. However, I think that maybe some pressure could be put on TV companies to recruit attractive presenters and actresses of all shapes and sizes.
Whilst it is undeniably true that the fashion industry has put great pressure on women to be often abnormally thin, I have found that society in general has greeted this notion with open arms.
I suspect that many people may even see the opening sentence and laugh saying that there is no pressure and that they should stop moaning.
Well there is pressure, my wife is a size six and she finds it as hard (if not harder) to find nice clothes as those of a larger size do. Alongside that commercial pressure there's pressure from some corners of the media who label women of such sizes "stick insects" or suggest that they are ill. Imagine the outrage if a columnist labelled all women who were more than a size 12 "fat slugs" or some other derogatory comment. I've read countless articles attacking small women labelling them "bags of bones", "mentally weak" or just as plain "ugly" and "un-feminine".
I think that future models must give attention to natural beauty, it means that they have to follow their own way of living, eating, breathing, etc.
Mother Nature created all beautiful creatures, beauty is not how you look but how you feel because "beauty comes from inside your spirit".
I want to see healthy women on the catwalk - women who can give me a real idea how I would look in the clothes they are wearing, and not women who look under nourished and possibly on drugs.
In magazines, it's even more important for young girls to aspire to women of a more natural size, and not people who are stick-thin like Posh Spice. All I'm saying is give kids a break. Haven't they enough to worry about, without throwing anorexia into the mix?
Charlotte Fox, UK
The fashion industry should use models of all sizes. Not only for the teen's self image, but because what is the point of showing off clothes destined for the "average" woman [5'5" & Size 14-16] on tall, skinny women?
I have a number of female friends who regard size 8 -10 as an ideal and most of them seem surprised to hear that a lot of men (myself included) simply don't find a stick figure attractive at all. These girls are striving to achieve an ideal that will often make them less attractive, not more so!
John B, UK
Fashion models have always been very slim, look at Twiggy, but there no does seem to be more influence to be thin and this is now causing medical problems. Being a size 14 myself I have no desire to be thin, but I do wish clothing manufacturers would stop altering shapes and sizes to force us into slimming. No two women are the same, therefore as such we such not be dictated to. We should lead the way.
There is an over-emphasis on models to be thin and a gaunt looking Posh Spice is no help to teenage girls.
10 Apr 00 | UK Politics
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24 Aug 99 | Health
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08 Jul 98 | Latest News
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