Do Clothing Designers Prefer Skinny Models?

by Sarah Clark
Fashion School Review Columnist

October 6, 2006

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"You can never be too rich or too thin," goes the well-known expression. It seems the clothing design industry has taken these words literally. At New York's fashion week this year, runway models appeared thinner than ever, according to some industry insiders.

One of those who seemed to notice a downward trend in models' waist size was New York Times fashion writer Eric Wilson. In describing this year's corps of runway models, he wrote that they "appeared so gaunt and thin that their knees and elbows were larger than their concave thighs and pipe cleaner arms..."

Wilson also quoted those with prominent careers in fashion who also express similar concern over the dangerously thin physiques of many models.

But are skinny models anything new in the fashion industry? Anyone can remember how scandalous Kate Moss's entrance on the fashion scene was. Her junkie-thin appearance in Calvin Klein ads had many women's advocates in a tizzy.

The issue has some clothing design and fashion industry representatives worried enough that recent runway shows in Madrid instituted minimum weight requirements for models. There, fashion is sponsored partly by the government, which enacted the new measures.

What Does it Mean for Your Career in Fashion?
If you're attending fashion school with an eye toward a career in fashion, then model weight is an issue you're likely to be confronted with. On the one hand, how does one distinguish between models who are just naturally very thin and those that are starving themselves? Another question, particularly relevant in the United States, where individual choice (in many cases, at least) is prized, is whether the state or some other governing body should get involved in such a personal issue.

Are Clothing Designers to Blame?
Some say that clothing designers prefer very thin models. That may be true, but it leads to another important question, which is how we as a culture define beauty. Why is super thin considered, at least by the fashion industry, as generally more desirable than an athletic or curvy shape?

These are issues you may encounter during fashion school and your career in fashion. Attend fashion school to prepare for a career that is not only sexually charged, but politically volatile.


About the Author
Sarah Clark is a freelance writer specializing in career development and postsecondary education.

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