Some things have happened recently in Europe that I believe bear some scrutiny:
First, earlier in the year a 22 year-old model from South America named Luisel Ramos dropped dead of a heart attack immediately after stepping off of the runway. As a reaction to this, the government in Madrid, Spain imposed regulations during their summer fashion week.
The Spanish powers-that-be restricted models from the runway with a BMI (body mass index) score lower than 18. In other words, a 5′ 7″ model could not weigh less than 115 pounds. This turned away 30 percent of the models from the event. According to reports directors and designers were outraged and claimed that this discriminated against “gazelle-like” models. I am sure this is true, there are certainly some long and lean models who fall underneath that level naturally, but there are probably not as many out there as we are led to believe.
Second, a lovely Brazilian girl named Ana Carolina Reston, who modeled in China, Turkey, Mexico and Japan, died Nov. 14 at a hospital in Sao Paulo. The 5′ 8″ model weighed 88 pounds at the time of her death. Her friends and family were reported as stating that she was ambitious and got more work when she was underweight, and that over time the dieting escalated into anorexia.
Hmm…maybe there is a problem, girlfriend…At least that’s what Italy decided. My mother sent me a link to this piece in MSN news yesterday:
Italy was once famed for the sultry, full-bodied beauties it contributed to the international scene. A month after the death of an anorexic Brazilian model, the Italian government teamed up with the fashion industry Friday to promote a “healthy, sunny, generous, Mediterranean model of beauty.”
The self-regulatory code of conduct aims to fight anorexia among women and the vogue for stick-thin models. It requires models to show medical proof they do not suffer from eating disorders, bans models younger than 16 and calls for a commitment to add larger sizes to fashion collections.
“There’s a line between a thin girl and a sick one that is often crossed. Italy, with this manifesto, is committed to recognize this boundary and not cross it,” Youth Policy and Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri told reporters.
The code was signed by Melandri and Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, which includes fashion houses like Versace, Prada and Missoni. It is aimed at designers, model agencies, makeup artists and others who work in fashion.
Boselli said he hoped the code could be adopted internationally.
Stefano Dominella, president of a lobby for Rome haute couture who also signed on to the code, said designers who do not comply will be subjected to sanctions, such as being assigned to less favorable times or days for their shows.
Well, crack open the Dom, baby!
As most of you know I work in fashion, albeit on the wacky fringe. I will tell you from personal experience that most of the fashion faggots I know and love will skin your dog, wrap its still warm and bloody pelt around foetus bones, dip it in non bio-degradable styrofoam and toss the mess down the runway like a bowling ball if it’s in fashion this season. Not all, mind you, there are some wonderful exceptions (Project Runway’s Tim Gunn for one), but most. The thread of ignorance and selfishness that runs through the fashion industry is chilling.
I made up my mind a few years ago not to read fashion magazines because they made me feel shitty about myself. I don’t look like the girls in the photos and I can’t afford their lifestyles, or at least the lifestyles they’re paid to project. Recently I’ve been able to lift the ban because I need to pay attention to trends to do my job properly, plus I’m simply in better place than I used to be. I try to approach each photo as something pretty to look at rather than a mirror of my flaws or a list of items I want but can’t afford. I love fashion, I love clothing, I love shoes, and I want to be able to enjoy their beauty without turning it into yet another way to feel badly about myself. So each time I open the pages I feel like it’s a conscious exercise to step out of the collective beauty consciousness. The beauty/fashion industry is COMMERCIAL HYPNOSIS and we all would do well to stop staring at the swinging pendulum.
Years ago women like Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren were the standard of beauty and they had the scaffolding underwear and dresses to back their bodacious shit up. I worship those women and watch their movies over and over again. They were/are so beautiful and had/have a body type that does not entail outlandish genetics or starvation to achieve. Have you seen Liz in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? She’s big! I can do that! My friends can do that! But I am not always evolved enough to apply that information to my own thoughts about my body as I stand in front of the mirror of a dressing room in 2006. I spend all kinds of time with beautiful, transcendent, and yes, skinny friends, pinching pieces of our bodies and discussing how fat must be eliminated. We are actually in decent shape and we aren’t stupid. We know Liz was hot. We know in our brains that heterosexual men like curves. But we are not immune to the constant funnel of information that enters our system on a day-to-day basis and no matter what your thinking brain understands, the collective brain, the emotions and the gut will always override.
Simply put, even smart girls buy into the bullshit. And what we’re buying pays those models to get as skinny as they can by whatever means necessary.
So fuck it, if someone in Italy or Spain wants to pass a law that says you have to weigh at least 115 pounds to model, I have absolutely no problem with that. I don’t give a shit if it seems like too much legislation to some, or if it excludes naturally “gazelle-like” women from certain runways. It may not be a perfect solution but at least it’s an attempt at some kind of solution. We are all beautiful, and we are all suffering in different ways, men and women. We must crawl out from underneath the tyranny of outdated rules that weigh our spirits down. And if that means having some government official holding a pair of calipers at the backstage door of a fashion show, I have absolutely no problem with that.
P.S. Merry Christmas, you fat motherfuckers and curvy love goddesses. =)