In today’s society, there is a surmounting pressure to be thin, not only for models, but also for regular people all over the world. The reason for this type of thinking links back to ancient fashion history and has only further developed throughout time.
The first piece of fashion that helped promote the constant desire to be thin was the corset, which was invented in France during the mid 1500’s. For over 500 years, the corset would set the precedence for the female appearance and would be worn until the debut of the girdle in the 1920s which was a less restrictive method for women to maintain a slim figure under their clothing.
In the 1930s and 40s, Lisa Fonssagrives emerged as one of the first supermodels with her ultra thin figure, long legs, and sophisticated pointy facial features. As models came to rise throughout the 50s, the creation of Barbie in 1959 delivered an unrealistic body image to young girls. Today, there are three Barbies sold every second in the world. At impressionable ages, young girls everywhere are influenced about the way they are suppose to look from the very start, creating distorted self-images and low self-esteem for the ones who do not resemble their Barbie dolls.
As time has passed, the importance placed on being thin has become an ever-growing phenomenon that challenges psychological stability. A perfect example of how society has been conditioned to support unhealthy body images, especially in the modeling industry, is the infamous model Kate Moss, who was the “it” girl in the 90’s and continues to stand as one of the greatest models of all time.
Maintaining her size at a double zero, Moss has called herself “Rexy” in the past – arguably a combination of anorexic and sexy. She has insisted that she is naturally thin, but has admitted to a diet of green tea and lettuce. Health experts disagree this is natural and claim eating nothing but lettuce is unhealthy.
Nowadays, there is a growing consensus of people who have started to notice the negative effects of promoting such unattainably thin bodies as opposed to fit and toned bodies. However, the changes that have been made seem to promise a lot more than they actually give. It is true that there has been a rise of plus-size models in the fashion industry, but what type of change is this if the label “plus-size” is used to describe models that are depicting regular body images?
Recently, Vogue, one of the iconic high-fashion magazines, has set new model perimeters, stating they will not accept models who are under the age of 16 or appear anorexic. Vogue is trying to set standards for models who appear more realistic to the average woman and who have much healthier lifestyles. But how is the modeling industry implementing these new set of rules?
CEO and founder of KB Model Management, Karem Belalcazar, says that even though super tall and super thin will always be “in” the demand for plus-size models has increased. Although, when it comes to following these new model rules she says that it is not as much about following the rules as it is about following the trends which often go hand in hand. However, when it comes to running her own business, Belalcazar does not fail to mention that her Latin decent and culturally diverse clientele has always made her one to support healthier body images and curvier physiques.
From a model’s perspective, how the industry handles curvier models is much different. In an interview with model Sydney Bailey, it is obvious that the pressure to be thin is still an issue regardless of the new model rules. Bailey, who was recently chosen as the “Model of the Week” for Models.com, says that modeling is everything she pictured it would be, but the pressure to be thin is still one of the greatest concerns for models today. When asked how modeling agents can ease the pressures, Bailey responded, “The ugly truth is that I have witnessed bookers contributing to the pressure, instead of easing the pressure. I have seen many bookers and agents tell their models that they are fat and need to lose weight. I have even witnessed a booker tell a girl, whom I thought was very thin, to starve herself for a week. When we left the building of this particular agency that I am no longer represented by, I told this girl that there is nothing wrong with her weight as it is and that she should leave the agency.” When it comes to the demand of thin models, Bailey adds that in certain aspects the industry is somewhat changing, but the change is happening slowly.
Before blaming the agents and designers for demanding such thin models, let’s look at why this industry requires this type of appearance in the first place. The answer is quite simple. We, as a people, judge everything on how pretty it looks. The general public is much more willing to buy products that look beautiful rather than realistic. Bailey also suggested that the reason designers prefer thin models is to attract the buyer’s attention and convince them that if they wear whatever the model is wearing they, too, will look as beautiful. She added, “As terrible as this sounds, judging people on the way their face looks and on their measurements proves how important outer beauty is to everyone in this world.”
The fashion industry has always been blamed for setting the standards for women, yet in actuality the pressure to be thin and doll-like has been set by the public. It is common to unfairly judge people based on their physical appearance, and for some, being thin and beautiful is just as important as virtue and kindness. For the sake of future generations and the well being of our mental health, it is time to re-evaluate societal values as a whole and realize that public perception is to blame for unrealistic body images.