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Monday
Jul302007

We may as well bind their feet

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Article by AnyBody member Susie Orbach in  The Observer , July 22, 2007

I'm in Milan talking to girls of 10 to 16, all from working- and lower-middle-class backgrounds. What they are saying chills me, despite having heard it plenty of times before. They are fretful about what goes in their mouths, and critical about their bodies.

There is not one even slightly podgy girl among them but they all feel fat and want to keep their weight low. They live in the fashion capital of Europe and do not seem to understand that growing requires weight gain; that you can't stay at your 10-year-old weight for ever.

They dream of being models. They don't know the reality of selection for the catwalk, or about the critical remarks about weight gain, or how many girls in the business have difficulty with food and drugs. Or if they know about it, they see it as a price to be paid for glamour.

The recent interim recommendations from the Model Health inquiry make some innovative proposals - a trade union (three cheers, Baroness Kingsmill), health checks, banning girls under 16 from London fashion week, raising awareness about eating disorders and developing support groups for models.

For these recommendations to have any bite the British Fashion Council needs to impress on its membership some economic realities of who wags the tail. British fashion needs to be less in thrall of the designer names and more cognisant of the street from which they develop their ideas. The wealth that is led by the high street. Top Shop, Mango, Zara, Primark, George at Asda, New Look etc sell 80 per cent of the clothes bought by fashion-conscious youngsters. And they aren't size zero. Far from it. Their major sales are in the mid range. At sale time that you see the tiny sizes left on the racks. Funny that.

The inquiry will publish its final report in time for next summer's London fashion week. Will it be brave enough to address the impact fashion has beyond the models too? Will it dare to say to designers that they should use their brilliance to design sexy clothes for girls and women in all sizes?

It sounds trivial but it's not. Ordinary girls in Milan, in London and elsewhere are having difficulty with their food and their bodies. It's just taken as part of being female today but it's a new version of bound feet. It's not the fashion industry's fault but they could do something to transform it.

Reader Comments (26)

My opinion is that the fashion industry finds it profitable to incite fear in young women. It also adds "exclusivity" to the clothing line as well, which also gives the fashion industry another reason to hike up the price the way they do.
August 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBoogie
I dont understand how anyone benefits. A dress may look great in an ad on a size 0, but if thats the only person its made for, no one else will by it.
August 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBlondie
It's not just in Europe, but in the US, as well. And worse than girls hating *themselves* for not having a "perfect" body, they use body image to inflict insults, one-ups and put-downs on other girls. A so-called fashionable store in NY has a new ad on television advertising 3 new silouhettes for jeans. For each and every one of them, the girl has to have the figure of a skinny boy to fit into them. Moreover, to *me*, the female models look bony and emaciated -- unattractive and unfeminine. Yet, I'm sure thousands of girls will starve themselves to fit into a pair of these horrible things. It disgusts me.
August 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterangel
I totally agree with everything you have written here... I love fashion and i love design, what i don't love is the unrealistic and often disgusting expectations that the fashion industry places on young girls.. directly or indirectly.
Thanks, from the aspiring designer trying to change the way the world works.
August 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWhisper
Being the female of today all over the world it is an inspiration particularly in our region of world Pakistan
August 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRubab
I agree with Blondie that most of the clothing is made for people who are a size 0 - anyone over that can forget it. It's sad, really.
September 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBoogie
If it weren't for fashion magazines, and so much emphasis wasn't placed on looks in our society, girls wouldn't have this problem!
December 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDianne
the fashion industry needs to take responsibility for the dangerous ideals they promote and start making some drastic changes; it is wrong to promote images of emaciated girls/women and make people think that they can get away with it too without being hospitalized.
December 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDianne
i dont understand y they have that girl on there i bet u its only 4 guys attention
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhander
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November 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermikecunzha
I enjoyed reading this. Many women / models working in the fashion industry live miserable and unhealthy lives, and this needs to stop.

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February 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeroinDorry
Yes.. I have to agree with the above post. Now a days young females are trying to get perfect body shape to dress up like a glamor model. But not everybody is perfect with this desired shape though they are trying to get it. Complication is also growing with in youngsters... I think fashion industry should look around and they can find many obligations. They can really help to resolve this matters.

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February 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucus Murphy

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