Media Diet

Eating Disorders in Fashion

A model is only as good as her body—that is what some modeling agencies would have them believe. A model is only as good as her posture or pose, form or frame. Above all, a model exists to be seen and not heard—to be observed by the eyes of watching public.

A model, then, must look her absolute best—one hundred percent of the time—as she takes to the runway or poses in front of the camera. But who else sets these standards?

And who decrees what a model's frame should be? What is the result of these exceptional standards and, often, unrealistic expectations?

Reports of models being told to eat cotton balls dipped in orange juice just about scratch the surface of a world in which a model is a mere body within a truly powerful industry—in which image is king. No, there is far more to it than that. Models are being asked to lose weight, and lose weight quickly. They are asked to chew gum on an empty stomach, anything to get that size zero frame.

31.2% of models have had an eating disorder or anorexia, a crippling emotional and mental illness in which the perception of the physical body is often greater than the reality—in which the sufferer limits their intake of food in order to remain perceivably underweight.

Legislation for models' Body Mass Index exists in Spain, Israel, Italy and France, which means that, in these countries, models are protected from entering the industry if they are perceived to be dangerously underweight. But, even though a campaign was launched in London fashion week 2016, to ask that models who had a BMI lower than 18.5 see a medical professional, not every country follows these rules.

In Sweden there have even been reports of modeling scouts lurking around an eating disorder clinic, trying to recruit critically thin, young women. One was just fourteen, and one young woman was so skinny that she was in a wheel chair whilst she was approached.

What are the implications of being a model with anorexia? Cracked ribs and poor physical health after a strenuous exercise regimen are just some of the outcomes of having such thin bodies. This is exactly what happened to model Hartje Andresen, whose weight was so low that her bone density altered. She was a mere 100 pounds at this stage of her modeling career and, although she was successful at this stage, it was clear that her health was failing her.

It literally is back-breaking work, a top-down hierarchy in which those at the top have set the standards for generations to come. It is all for that perfect shot—all so the clothes hang just right.

But it is the long term effects of anorexia that can be truly devastating. For young, vulnerable girls looking for success, manipulation, control and power are often just part of the job. One fifth of these young girls, who are diagnosed with anorexia, will die early, and approximately 60—70% will never entirely recover. Even if a model chooses to leave the job, they could be left watching their waist lines for years to come.

Abigail ManginComment