Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has called for 'stick-thin' models to be banned from the catwalks during London Fashion Week.
There are three problems with underweight fashion models:
- They don't look very good.
- They will suffer ill health through being underweight, and encourage others to do so.
- They make people unhappy by presenting an unattainable ideal.
The second is the main problem, but since the medical industry is still recommending that people adopt a body weight that is more unhealthy than that which they consider "overweight", it's a bit rich to be blaming the dressmakers.
The third is seen as a problem, but in fact it's the whole point. Fashion is all about exclusivity and status. It's about in-groups and out-groups, and the most prestigious in-group is the one that people want to join but can't.
Beauty doesn't cut it as a marker for fashion. There are just too many beautiful women. Take any beautiful woman, say from the best 5% of the 18-25 age group, and it's impossible to find another woman that would overwhelmingly be recognised as definitely more beautiful.
Thinness (and tallness) is another matter. You can find a model who's tall and thin, but if your competitor gets one taller and thinner, everyone will agree that yes, that model is taller and thinner than yours. You want your fashion to be associated in people's minds with the most exclusive of in-groups, and that means the very tallest and thinnest of models. You want a model who's one in a thousand, not one in twenty.
It doesn't make sense to complain about thinness of the model because it presents an unobtainable dream, when the job of the model is to sell a $5000 dress.