Vogue?s Underage, Anorexic Model Ban: One Small Step For Vogue, One Giant Leap For Fashion

on May 04 2012 11:00 AM
  • Vogue's Underage, Anorexic Model Ban
    Vogue's underage, anorexic model ban will (hopefully) promote a healthy body image for models throughout the fashion industry. Photo Credit: Reuters
  • Vogue's Underage, Anorexic Model Ban
    How skinny is too skinny for the modeling industry?
  • Vogue's Underage, Anorexic Model Ban
    "Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers," said Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement. Photo Credit: Reuters
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Vogue's underage, anorexic model ban will (hopefully) promote a healthy body image for models throughout the fashion industry. Photo Credit: Reuters

Vogue's underage, anorexic model ban is a prohibition a long-time in the making; but, as the saying goes, better late than never. Vogue, considered the Fashion Bible by many, is setting a precedent with its move to eradicate too-young and too-skinny models from the pages of its publication.

In a statement released by Conde Nast International on Thursday, 19 editors of Vogue around the world made a pact to promote the image of healthy models, reported Yahoo! News.  

The statement reads: We will be ambassadors for the message of a healthy body image, and, We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image. 

The Vogue editors agreed to not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.  They also said they will have casting directors check IDs at photo shoots, fashion shows and ad campaigns. Vogue will start following this new ban for its June issues.

Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers, said Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement.

As one of the most well-known and revered fashion magazines in the world, Vogue is setting a poignant example that others might (and should) follow.

Model Sarah Ziff, founder of The Model Alliance, a group dedicated to improving working conditions for models and to fostering a safe environment for those in the industry, supporters Vogue's ban wholeheartedly.

Most editions of Vogue regularly hire models who are minors, so for Vogue to commit to no longer using models under the age of 16 marks an evolution in the industry, she told The Associated Press. We hope other magazines and fashion brands will follow Vogue's impressive lead.

Supermodel Coco Rocha also applauded the changes.

I've long been a vocal supporter of setting reasonable standards in the modeling industry, she said in an email to Yahoo! News. Not every model appears in Vogue, but every model and every magazine looks up to them as the standard [bearer]. I can only imagine this will be a solid step in a direction that will benefit models for generations to come.

Vogue's underage, anorexic model ban comes on the heels of two other major fashion-industry legislations, proving that the fashion industry is making strides towards a healthier stance.

During New York Fashion Week in February, the CFDA, headed by Diane Von Furstenberg, issued new guidelines tailored to cull underage and underweight models from walking the runways. The new CFDA guidelines included ways models can stay healthy during New York Fashion Week 2012. It also included regulations like official-ID checks, to ensure that no one under the age of 16 walked the runways.

Von Furstenberg has pioneered the CFDA's Health Initiative for the past five years. These most recent guidelines take yet another giant stride in a conscientious direction. Designers generally produce only one sample size for the runway, and in the last decade there has been a dramatic downward shift in the sample size of some of the top design houses, Von Furstenberg wrote in her CFDA guidelines.

As a result, models are under increasing pressure to be thinner and thinner, and younger and younger. The industry's hiring of prepubescent-appearing teenage girls as models of adult clothing sets an unrealistic standard; hips and breasts, the curves that define the female figure, are absent. Some models have difficulty maintaining the body ideal as they move into adulthood and run the risk of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors that lead to eating disorders.

While some models are naturally tall and thin and their appearance is a result of many factors... other models have or develop eating disorders. Although we cannot fully assume responsibility for an issue that is as complex as eating disorders and that occurs in many walks of life, the fashion industry can begin a campaign of awareness and create an atmosphere that supports the wellbeing of these young women.


How skinny is too skinny for the modeling industry? Photo Credit: Reuters

The CFDA's campaign to promote the concept of a healthy mind in a healthy body is off to a great start and - with growing support from the fashion community - holds the promise of a healthier standard of beauty, she concluded.

These guidelines were released after a highly-circulated article written by PLUS Model Magazine detailed the dangerous standards in the industry today:

- Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.

- Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modeling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express their dissatisfaction.

- Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.

- 50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.

In March, Israel enacted legislation that requires both male and female models in the country to have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 18.5. his number is determined based on a proportion of height-to-weight and is used by the World Health Organization. A medical report from a doctor stating that a particular model is not underweight is also permissible. The WHO dictates that any BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight and any BMI 16 or under is considered severe thinness. Therefore, a model who is six-feet tall must weigh at least 136.5 pounds and a model who is five-feet, eight-inches must weight at least 119 pounds.

The skinny model ban also prohibits the use of models who look underweight in advertisements, reported Yahoo! News. Developers of advertisements in Israel must disclose whether or not they used Photoshop or digital alterations to make the model look thinner.

Concerns about the fashion industry's standards struck a chord in 2006 when South American model Ana Carolina Reston succumbed to an anorexia-related death. This prompted vocal debate over the modeling business. Critics in Europe declared that models were too skinny, too white and too young, reported The New York Times. However, American designers rebuffed a ban of too-skinny models, stating that for some women in fashion is it just physically innate to be that thin, the New York Times reported.

More and more opponents are speaking out against the dangerous norms set by the fashion industry. Some of them are  14-year-olds:


Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers, said Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement. Photo Credit: Reuters

Julia Bluhm is a 14-year-old eight grader from Maine who launched a petition asking her favorite magazine, Seventeen, to feature on un-airbrushed photo shoot a month, according to Yahoo! Shine. Blum began blogging about female self-esteem at 13-years-old when she joined SPARK, a girl-fueled activist movement to demand an end to the sexualization of women and girls in media.

Bluhm's petition on change.org reads:

To girls today, the word 'pretty' means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It's because the media tells us that 'pretty' girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin, she wrote.

Here's what lots of girls don't know. Those 'pretty women' that we see in magazines are fake. They're often photo-shopped, airbrushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life....I've been fighting to stop magazines, toy companies, and other big businesses from creating products, photo spreads and ads that hurt girls and break our self-esteem....I've learned that we have the power to fight back.

Now, with Vogue's ban on underage, anorexic models at the forefront, real change is possible. That's one small step for Vogue, one giant leap for the fashion industry. 

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