What’s ‘Eating’ You?

Is it just me, or are we all collectively obsessed with food, diets, eating, body image, and body weight? We ended the year dishing (sorry about the pun) about unhealthy and unnatural skinniness, debating the issue of what constitutes ‘too thin’ (vis-à-vis models and the fashion industry), talking about eating disorders, diets, exercise regimens, losing weight, gaining weight, sharing festive recipes, reading about food, planning our menus, thinking about our next meal, and contemplating what restaurants to visit.

And here we are, just several days into the New Year, and it continues. Many of us have made resolutions to lose weight, tone up, get into better shape, and of course, eat healthy. The cover of New York Magazine boasts “Adam Platt’s Where To Eat: The Best Restaurants in Town”. But it seems some of us are not eating but starving,‘dying’ to be thin, and as a whole, we are generally as obsessed with what we eat as what we don’t eat. Which is not a good thing. Not only from an appearance standpoint but in terms of health, it can be downright dangerous. The headline of AM New York on January 2 was “Rail Thin” (“Women on crash diets fainting are a top cause of subway delays, MTA staffers say”), an alarming statistic that was also confirmed by an article that ran in The New York Post on Wednesday, January 3.

In Bernadine Morris’s interview with James Galanos for the Look On-Line (“A Conversation with James Galanos”), she asked him about the current controversy today regarding whether models are too thin: “Mr. Galanos says he always liked thin models. Pat, his fitting model, was very thin and there was a problem getting other models who could fit into her clothes. The problem today, he believes, is that designers use models who are too young and who have not reached their maximum development. He certainly doesn’t believe models should starve themselves, and that gangly legs can look terrible in clothes.” Indeed, but there are plenty of gangly arms and legs out there…on the Red Carpet, on the street, on the runways and staring up at you from editorials in magazines.

This brings up another point. I have always felt that to a certain degree, what constitutes as “too thin” can often be subjective, a matter of taste, and an aesthetic call. (I happen to be very thin so what I consider to be too thin may differ from someone else’s point of view). That said, the January issue of Harper’s Bazaar magnified the reality that in some cases, it is not subjective, but in-your-face obvious.

Perhaps because the issue of unhealthy and unnatural thinness has been so much on all our minds, with the fashion world trying to regulate and uphold certain universal standards for models which must be met, I was immediately struck by images of a young model, who appeared throughout the portfolio “Highlights from Milan”, photographed by Daniel Jackson. While on some of the pages, clad in voluminous layers or covered up designs, she just looked ‘normally’ skinny (well, normal in terms of fashion models), in the images where her body was exposed (three shots in particular), she appeared to be shockingly emaciated. She was literally skin and bones, with rail thin arms and legs, and protruding collarbone. And, when you factor in that the camera adds at least 5 pounds, you may be unable to put your finger on something or know exactly what “IT” is until you see it — these photos exemplified “IT”. Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

  1. It is not hard to see why eating disorders are so rife when fashion magazines portray this as the absolute norm. Even the pose exacerbates the sense of the model’s thinness, shoulders hunched forward to embellish her concave chest and gangly arms.
    My brother has struggled with an eating disorder for many years now in the pursuit of a modelling career and it has had such a negative impact not only on his own health and well being, but on the family too. When models say they are naturally thin and healthy, there is often a web of lies behind this. The best way to stamp out this problem and stop young models believing they must be emmaciated to succeed, is to re-educate short-sighted designers and magazine editors who demand paper thin models. By teaching these fashion impresarios proper pattern cutting skills, they could create clothes for women’s figures, instead of those cut for skinny little boys.

  2. I agree that those photos are shocking – particularly the first two!

    Last September I had the honor of attending NY Fashion Week for the first time. The audience literally gasped when certain girls would appear on the runway. I blogged about it later and some angry readers told me that I was mistaken, that all the girls were healthy but it’s true, the camera DOES add at least 5 pounds (probably more). When you see these girls in the flesh it’s really sad. I’m not saying that there aren’t a fair number of healthy models but there are enough emaciated faces to fill out an entire casting with.

    I hope that the new regulations in Milan will encourage casting directors to head back to the healthy, beautiful faces.

    Thanks for the post!

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