Fashion designer fantasies and eating disorders

I came upon these two “No Thinspiration” blog posts recently while doing some research on eating disorders*:
The stunning size 12 model branded ‘too fat’ for TV competition
Marianne Berglund from ‘Make me a super model’ TV show

The comments are quite telling – so many (presumably from their names) female comment posters seem to support and look up to these unwell-looking ultra-thin models, and don’t really see this as a problem. The word thinspiration supposedly refers to girls looking to eating disorder sufferers as role models, and looking up eating disorder information sources to learn how to become a sufferer! Is this seriously disturbing or what?!!

Fashion designers (and the associated fashion houses and media) continue to live in a bizarre fantasy world that is not shared by any other design profession I can think of. When designing a house, a car, a kettle, the designer must work with the realities of the site, the existing environment, as well as the size, shape and behaviour of the occupants and users. Doing anything less would be plain stupid and potentially dangerous.

Imagine a car designed on the assumption that people have eyes on the back of their heads. Or that everyone will drive at 20km per hour. Imagine doorways that are 30cm (1 foot) wide because the designer thought they’d look better.

Yet this is exactly what fashion designers do. I have seen strange books that teaches fashion designers how to draw those strange-looking, idealised human figures so stereotypically associated with fashion design. And yet, I have never come across similar books for interior architects, environmental designers or product designers; where a generic and fantastic set of anthropomorphic measurements can be universally applied as the basis for designs. “What, you are not as tall as my ideal? Well tough, you’ll just need to buy a stepping stool to pee then. All my toilets are mounted on 1m pedestals…”

Fashion designers talk about their right to design for their own visual aesthetics. I would say that makes their work art, not design. One-off pieces that can ever only be worn by a tiny minority of the population. Pieces that indulges a particular aesthetic as an end in itself.

The fashion industry says they prefer thin models because they most resemble walking coat hangers. And clothes always look better on skeletons. As one of the comment posters said, the only reason clothes look good on skeletons is because they have been designed for skeletons to start with! What are we surprised here?

I have a nasty suspicion this trend will very soon, it it has not already, spread to affect men in the same way.

Everything seem so entrenched at the moment. Especially considering that many people actually want to become sufferers because of the wider societal obsession with looks and celebrities.

Each and every one of us, regardless of how close we are not not to the fashion industry, can do our bit to help.
* I am currently working with the Eating Disorders Foundation in New South Wales as part of my pro-bono community work for this year. Did you know that NSW is the only state in Australia that does not provide government funding support for the work of the Foundation?

2 comments

  1. Soraya said:

    America’s Next Supermodel was on last night at about 6.30pm and I caught it because I wanted to see what the hype was about.

    I am, and remain, horrified at this spectacle that thinly veiled as a meat inspection but called modeling. In some circles it’s even called fashion.
    All nine beautiful girls were told they had a flaw ranging from lazy eye to short neck to bulging eyes and were shown how to “hide” these “flaws”.

    Apart from the fact that I truly couldn’t see these “flaws”, that they were mentioned every second and the girl was expected to own them and work at hiding them was upsetting. Watching them try to understand this bullshit brainwash was sickening. I don’t buy the televised excuse that fashion is “cut throat”. *People* are cut throat and it’s their insecurities that warp beauty and pray on the young and susceptible.

    By the show’s end, I wanted to slap that Tyra Banks – the very woman who you may remember took jibes about her weight gain so seriously she devoted one of her show’s episodes to it – from here to kingdom come. What an awful role model for women. She should be strung up and pumped full of rancid collagen.

  2. Zern said:

    Indeed Soraya. I finally managed to catch last weekend’s episode. I have scheduled myself in for plastic surgery…

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