Does Everyone Who Works In Fashion Feel The Pressure To Be Model Thin?

Emily: Andrea, my God! You look so chic.
Andy Sachs: Oh, thanks. You look so thin.
Emily: Really? It’s for Paris, I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.-The Devil Wears Prada

Everyone knows immense pressure is put on models to be thin. Those standards can lead to eating disorders amongst women working as models in the industry and also influence young women looking at the models who don’t understand that this is an unrealistic body image. But do women who don’t work as models, but are in the fashion industry also feel immense pressure to be extremely thin as well? Look at Tory Burch, Jenna Lyons, Rachel Zoe, Phoebe Philo, Vera Wang, Georgina Chapman, Kate Spade, Lauren Conrad and the list goes on. After all, they are working in an industry revolving around clothes so showing that they care about how they look is very important.  To wrap up National Eating Disorders Week we asked women who work in fashion if they feel pressure to stay model-thin?

The average American woman is 5’4″ and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11″ tall and weighs 117 pounds. “We know seeing super-thin models can play a role in causing anorexia,” says Nada Stotland, professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago and vice president of the American Psychiatric Association. But what if that super-thin model was your coworker? As a designer or stylist you might be fitting clothes to women with very skinny bodies all day. Would you have an appetite if you had Karolina Kurkova in your office?

Jennyvi Dizon is a bridal and evening wear designer with her own company. She told The Grindstone:

“I think in the fashion industry there is a certain stereotype that skinny equals success, because it may show that you are aware of what size will sell your designs. Although, there is a certain truth in my bullet points and I try not to adhere to the stereotype of anything in general.  I’ve seen designers who look the part of your “typical fashion designer” get ahead faster than the ones who don’t.  The fashion industry is a very hard market to break into, in most cases if you don’t look the part of a high fashion skinny go-getter, then you won’t get in or feel like you don’t belong. Right now, I feel like I have the skills as a great designer, but I’m always trying to lose weight despite my hectic work schedule.  I design full time but yet on a daily basis I struggle with my weight.  Counting calories and sewing gowns is what I can count on a daily basis.”

It seems that even just aspiring to be model thin is appreciated in fashion. It is a beauty industry and there is pressure even if you aren’t walking down the runway to look like you could.   Deborah Danker of Danker PR told The Grindstone:

“There are some exception but YES the companies really want you to look the part.  If you work for J. Crew you need to look like J. Crew. If you work for Ralph Lauren you need to look like their models, etc. I was in the industry for over 35 years and the answer is yes and it’s still that way.”

Clothes hang better on thin people and this industry revolves around clothing so for women in fashion, even if their job is to get coffee for Anna Wintour’s assitants’ assistant, dressing well is part of their career strategy. In The Devil Wears Prada Andy (Anne Hathaway) had to suck it up and realize if she wanted to be taken seriously and get ahead she had to start dressing the part and losing weight. It would be like if you were personal trainer but didn’t work out religiously. Plus, like models, these women are also trying to promote a brand. The better they look, the more people will want it.

But women who work in fashion should be aware, just like young impressionable girls should be, that a model body is not realistic. Kelly Cutrone, owner of People’s Revolution, a company that produces fashion shows around the world, said in an interview with USA Today, “Women shouldn’t be comparing themselves with these girls, she says. These girls are anomalies of nature. They are freaks of nature. They are not average. They are naturally thin and have incredibly long legs compared to the rest of their body. Their eyes are wide set apart. Their cheekbones are high.” At the same time though women who work in fashion want to wear the clothes that make their industry so great and if they have to keep themselves thin to do that, we shouldn’t hate them for it.


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    • Kristin

      I really resent that the author states as fact, “Clothes hang better on thin people.” No–the fashion industry *believes* that clothing hangs better on thin people. Seeing the kind of messed-up ideas this article is trying to expose embedded inside that same article is total hypocrisy.

      • Kj

        Thank you! I noticed that too.

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