New York Fashion Week Reignites Size Zero Debate

Will plus-size models on the catwalk make a difference?
ByLauren SteadmanThursday , 25 September 2014
New York Fashion Week Reignites Size Zero Debate
© 2014 Getty Images
Plus-Size is a soothing sight!

At New York fashion week we spotted a welcome change – in a sea of size-zeros there were a few female models with a bit of meat on their bones. US leatherwear designer Zana Bayne – who’s dressed Madonna and Lady Gaga – sent several plus-size models down the catwalk, including Gia Genevieve, who’s a US size 12 (UK 16). And Gia’s wasn’t the only figure to stand out. Chromat – favoured by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj – opened its show with the stunning Denise Bidot; she’s a US size 14 (UK 18), which is the same as the average American woman.

The majority of ‘plus-size’ models are actually just a svelte US size 8 (UK 12), so it was inspiring to see bigger women on the runway. Whether major fashion houses will follow suit and hire larger ladies remains to be seen. A good two decades since the abhorrent term ‘heroin chic’ was coined, underweight girls still trot down the runway, while the average Western woman is bigger than ever.

A recent study found that the gulf between models’ weights and those of ordinary women is widening. It used the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale, a system favoured by doctors, to compare the two, and the results aren’t pretty. Model of the moment Cara Delevingne’s BMI stands at 16.5 on the scale, while the average Western woman scores 27.5. Anything below 18.5 is deemed clinically underweight. The Eighties was the best year for female representation on the runway, with curvy Cindy Crawford coming closest to bridging the gap between models and non-models on the BMI index – but even then she was only a scrape away from being deemed clinically underweight with a BMI of just 19. 

Today, most models are clinically underweight, some quite severely, and yet despite this, their bodies are touted by designers as the perfect shape for making clothes look great. A note to all fashion houses: if your collections only look good on the malnourished, maybe there’s something wrong with your lines rather than the women you expect to wear them. But here’s the crux: women, as consumers, support and encourage the fashion industry to remain the same by buying into its idea of beauty and buying its clothes. Until customers object with closed purses and vocal complaints, nothing will change

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