Recent moves by Spain to rein in eating disorders in the high-fashion industry by sanctioning a healthy body mass index and thereby curbing excessive skinniness among supermodels have spread to Italy and show signs of spreading to other countries as well. This is a good thing and only partly because it is a public health service to publicize and educate people about disorders like anorexia and bulimia. It is also a good thing because it is a major crack in the polite fiction that supermodels are attractive women, and that haute couture fashions can legitimately be called “clothing.” It emboldens one to stand up and declare that supermodels are not the model of feminine beauty that they are presented as being.

Maybe it’s only my opinion, but standard supermodel features — tall, lanky, bony, full-lipped and wide-eyed — have always struck me as vaguely equine, vaguely diseased and more than vaguely ugly. Models habitually look like refugees from another African famine. Personally, I prefer women with binocular vision who can look straight ahead without having to turn their necks, and who do not look like they have a chronic lip infection. I know that comparisons are made between the popularity of these standard supermodel features and the popularity in the world of Japanese manga that feature the cute, big-eyed look. There is something to investigate there.

Thank goodness haute couture fashions are made-to-order and therefore not distributed among the general public. More often than not the rags we see supermodels parading down the catwalk are ridiculous and aesthetically offensive to a public that should be courted as customers, not alienated by the cosmetic horror of it, or the offensively unctuous fiction that the clothes are beautiful. It’s all a fiction. But I could be wrong.

grant piper

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