Madrid has a ban on overly thin or waif-like models in their top-level fashion show, The Pasarela Cibeles trade fair. Fearing their underweight bodies would project a negative self-image to the public, the organizers of the fashion week in Madrid say models who are 5 feet 9 inches tall have to weigh at least 123 pounds. How's that for a change in the industry?
The body mass index is a tool for doctors who study obesity. It is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared, then multiplying that total by 703. If the resulting number is between 18.5 and 24.9, the person’s weight is normal. Below 18.5 is underweight. In the case of the Madrid show, organizers rejected women with indices under 18.
Being such a small portion of the industry, Spain does not dictate what the rest of the world wants to see. However, it is a step in the right direction. Young girls model their lives and bodies after what they see on the magazine racks, which is usually a gaunt woman who looks unhealthy, clad in a bikini. Experts say when young women strive to look like models, anorexia ensues.
The move has been proclaimed as good news for younger and lesser-known models, who often force themselves to become thin and unhealthy in order to secure a place among the top models.
Case in point: "Fashion is a mirror and many teenagers imitate what they see on the catwalk," said regional official Concha Guerra. For now, Spain is concentrating their efforts on models portraying a healthy body image and their only concern is the quality of the work being presented.
Will other cities follow? The mayor of Milan, Italy, Letizia Moratti, told an Italian newspaper this week she would seek a similar ban for her city's show unless it could find a solution to "sick" looking models. With symptoms such as shrunken bones, mineral loss, low body temperature, irregular heartbeat, permanent failure of normal growth, development of osteoporosis and bulimia nervosa, anorexia affects a lot of young women in the world.
Cuca Solana, the organizer of the Pasarela Cibeles, was brought before the country's parliamentary commission for youth in April to defend the event against criticism that it pressures young women into losing weight. The Association of Fashion Designers of Spain said Friday it wanted models at the show running from Sept. 18-22 to project “an image of beauty and health” and shun a gaunt, emaciated look.
One can only hope the industry is taking note of this bold move.