Aspiring to the Impossible
The latest fashions are displayed on a type of body that none of us have. In an industry where so much is visual, everywhere are images of women with unattainable physiques. Our girls are growing up aspiring to the impossible.
Elizabeth Day interviewed Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman in this Sunday’s Observer Magazine and asked her where she thought the problem originated, “probably the designers, because they’re the ones who are cutting the clothes so small. There is a difference between thin and emaciated. I just think the designers can’t see it.”
Shulman went so far as to write letters to the major international fashion houses including Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Prada and Versace, complaining that their “minuscule” sample sizes were forcing fashion editors to use models with “jutting bones” and “no breasts or hips.” Nothing much changed.
Yet by holding up this impossibly thin physique as ideal, alongside the marketing of the most desirable and latest clothing, women are being affected in a most powerful and damaging way. Young girls even more so, as healthy eating is disrupted by dieting and worse.
Almost two in five (37%) UK women are dieting most of the time compared to just one in six (18%) UK men (BBC News Feb 4 2004). Three out of four American women have disordered eating (ScienceDaily Apr 22 2008).
Eating disorders are responsible for more loss of life than any other type of psychological illness. Anorexia has the highest death rate of any mental illness - between 5% and 20% of people who develop the disease eventually die from it. The Royal College of Psychiatrists found girls and women to be ten times more likely than boys and men to suffer from anorexia or bulimia. Estimates for those suffering from eating disorders are 1.1 million in UK and 24 million in America. The Renfrew Center Foundation found 15% of young women in the United States show considerable disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.Continued on the next page