Are very thin and very plus size fashion models a threat to teens? Sadly, the simple answer is that they can be. For years, fashion models were all tall and thin, little more than walking coat hangers. Gorgeous models, most weighing 105 pounds or less, walked the runways, graced the covers of fashion magazines and posed on billboards. Mothers began to fear for their teenage daughters’ health and well-being as more and more young women strived, by any and all means, to look like models. Hence, the sometimes life-threatening problems of anorexia, bulimia and overuse of laxatives, diuretics and amphetamines brought public awareness. A common topic on the talk show circuit, these issues remain a very real cause for concern.
Now there are plus size models proudly flaunting their generous curves and conveying the message that big is beautiful and that overweight women should love their bodies. What message does this send to overweight young women who are stretching the seams of junior plus sizes, teetering precariously on high heels and ordering chocolate milkshakes with their French fries? The risk factors are now turning toward high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. In recent studies, overweight is now the number one risk factor for Type II diabetes and the number of diabetic children has tripled since 1980. As more and more models wear larger size clothing, the pendulum seems to have swung from one fashion extreme to the other.
Retailers generally use models that are best suited to the particular line of clothing they are selling. LOFT models tend to be very thin with nearly no curves. Victoria’s Secret models have generous cleavage, tiny waists and long legs. Stein Mart and Kohl’s use models that are attractively slender without being extremely thin in an attempt to appeal to the majority of their shoppers. Lane Bryant features models who proudly display their ample curves and tip the scales at well above their ideal weight. Each is appealing to a different demographic and is successfully selling to vast numbers of women.
What are we, as mothers, business people and as a nation overlooking? Perhaps we are overlooking the fact that neither excessive thinness nor excessive weight is truly the most attractive or the healthiest. Models could be positive role models for young women, showing them that the best size and weight is that found on medical charts. According to Health Check Systems, a 5’7″ tall woman’s ideal weight is 123-136 pounds. At this weight, she is attractively slim, able to live an active lifestyle, and can wear almost any clothes to their best advantage. She is not jeopardizing her health by seeking to be excessively thin or by adding extra pounds indiscriminately.
We want all our young people to be healthy, to be attractive, and to boost their self-esteem. We can do this by setting examples of strong, beautiful models at, or near, their ideal weight. It would be interesting to know how many designers and fashion houses compare their models with medical height and weight charts, seeking out those who most nearly portray radiant health and a well-proportioned body. What a wonderful example the fashion industry could set for young women everywhere!
As always, maximize your style and minimize your spending.