The End of the Thin Fashion Model?

Will New Legislation in France Become the Industry Norm?

Fashion models walking the runway
Dominique Charriau/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

When most people think of modeling, a lot of stereotypes about the industry and the models themselves likely come to mind. From the idea that you must be very thin and very tall to be a model, to the belief you need to live in a fashion mecca like Milan or Paris to have a successful modeling career, the misconceptions are vast. It seems the most prominent theme in conversations about modeling is that of a model’s weight.

In day to day life, most people would not make hurtful statements to their friends about their weight, but people don’t seem to hold back with their comments whatsoever when it comes to models – be it that they are deemed “too big” or “too thin.” 

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Recently, French MPs announced they are moving forward with legislation that would include a mandatory minimum BMI for fashion models as an attempt to ban “overly thin” models. Modeling agencies who choose to employ models whose BMI is too low will face tens of thousands of dollars in fines, as well as potential jail time. Furthermore, those who fail to state if a model’s photo has been retouched will also face fines. This legislation has caused quite a stir in the media, and opinions, as expected, are very mixed. Some say this legislation is long past due and a necessary measure to avoid promoting body types deemed “unhealthy.” Others believe this legislation may be “reverse body shaming,” and unfairly deeming anyone with a certain, low BMI as anorexic.

Some modeling agencies feel as though this legislation is unjust as it stigmatizes ALL modeling agencies while also confusing anorexia with thinness. While there certainly have been instances in the past of models being encouraged to be thinner than what is considered healthy, these cases are relatively limited.

In fact, the majority of modeling agencies have the best intentions for their models, and that includes following ethical practices and wanting their models to be healthy. Numerous modeling agencies have even been known to send models home when they appear unhealthy or if they suspect anorexia.  Moreover, modeling agents always use a model's measurements (bust, waist, hips, or jacket size for men) as a guideline, rather than the model's actual weight.

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Anorexia is known to be an incredibly complex disease, and accusing anyone who appears thin of being anorexic does a major disservice to those who truly suffer from it by oversimplifying the disease. Many people, especially those in a busy career like modeling, spend a lot of time moving around and on their feet. This active lifestyle can contribute to a model having a slim figure, and because many models are so young, their active metabolism also contributes to their slender figures. 

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The good news is, it's not necessary to be thin to become a model! Today more than ever, models of all sizes are developing successful careers. There is a market for EVERY body type, so a model who is not naturally thin absolutely does NOT need to resort to unhealthy measures to be thin.

The “plus size” modeling industry is booming, as are the commercial and catalogue modeling industries.

This inclusiveness means that models of all ages, shapes, sizes, and heights have a place as a model. Furthermore, models who have various physical and mental disabilities can also have a successful modeling career. In fact, the 2015 New York Fashion Week was applauded for being the “most inclusive” it has ever been. This year, NYFW showcased several models on the catwalk that are transgender, plus-size, as well as a model who has Down Syndrome, and fashion fans have much more to look forward to with regard to a more diverse runway in the future.