Inside the terrifying tactics models use to stay thin - New York Post
Published: 22:38 BST, 11 September 2016 | Updated: 02:02 BST, 12 September 2016
Despite all the bluster, there is one currency in fashion that never loses its value: skinniness. In that world, to be thin is to be successful, superior and celebrated.
To be taken at all seriously in the cut-throat world of high fashion — the world of tiny A-listers and stick-thin fashion editors such as Anna Wintour — you have to be skin and bones.
And it’s clear from the models that strode down the catwalk in Victoria Beckham’s 2017 spring/summer catwalk show last night that she wants to be taken very seriously indeed by the fashion crowd. With husband David and 17-year-old son Brooklyn in attendance, the 42-year-old former Spice Girl sent a series of emaciated models down the ramp, each clad in a selection of outfits that would have struggled to contain the assets of a pre-pubescent schoolboy, let alone a normal female.
Haunted: Teen model Jessie Bloemendaal is 5ft 11in and has a tiny 24in waist. The heavy make-up gives her a hollow-eyed look
Bloomers: Posh’s outfit makes Julia Ratner, 15, look like a ‘half starved space cadet’
Stern: Ondria Hardinz collar bones jut out as she walks down the Beckham show catwalk yesterday
The teenage girls on her catwalk, such as 5ft 11in Dutch-born Jessie Bloemendaal and French model Camille Hurel, had waists of 24in — around the size of a eight-year-old girl’s.
And the clothes themselves seem to have been conceived to highlight the thinness of the wearer, to deliberately exclude anyone for whom a small strip of satin might not be an adequate covering.
One ensemble, a pair of shiny white satin bloomers paired with a cross- body sash and knee-high white boots, made the wearer look like a half-starved space cadet.
Most dresses were designed to highlight ribs, tummies and bone-thin arms thanks to cutouts and corsetting, meaning no one over a size 12 could ever consider putting them on. Even the fabrics — crushed velvet and silks — were unforgiving, made to highlight flat planes of the body, not curves.
The models’ bleached eyebrows, lank, austere hair and sunken expressions also contributed to the illusion of illness. One of the first things that anorexia does to the body is cause hair loss and dark circles, and it seemed to me at least, the make-up was deliberately designed to give this impression.
One after another they came, this silent, sullen army of the starving, ribs and shoulder-blades on show, skeletal forms visible through unforgiving shapes and fabrics.
Swagger: The open front reveals Mica Arganaraz’s impossibly small waist
Youthful glow: Jessie Bloemendaal's waist is 24in - the same size as an eight-year-old girl
This is ‘thinspiration’ in fashion form, the catwalk version of those thigh-gap pictures that celebrities like to post on social media site Instagram in order to remind mere mortals of their innate physical superiority.
Theirs is a world where thinness is not only celebrated, but worshipped as the pinnacle of stylishness, an indicator, even, of moral superiority. After all, we are in the grip of an obesity epidemic, are we not?
Controversy: Victoria Beckham seems to be thumbing her nose at the critics
It’s certainly clear that Victoria — once censured for being too thin — is completely unrepentant about exploiting this deeply dangerous trend. Last year, after criticism that her models were too skinny, she said: ‘They’re young, they’re thin, but that doesn’t mean they’re ill.’
It’s clear she’s thumbing her nose at those critics by sending out an even more skeletal set of girls this year.
Yet there had been welcome signs that the industry was taking tentative steps to reform itself.
Last December, French MPs demanded all models had a doctor’s certificate saying they were healthy, and there are more plus-size models than ever — such as the sumptuous size 16 Ashley Graham — being used by mainstream shops such as H&M and Marks & Spencer and designers such as Dolce & Gabbana.
Indeed, even Victoria had once spoken out against skinny models. In 2010, she pledged to follow the Beauty Is Health campaign created by the Council Of Fashion Designers Of America and ban extremely thin models from her shows.
‘I had a casting last week and had some terribly thin girls come in, and it wouldn’t have worked,’ she said at the time. She’s also insisted her clothes are for women of all shapes and sizes.
But despite the occasional hype about this or that plus-sized model, regular attempts by the industry to encourage a more normal-sized aesthetic are mere window dressing. Truth is, most designers are incorrigible: they would sooner be spotted in last season’s trousers than send a single curve down the runway.
And, with the start of the New York shows, we see once again how empty are the promises — not to mention the stomachs — of those who reign supreme on planet fashion.
Unforgiving: This gold concoction hangs off Iris Landstra’s tiny frame
Floral: The clothes themselves seem to have been conceived to highlight the thinness of the wearer
Of course, Victoria is birdlike in size. In this month’s Vogue, she pens a letter to her younger self in which she talks movingly about her physical insecurities, her youthful self-loathing, how she would fret about being fat when the photographic evidence shows she was anything but . . .
With that in mind, you might think she would spare a thought for today’s young girls whose turn it is to wrestle with those very same demons.
But then what do you expect from someone who has no formal fashion training? Victoria is no Donna Karan, no Giorgio Armani, no Dolce & Gabbana. It seems to me that she designs as though the female form were the enemy or an embarrassment — partly perhaps out of necessity.
After all, anyone can drape a few bits of sparkly fabric on a waif and make them look halfway decent; to dress a fully-formed female is a far more complex endeavour, one that requires real skill and years of experience.
Victoria Beckham has neither, having invented herself as a fashion designer in much the same way she became a pop star — a triumph of determination over talent.