What is the desired stomach shape for a woman- flat, toned and well defined? The average woman’s stomach is somewhere between rounded to gently curved, and whilst it’s understandable for some of us to gaze in admiration at those sporting a healthy, well-toned shape. However, bellies and curves are vacant on the catwalks of London Fashion Week and the pages of Vogue.
The over sexualised, unattainable images of the perfect body shape which bombard women and girls every day are destructive, but nothing new. For as long as there has been mass media, idealised pictures of the human body, generally slim women and muscular men have permeated our screens and covered our newspapers and magazines. Often attempting to sell vulnerable consumers products promising to make us thinner, younger and happier. With the age of the internet, an additional layer of imagery has appeared, images are now Photoshopped beyond recognition, yet presented as authentic everyday life. Such images of men and women are staged as effortless, however the majority belie the immense effort required to keep them in that perfect toned shape. These images and lifestyles are shared and circulated amongst impressionable young people and can seem healthy and appealing from the outside, yet are fueled with misleading facts and lack any scientific backing.
In fact scientific research seems to suggest that we were programmed for a particular body shape. Genes have been identified which make someone more likely to become obese, as well as those which give someone an apple or pear-shaped figure, Whilst this body shape might not conform to the idealised physique it is the shape that is normal and healthy for us.
With London Fashion Week fast approaching, The Women’s Equality Party are to launch a radical campaign, NoSizeFitsAll; aimed at reforming the way the fashion industry confronts body size and shape. The initiative will campaign for an end to unrealistically small “sample sizes”- the sizes in which designers reveal their new creations and will also demand a minimum body mass index for models.
There is a clear lack of diversity on the catwalk, with most models having a BMI of 18 or under, despite 45% of British women having a BMI of 25+ and a size 16+. Sadly, models pay a price for the business of their bodies: entrenched in diet mania, the fashion industry breeds eating disorders. Maintaining a BMI of under 18 requires extreme food restrictions, resulting in deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, calcium, essential fatty acids, proteins and B vitamins, as well as poor bone health and fertility issues.
Sophia Walker, the WEP leader, plans to urge the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to withdraw funding for next year’s fashion week if the NoSizeFitsAll campaigns’ demands are not carried through. She also plans to address Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Commission, to hold a public hearing in which fashion designers will be asked why their clothes are based on an unattainable level of thinness in women.
The campaign calls for models with BMIs below 18.5 to be judged by a medical professional from an accredited list, who will consider if they are well enough to be employed by a modelling agency. Similar legislation exists in France, Spain and Italy. Campaigners are also asking fashion designers showing at London Fashion Week to commit to including at least two sample sizes in every range, one of which must be a size UK 12 or above.
This ground-breaking campaign will raise awareness of the body image issues experienced by women and girls, and open up the platform about the significant and far-reaching impact of the fashion industry’s idolisation of thin. Hopefully, this campaign will be a move towards more women of all shapes and sizes gracing our catwalks and magazines.
Written by Esther Dark.