Fitting In and Sizing Up
Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 16, 2007
In February we published a post about a recent report by the American Psychological Association (APA) examining the proliferation of sexualizing and objectifying images of girls and young women in the media. The report summarizes evidence of how those images may have a variety of negative consequences for girls as well as for others in our culture.
Bradley Bayou has made a fortune counseling women on how to look fabulous and designing clothes for fabulous-looking women. All was fine until he recently discovered that his own daughter, in an effort to squeeze into his clothes, succumed to the binging and purging of bulimia. Not so fabulous.
CBS had a story last week on Bayou’s changed perspective, now that some of the harmful effects of the fashion industry have hit home. We’ve excerpted portions of the story below.
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Once called “the man for all sizes,” Bayou rose to the top by mastering the art of concealing a woman’s flaws and revealing her beauty.
But even the man for all sizes knew that skinny sells. Thin was in.
“I never fit into any of his sample sizes,” she says. “As a teenager and as a young adult, I thought I should be able to fit into his certain size (the tiny sample sizes) … because I was his daughter. And I just — didn’t.”
Bayou observes that the message the fashion industry “is sending to everybody is, ‘If you’re not thin, you’re not going to be happy.'”
“I wanted to be thin,” Alexis recalled. “I wanted to fit in. You know — I wanted to be beautiful. . . . I’ve always been so proud of him, and I always . . . I always kind of wanted to fit into his world.”
When Alexis started college, she started taking diet pills — binging and purging.
To Bayou, she looked great: “All of a sudden, like, she was like she could wear my clothes. She was like model thin.”
“I was like, ‘You know I’m working out,’ ” Alexis says. “I’m eating right. And really — no — that was a lie.”
The truth came out when Alexis had a breakdown, and had to tell her father she was bulimic.
“She was literally collapsed on the floor, and was hysterical, like, out of control, and saying things like, ‘I want to die,’ ” Bayou remembers.
Alexis . . . is like millions of other women striving for the unattainable image of beauty created by skinny models.
“Potentially, tens of thousands of girls may develop an eating disorder because of the fact that they’re trying to live up to this,” observes Sean Patterson, president of the famous Wilhelmina Models in New York, the setting of the reality show called “The Agency.”
Patterson says the show’s scenes of models being pressured to be thin are “pretty real. . . . If we don’t find the models that fit into the clothes . . . we go out of business. We can’t exist. . . . And the talent that a designer’s looking for is going to be a size zero or a size two, at the most.”
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Bayou and Patterson assert that recommendations the Council of Fashion Designers of America . . . issued this year, calling for healthy snacks and for designers to look for signs of eating disorders in their models, won’t fix the problem.
Says Patterson, “I don’t believe, necessarily, that having a guideline that says, ‘Have healthy snacks’ backstage at the show is gonna change the fact that the girls have to get on to that runway and squeeze into size zero dresses.”
Adds Bayou, “I think we have to do more, because it’s not gonna change with those guidelines.”
Bayou has written “The Science of Sexy” and now he’s telling aspiring designers it’s up to them to take the initiative and use larger models.
“Just because a small, elite group has told us that thin — skinny, forget thin — emaciated is in doesn’t mean it’s in,” he declares.
Alexis, says Bayou, “is one of many, many, many people out there — millions — who have this problem . . . where they don’t feel like they fit in . . . and that can be changed.”
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[Bayou] says he’d like to see models pass a physical to prove that they’re eating properly. That’s what they started doing in Italy, but doctors in the United States say eating disorders are so complex, with so many physical and mental elements, there’s no simple, reliable way to diagnose them, at least for now.
Bayou also points out that, if the average woman is around a size 12, there’s a huge market out there that is underserved, with lots of money to be made designing clothes in larger sizes.
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To read the entire story, click here. To read some related stories click on the following titles: Do thin models warp girls’ body image?; Skinny models banned from catwalk; and Looking Beyond the Runway for Answers on Underweight Models.
To view “Bones of Contention,” a well-done (17-minute) report regarding whether “size 0″ models should be banned from the catwalk, click here.