This year’s catwalk talk was the skinny mannequins. First, the fashion fair Pasarela Cibeles, Madrid/Spain, decided to admit only models with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), now the Italian Fashion Federation and the Alta Moda Association will sign an ‘Ethics code’ with the Ministry of Sports and Youth of its country. This is a very strong signal for the fight against anorexia, which is not healthy behaviour amongst young women. It also indicates the growing market for plus size fashion as more rounded and healthy bodies becomes the trend.
The death of the Brazilian anorexic mannequin Ana Carolina Reston re-launched the discussion that gained momentum during the summer of 2006. The Italian Ethics code will install a compulsory medical control of the mannequins. Their BMI must be 18 or higher – the medically low value for a healthy relationship of body length and weight. An example: A young woman 1.72 m/5 ft 6 tall may weigh 53 kilograms/117 lbs minimum. Thinner mannequins won’t be allowed to show – neither in Madrid, nor in Rome or Milan. Still these young women will be alarmingly thin. The most undesirable trend created by these mannequins is the longing by young fashion conscious women to acquire similar body proportions, which, in fact, is not only unhealthy, but can also be fatal.
The new Ethics code will also force the Italian countries to enlarge the size spectrum of their collections to (Italian) sizes 42 and 44. According to the daily Italian magazine La Stampa, 60% of the Italian ladies wear size 40 and more. Similar percentages are true all over Europe. Why the industry is showing on bodies that are much below the standard size is now the question. The idea is, as Giovanna Melandri, head of the Ministry of Sports and Youth in Italy said, to revalue healthy bodies and Mediterranean beauty.
- A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 25. Beyond this, the situation gets critical for the health of both women and men. Some sources admit other BMI values for different age groups and want the women to be slightly lighter than the men. The BMI is calculated thus: weight/length².
- European citizens are getting heavier, as revealed by of the European Commission, Brussels/Belgium. People in the North-west of Europe are, in general, taller than those from Southern Europe. In most member states, the average height has increased since 2002 and is now 169.9 cm at European level. The average weight of citizens also varies considerably from one country to another and seemed to be higher in 2005 than in 2002. It is to be noted that people in good health have the lowest body mass index. In 11 out of 15 Member States, the weight of citizens has increased, with the most striking increases being in Luxembourg (2.7 kg), Denmark (1.7 kg) and Ireland (1.6 kg).
- The body ideal has significantly changed within the last 20 years: The mannequins are getting thinner and thinner. For approximately 15 years, we have had a few special model agencies for elder and heavier models – a niche market.
- Experts say that in Europe about one per cent of girls and young women between 12 and 25 years old are considered anorexic.
- European countries try to reduce the fast rising health costs by assuring a minimum health care and charging citizens any extras. The single person is encouraged to make efforts for getting into or staying in good health.
Meaningful for the media and the fashion business
Most of the European fashion related media is not yet ready for a change, but fashion insiders see a trend towards fuller and sportier bodies. In Spain, retailers have to display fashion in show windows in size 38 instead of 36.
The sampling size will be 38 again in future and the size spec will include sizes like 44. And – due to the ageing population throughout Europe – the pattern will change according to the physical body size changes occurring through the years.
Sportier people have other measurements than lazy ones – although they might have the same weight.
Next to the super thin mannequins and high society ladies, there are others, younger and older, normal weighted protagonists: Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz, the very sporty Madonna and the incredible Tina Turner, who propagate fitness and health. It will take time, but the trend is there.