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From Hero to Size Zero – The Shrinking Violets of Fashion

The glitz and glamour of this year’s fashion spectacles from Fashion Weeks in London, New York and throughout Europe have all been completely overshadowed by one big debate. Reporting from the catwalks and runways, instead of the usual revelations of what’s going to be hot, what colours to look out for and which new designers to watch, journalists and critics shared a common lead – is it time to ban Size Zero?

This controversial debate has had high fashion houses, designers, the media, catwalk models and the general public talking. What is an acceptable weight? What’s a natural, healthy shape? How will this change the face of fashion?

Having exceptionally svelte girls on the runway is not a new phenomenon. Fashion designers have been choosing tall, thin models to parade their collections for many years, the common industry agreement being that clothes simply fall better on narrower frames and look edgier. The tragic catalyst that sparked this furore was the deaths of two South American models, sisters who are believed by Uruguayan local media, to have died as a result of fatal heart attacks, linked to anorexia and a poor diet. The deaths of these two young girls started a global debate surrounding the fickle traditions of catwalk modelling resulting in some European countries and fashion houses banning these so-called Size Zero models from working at Fashion Week, Madrid banning all models with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of less than 18 (a BMI below 18 is deemed an unhealthy weight by the World Health Organisation).

However, organisers of other countries’ Fashion Weeks, including London’s have refused to follow suit, claiming they already request featured designers to use only healthy models on the catwalk and need not ban any of their slim cast.

The biggest contradiction in this debate has always remained the same - that these clothes showcased on the catwalk will eventually be adapted and translated on to the high street, eventually to be found in our wardrobes in our sizes – so why does the fashion industry refuse to represent real women of all shapes and sizes?

On the flipside of the debate, many women who are naturally slim and of a small frame will fall into this elusive Size Zero shape classified as a – US size 0 and a UK size 4 with vital statistics of 31.5 inch bust/23inch waist/34 inch hips, as a result of their natural genetics, not as a result of starving themselves. Who, then, is to decide what a healthy weight is and what is to be an acceptable size for models?

There is no doubt that this dangerously shrinking fashion world, on top of the media fascination with “skinny celebrities,” piles yet more pressure on impressionable women to attain unrealistic, unhealthy goals.

With the Size Zero debate comes progress in the form of promoting healthier ideals and making big changes in the world of high fashion but the onus really does lie with industry leaders if long-term changes are to be made. It is the modelling agencies, casting crew, fashion stylists, designers and fashion media who are, in part responsible in leading the way in creating a new, healthy image for women and girls to aspire to, creating trends that we can all follow, choosing healthy models we can all relate to.

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