The Media Obsession with Models

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A model fainted at a recent photo shoot. Seeing someone so tall, lithe and thin flutter to the ground is kind of like watching a giraffe sway, then collapse. Fortunately we caught her before she hit ground; later she told us that she’d been running late that morning and hadn’t had time to eat. As she was helped toward a chair, she passed out. We put pillows under her head and legs, then gave her some juice, part of a muffin and after a brief rest she was back on set. I wish I could say this was a fashion shoot first, but there’s a reason most of these models are so unbelievably thin. They don’t eat like the rest of us. Actually they don’t really eat at all. They nibble, skip meals and obsessively watch calorie consumption. It’s the nature of their profession and it’s their livelihood. Unfortunately if they do gain a few pounds, they risk not working.

For over a decade, fashion magazine editors have decried the waifish, starvation look, but does it ever change? Nope. At TCW we have truly gone out of our way to discover models who look healthy, have toned bodies and are beyond a size 2 – keep in mind, these women are usually 5’10″ or so. And yet they’re hard to find, since there’s a gap between size 0 and 2 models – 6, 8 and 10 sizes are unheard of. After a model is beyond a size 2 or a rare 4, it’s right into plus size. There’s no in between.

Fashion models aren’t a size 6, 8 or 10. Those dress sizes are skipped over and it’s right into the plus size model, which in most instances doesn’t look like what we imagine plus size to be. But that’s not surprising, since the plus size model often wears a size 8 or 10. Fact is that both photographers and retailers like to showcase apparel at its best. And they understand that the thinner models are simply better props for apparel.

We also want to present clothing at its optimum best in TCW. BUT we also want to do so by using models who appear to be a healthy weight. And sometimes this presents a few challenges of its own. You’d be surprised at how many times Victor Skrebneski has photographed a model for a TCW fashion shoot with the back of her dress unzipped – and that dress may be a size 8. Our December cover model, Tiffany Hocken, is a size 8, for example. And while she looks like a different woman on this cover, fact is it’s the third time in 2010 that she’s appeared on a TCW cover. And yes, the zipper on the dress she’s wearing isn’t zipped all the way up.

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About Sherren Leigh

Sherren Leigh is president and founder of Today's Chicago Woman and Today's Chicago Woman Foundation. She muses about life - the good, the bad, the ugly - and anything else that's on her mind in “Girl Talk.” Sometimes funny, other times serious, she's always thought-provoking and often controversial.