Ooh-la-la! The Fashion capital of the world might be the next country to ban underweight models
On the (literal) heels of Paris Fashion Week, a new law is up for debate in France's Parliament that would ban models with a BMI under 18 from walking in runway shows or appearing in magazine fashion spreads. The law would require models to present medical certificates to their agencies proving a BMI of at least 18 (a woman at 5'7" and 114 pounds would just make the cut). And they're not messing around: regular weight checks would be enforced, and fines could run up to $80,000.
If approved, France would join Israel in taking a stand against underweight models: The middle eastern country instated a law in 2012 barring models with a BMI less than 18.5 from advertisements and requiring publications to disclose when models were retouched to appear thinner. Spain and Italy have also made strides towards decreasing their use of too-skinny models, as the Madrid Fashion Show bans women whose BMIs are below 18, while Milan's Fashion Week bans models with BMIs below 18.5. (What Do Models Eat Backstage at Fashion Week?)
There has been some debate as to whether BMI is really the best measure of health, but it could be one of the most consistent ways to determine models' health because it takes into account both weight and height, says David L. Katz, M.D., director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine and Shape advisory board member.
"Yes, BMI does not indicate body composition, and people can be heavier and healthier or thinner and unhealthy, but in this case it is a reliable way to defend against underweight models. It guards against the idea that the thinner you are the more likely you are to succeed as a fashion model," he says. Unfortunately, this could mean that some of your favorite models (even ones that seem and may actually be fit and healthy) will be excluded from Paris Fashion Week next year.
Obviously, this is great news for an industry that many believe has negatively influenced the cultural standards of weight, often leading to eating disorders. (Luckily, we still have a lot of Inspiring Women Who Are Redefining Body Standards.) But it's also naïve to think that this measure will cure the problem of anorexia in the fashion industry, Katz asserts. "This does, however, acknowledge the link between fashion and beauty and health and wellness, and shows that, at some point, 'thinner' stops being beautiful because it stops being healthy," he adds.
We all know that strong is sexy, so we're glad to see the fashion world jumping on board too.