2009 October 17 Saturday
Feminist X On Repugnance Of Starving Cat Walk Models

Feminist X rants against a fashion industry that insists on using female models who look like they are starving. The post is basically an attack on the gay guys in the fashion industry who choose female models who are so skinny that they look like boys.

What person looks at that and contemplates the aesthetic value of the dress? That spectacle is not an artistic expression intended to render the wearer invisible so that the clothing becomes the focus. Her shocking presence steals the focus from the dress. She does not look like a hanger. She does not look like a pre pubertal boy. Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that she looks like a woman who is starving to death. Outside of the most shallow and image obsessed people in the fashion industry, who have tried everything to brainwash themselves into thinking that woman is something one should look upon with calm composure, anyone who sees that image experiences a visceral reaction of horror.

What I wonder: Is this state of affairs totally explainable by reference to the sexual preferences of gay fashion designers? If so, we need more female and heterosexual male fashion designers.

What I'd like to know: Do Vera Wang and other female designers use models as skinny as those used by gay male fashion designers? Does Anna Wintour of Vogue prefer skinnier models? If so, why?

Another possible explanation: Maybe the aging affluent female customers who spend big bucks on haute couture prefer to see dresses worn by androgynous models who seem less like sexual competition. Could this have something to do with it? Do upper class women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and with declining sexual market value really want to go to a fashion show and see incredibly sexy and fertile women modeling clothes?

Since Feminist X is bisexual and shares some of my own preferences for non-starving well-endowed women she's the sort of woman who is least likely to see sexy voluptuous cat walk models as competition. Rather, I bet they look more like tasty morsels to her (that's how I see them).

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 October 17 11:54 AM  Culture Sexual Marketplace


Comments
MaryJ said at October 17, 2009 3:17 PM:

Does Anna Wintour of Vogue prefer skinnier models?
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Anna Wintour is an emaciated skeleton herself, so yes, she probably does. These fashionable women will pay for their preferences when they develop osteoporosis in their later years. I have older female relatives with this problem and they look and feel awful.

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Another possible explanation: Maybe the aging affluent female customers who spend big bucks on haute couture prefer to see dresses worn by androgynous models who seem less like sexual competition
---
Arrghh! Not this crap again. Look, it's a fashion that goes in and out. Most tailored clothes don't look good on curvy women. So when the style is tailored, the models are thin and angular. See the 1920s. When the styles are curvy, then the models are also. See the 1930s styles. Then again, 1940s, angular and tailored, the Katharine Hepburn look was in. Then in the 1950s, curvy was in, back to curvy styles, aka The New Look. It goes back and forth.

Audacious Epigone said at October 17, 2009 3:21 PM:

Continuing on the thoughts about the preferences of older women for non-threatening models (by commission), the lack of interest in cat walkers among heterosexual men must have a similar effect (via omission). I pay attention enough to hot female celebrities, but I know absolutely nothing about the fashion model circuit because I'm conditioned to not even consider that venue as a space to find them. If more heterosexual men started caring about female fashion, things would probably improve, but why would normal guys want to wade through the focus on silly getups to get at the good stuff, when it is so much more directly accessible elsewhere (in Maxim or GQ, in movies, online, in pornography, etc)?

MaryJ said at October 17, 2009 3:31 PM:

Continuing on the thoughts about the preferences of older women for non-threatening models (by commission),
--
The most non-threatening models for older women would be fatties, considering that most American women of all ages are chubboes.

Randall Parker said at October 17, 2009 4:10 PM:

Mary,

I remember Twiggy in the 1960s. That seemed like a fashion. But the skinniness period now just goes on and on and on. Seems hard to attribute the extended period of emaciation solely to fashion.

It is worth noting that a number of occupations have undergone demographic changes. I bet the fashion industry became much more homosexual as homosexuality came out of the closet.

Audacious Epigone,

I'd like to know whether the percentage of haute couture bought by men for their women has gone up, down, sideways and whether male buyers used to play a much larger role. Did 1950s models have curves because men bought dresses as gifts?

Also, continuing on your point about more available porn: Did the growth in availability of pornography basically take away a source of demand for voluptuous models? How? What would be the economic mechanism? What's the source of dollars to buy something that went away as a result?

MaryJ said at October 17, 2009 4:25 PM:

Randall, I certainly agree that gay men have something to do with it. However voluptous models were "in" as late as the '90s supermodel era of Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer etc. Kate Moss brought back the emaciated look by the mid-90s. Cindy and Linda et al were not emaciated, although they were thin by average American female standards.

I'd like to know whether the percentage of haute couture bought by men for their women has gone up, down, sideways and whether male buyers used to play a much larger role.

Nobody buys haute couture anymore. Among their (few) big customers are oil-rich Arab sheikas who aren't allowed to wear their super-expensive clothes outside their own homes anyways. Who would buy that hideously ugly, hideously expensive crap?

MaryJ said at October 17, 2009 4:32 PM:

Ps -- to explain the changes, the haute couture fashion lines are loss leaders, because nobody buys the clothes anymore. The haute couture lines just build name recognition and publicty for the ready-to-wear lines. All the big fashion names have ready-to-wear lines they sell to the mass market -- and that's where the real money is.

Engineer-Poet said at October 17, 2009 11:42 PM:

MaryJ:  your posts would be clearer if you used the <blockquote> tag when citing other comments.

Calvin Klein said at October 18, 2009 1:22 AM:

I think this point has already been approached from a couple of different angles, but it is worth pointing out the absurdity of the boilerplate feminist charge that anorexic female standards of beauty are promulgated by a male-dominated fashion industry, which is then alleged to be an oppression mechanism for heterosexual males, when in fact the one group least interested in the female fashion industry (other than the blind) consists of heterosexual men. They don't care what the clothes look like (as MaryJ pointed out, who wears such absurdities?) and they don't care what the models look like either.

I suppose these days any man who goes into fashion design is automatically assumed to be gay, but I don't believe it was always thus. American fashion was for a long time dominated by Jewish merchants and tailors who sort of drifted into the design end of the business, more as a trade than an aesthetic endeavour, and were no more presumably gay than people who design office furniture or automobiles. In other words, I'm sure some were gay, but a great many weren't.

I would say on the subject of oil-rich Arab sheikas buying haute couture, they can wear it in their own countires when exclusively in the company of their female friends (which is the real point of buying haute couture), and they can wear as soon as their jet lands in Paris, London, Milan, etc. I guess they consider those reasons enough.

MaryJ said at October 18, 2009 9:57 AM:

Engineer-Poet, thank you for the tip.

Calvin: Your post reminded me of the old I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ricky, Fred and Ethel take a trip to Paris. Lucy and Ethel keep demanding that Ricky and Fred buy them at lest one real, haute couture Parisian dress. Ricky and Fred of course do not want to shell out the big bucks, so they play a trick on Lucy and Ethel: they have strange-looking outfits created from feed sacks and then have fake designer labels sewn into the clothes. Lucy and Ethel are thrilled and wear the weird clothes to a fashionable outdoors Parisian cafe where all the fashionable Parisians can see them. Eventually they learn the truth about their "haute couture" outfits and are outraged. At the end of the episode, however, they all go back to the same cafe and see real Parisian models wearing duplicates of Lucy and Ethel's feedsack outfits.

linden said at October 18, 2009 11:13 AM:
Most tailored clothes don't look good on curvy women. So when the style is tailored, the models are thin and angular. See the 1920s. When the styles are curvy, then the models are also. See the 1930s styles. Then again, 1940s, angular and tailored, the Katharine Hepburn look was in. Then in the 1950s, curvy was in, back to curvy styles, aka The New Look. It goes back and forth.

1920s women's outfits look like sacks to me.

The comment about tailored clothing is completely off-base unless 'tailored' is a synonym for 'men's'. Curvy women absolutely need tailored clothing in order to NOT look fat. If you are well-endowed, anything that is not tailored will make you look like a cow. To find a top that fits my chest, I have to buy one that is a sack around my waist. The waist is completely obliterated if you are well-endowed. Do not get me started on the sleeve issue. I have to have almost everything taken in. A good example would be the women's outfits on Mad Men. Joan Holloway would look like a cow in today's clothing unless she wore a lot of lycra and spandex. If anything, having boyish bodies as the model for women's clothing saves clothing manufacturers a ton of money. They don't have to worry about our clothing actually fitting us.

Women's clothing would be better if sizes included actual measurements for the body like men's clothing.

MaryJ said at October 18, 2009 2:04 PM:
The comment about tailored clothing is completely off-base unless 'tailored' is a synonym for 'men's'.

Tailored" does mean menswear-styled in the fashion industry, i.e. suits, pleated pants, blazer-style jackets, the "sporty look" etc. And yes the sporty look, i.e. golf and tennis togs, started to appear in the 20s. These do look better on an angular styled body than on a curvy body. What you are talking about is "fitted" clothing, which is not the same thing. The "New Look" of the 1950s was fitted with the nipped-in waists etc.

If anything, having boyish bodies as the model for women's clothing saves clothing manufacturers a ton of money. They don't have to worry about our clothing actually fitting us.

You've got a good point there.

Women's clothing would be better if sizes included actual measurements for the body like men's clothing.

Once upon a time, it did. That's where the old 32, 34, 36, 38 measurements come from -- those were blouse, sweater and jacket sizes, not just bra sizes. The sizes were standardized to the 6,8,10, 12s etc. we have now around, I think, the late 70s, probably to save money for the fashion industry as you say. The shoe industry is the same way. You used to be able to get "size D, wide" or "size A, narrow." Now it's more and more becoming just small, medium and large. However we are the ones who buy this crap, so we do get what we put up with.

averros said at October 18, 2009 4:22 PM:

Is it anorexia or just Calorie Restriction? One is supposed to be unhealthy, another is supposed to be healthy:)

I would venture to guess that what looks like half-starved to obesity-desensitized eyes of modern westerners was considered healthy norm 200 years ago.

MaryJ said at October 18, 2009 4:37 PM:
I would venture to guess that what looks like half-starved to obesity-desensitized eyes of modern westerners was considered healthy norm 200 years ago.
Lillian Russell was considered the uber-babe of her time, the 1890s. She was, to put it understatedly, rather pudgy.
miles said at October 18, 2009 9:32 PM:

I think you are very much correct about this Randall.

GW said at October 19, 2009 1:18 PM:

Neuro-aesthetics should be brought into any consideration of this issue. Peak shift plays a very important part, I think, and also explains why presentations of ideal female beauty vary so much depending on whether the audience is primarily male or female. Female models who are photographed for a male audience tend to display a peak shift exaggeration toward features which men are inclined to pay attention (curvier figures, augmented breasts, long flowing hair). Women modeling for a female audience tend to display peak shift exaggeration toward feature women pay attention to in other women (is she prettier, taller, skinnier, than me?). Women tend also to be more interested in some of the more masculine features of androgynous models (squarer features, for instance) but this does not seem to translate to more primary masculine traits (such as body hair, increased musculature, etc.).

Randall Parker said at October 19, 2009 7:36 PM:

averros,

No, women who looked like they were starving were not an ideal 200 years ago. Hunger was the biggest killer. Starving people were not desirable.

GW,

So you think the female purchasers really like seeing emaciated models as an ideal?

averros said at October 25, 2009 9:42 PM:

Randall, MaryJ - what's up with comprehension of English?

What I said is what LOOKS to Westerners half-starved (note: isn't half-starved, just LOOKING like that to MODERN people) was NORM... not IDEAL.

Today's norm is borderline obese. At least in US. Back then it was beauty ideal (apparently only because wealthy were able to feed themselves to the point of obesity - and the beauty ideals are about class, not about health). And, yep, the wealthy people back then used to suffer from gout and heavy metal poisoning, so having gout and being "eccentric" were also considered a badge of distinction.

Jamessriske said at January 30, 2010 11:42 PM:

Funny how the very image of what is healthy and normal and what is not has been changed over the past few years by people who call slim women 'starving' and 'anorexic'. Since so many women are overweight nowadays, they even had to change dress sizes in order to make them feel more normal. I guess fat women like to get on the internet and call slim, attractive women starving and unhealthy but the reality is that they are just normal and healthy and men prefer them. Most men are very turned off by chubby or flabby women. While I agree that a woman can be overly skinny and that anorexia exists and it's horrible, I think you should also agree that women can be overly fat and that obesity is a horrible condition too. Instead of trying to change men's minds about what is appealing and what is not...how about eating less and visiting the gym more often? Just a thought....


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