Toothpick models: the fashionistas fight back

Mag editors are under fire for promoting thinness. And they're not having it
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The Independent Online

Fashion editors bared their expensively maintained teeth and bit back yesterday after the former Marie Claire editor Liz Jones criticised glossy magazines for promoting images of emaciated models to vulnerable girls.

Following similar comments by the author J K Rowling, Ms Jones, who has struggled with an eating disorder, targeted editors of such fashion magazines as Vogue, Elle and Glamour. "Unless they promote women as toothpicks, they will lose their chauffeur-driven jobs and front-row seats at fashion shows," she wrote. "[Designers] want you to believe that you are not beautiful enough or young enough or thin enough, and they do that by draping cadaverous 16-year-olds across double-page spreads so you will feel so wretched that you will have to buy their products to make yourself feel better."

Yesterday, fashionistas retaliated, with many saying that Jones had misunderstood the complex causes of the disease anorexia. Paula Reed, style director of Grazia, told The Independent on Sunday: "A person with anorexia has loads more issues than just wanting to look like a model. It belittles the reasons behind the problem."

Ms Reed, in turn, said that designers and fashion shows should take some responsibility. "The clothes used in fashion shoots are lent by designers' press offices for the catwalk - they don't exist in other sizes," she said. "Models are looking painfully thin, and I don't think it's beautiful or sexy."

Rebecca Lowthorpe, fashion features editor at Elle, agreed: "I don't think it probably helps to see painfully thin girls, but your self-image comes from so many more social factors than merely looking at a magazine with a celebrity who just happens to be thin."

Several notable editors among Ms Jones's specific targets were reluctant to talk about her article. Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour, said simply: "I don't have any comment to make." Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, said yesterday: "I've not done interviews on this. I've not written about it. It's not something I want to talk about."

However, in an interview with Ms Jones last year, she defended Vogue's policy. "I think I am realistic and pragmatic. If you buy a fashion magazine like mine, you are buying it to look at a world of glamour."

WHAT THEY SAY

LIZ JONES: "Despite the headlines and handwringing over the dictatorship of thinness, very little seems to be done. If anything the problem is getting worse"

REBECCA LOWTHORPE: "Your self-image comes from so many more social factors than merely looking at a magazine with a celebrity who just happens to be thin."

CANDIDA CREWE "For five of my 41 years I had anorexia and bulimia. Almost all women in the West hear a soundtrack in their head telling us what to eat and tracking the fat."

SKINNY-O-METER

ELLE

Read by: young and stylish. No. of pages: 298. No. of fashion pictures: 160. Regular models: 17. Skinny models: 143. Skinny-o-meter 8.9

VOGUE (UK)

Read by: Late twenties and beyond fashionistas. No. of pages: 352. No. of fashion pictures: 109. Regular models: 15. Skinny models: 94 Skinny-o-meter: 8.6

BLISS

Read by: Teens watching trends. No. of pages: 162. No. of fashion pictures: 62. Regular models: 10. Skinny models: 52. Skinny-o-meter 8.4

Research by Megan Waitcoff

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