Super-Skinny Models Could Soon Be out of Style in the World’s Fashion Capital

A French politician has proposed legislation prohibiting anorexic-looking women from strutting the catwalk.

(Photo: Karl Prouse/Catwalking/Getty Images)

Mar 16, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

The saying goes that you can never be too rich or too thin. But in the nation that’s long been ground zero for the fashion industry, hiring super-skinny models could soon be a style faux pas.

French doctor and politician Olivier Véran has proposed adding language to a new health reform bill that would make it against the law for the country’s fashion industry to employ women who have been determined to be anorexic. Véran has also proposed an amendment that would make it a criminal act to promote “excessive thinness” on the Internet.

According to Véran’s proposal, modeling agencies would be required to produce regular medical reports proving that the models on their rosters aren’t underweight. A 5'7'' model, for example, would need to have a body mass index of at least 18, which would mean she’d need to weigh about 121 pounds. Along with the weight checks, violators of the regulations could be jailed for up to six months and have to pay about $79,000 in fines.

Similar to their peers in America, young women and girls in France are bombarded with slimmed-down and slicked-to-perfection media images. As a result, nearly 40,000 French girls are estimated to suffer from anorexia. It’s no wonder, then, that Véran’s push to promote healthier body images to impressionable young girls and women has the support of France’s health minister, Marisol Touraine.

“It’s important for fashion models to say that they need to eat well and take care of their health, especially for young women who look to the models as an aesthetic ideal,” Touraine told BFM TV on Monday, according to the New York Daily News.

If the law passes, France will join Italy, Israel, and Spain in having laws prohibiting too-thin models from being employed. In the United States, the Council of Fashion Designers of America created a health initiative back in 2007 that was supposed to address concerns about unhealthily thin models working in the industry. Flip through the pages of most fashion magazines or watch clips from New York Fashion Week, however, and it’s pretty clear that the council’s initiative lacks the enforcement teeth that Véran’s amendments include.