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Robert Tornambe, M.D.

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Is Fashion Week Bad for Body Image?

Posted: 02/15/11 05:10 PM ET

New York City and the media is all abuzz as Fashion Week rolls on, attracting the world's top fashion designers, celebrities and of course, the top models. It is an exciting time, allowing designers to strut their stuff and display their latest masterpieces to the hungry public. Enthusiastic fashion editors are eager to showcase the new look of the coming fashion season in their magazines, and decide what is "in" and what is "not." It is also an important economic event for the industry prompting growth and publicity.

Fashion designers are true artists, and fashion models are the canvas on which they paint. My problem is the notion that the most beautiful gowns, dresses and outfits can only look good on very tall and painfully thin models. The majority of clothing looks better and more dramatic on these professionals, especially on the runway! My issue is that most women wear a larger dress size than these models. I am sure that some designs do translate and work for larger sizes, but I would bet that most don't.

There is a staggering amount of attention and adulation paid to fashion models, especially this week. There are numerous, extravagant shows all over the city with luminous dignitaries from Hollywood and society perched in the front rows to see and be seen. They attend lavish parties and are wined and dined by rich and famous actors, rock stars, athletes and business tycoons.

It is no wonder that supermodels have become role models for many women in our society. Is that a good idea? Many are in their teens or early 20s, nearly six feet tall and have a body mass index (BMI) in the minus column!

The dress size of most models visiting our city this week is zero to two! Prior to these fashion shows, they are coiffed and preened by some of the world's most talented makeup artists and hairstylists. Their job is to look beautiful, and they delegate most of their time to that endeavor. Is this type of beauty realistic, and more importantly, attainable?

How does the average woman compete or try to emulate? By average, I mean the majority of the female population! The working mom, the career woman, the professional woman, the stay-at-home mom, the blue-collar woman, most women! She cannot! The average height for American women is 5'4" tall and average dress size, 12 to 14!

By trying to imitate these role models, women are unduly influenced into negative opinions about themselves and forced to chase an illusion. The average American woman will never be six feet tall, but will turn to ridiculous starvation diets or worse yet, succumb to eating disorders to try to attain that zero dress size to fit into that designer dress.

We must change our perception of beauty and choose realistic role models. Why not select that neighbor, coworker or friend who is confident, funny, smart, warm and beautiful, inside and out, as our role models! We also must abandon the notion that youth is the only path towards beauty. Women must embrace the fact that true beauty does and must transcend the decades as we age! We are all-familiar with gorgeous women in every decade of life; why not select age-appropriate role models? We must allow a woman's beauty to evolve with her as she ages to suit her current stage of life, and age with dignity. We can always try to look, act and feel as beautiful as we can, but realize that there is so much more in life than looking beautiful.

We should enjoy Fashion Week for what it is, a stunning and electrifying event showcasing fashion design as a true art form. We can certainly watch and revel at the grace and style exhibited by the models as they strut down the runways. Remember, those models are beautiful, but that's their job! Become your own role model. Learn to acquire a critical eye on fashion to extract what works for you and run with it!

"You can take no credit for beauty at 16. But if you are beautiful at 60, it will be your soul's own doing." -- Marie Stopes

 
 
 

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