Carding on the catwalk?

The British Fashion Council recommends that girls under 16 be banned from the fashion runway.

By Carol Lloyd

Published July 12, 2007 3:32PM (EDT)

Which industry depicts underage girls in skimpy outfits for a salivating public? "Girls Gone Wild"? Child porn? Nope, we're talking high fashion. The world of runway models has long been the strutting ground for skinny teens dressed up to impersonate adult women. But because the impersonations are so dang convincing, it's easy to forget that in any other context, turning children into sexy women would be considered nothing short of perverse.

But according to a story in the Guardian Wednesday, in Britain the days of fashion show runways gridlocked with dolled-up Goldilocks may soon be over. On Tuesday a panel created by the British Fashion Council recommended that girls under 16 be banned from the catwalk.

Concluding that it was "profoundly inappropriate" for girls under 16 to be depicted as adult women, the panel also suggested that fashion shows provide chaperones for 17- and 18-year-old models and for agencies to screen models for eating disorders annually.

After decades of watching early-teen models catapult from childhood onto the catwalk (think Kate Moss, Lily Cole and Naomi Cambell), the British recommendations may seem substantial. But the panel chose to remain relatively spineless on the issue of eating disorders: It ruled out weight checks and held off banning all models with an unhealthy body mass index. In the past year, both Madrid Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week set minimum BMI for runway models. Instead, the Brits called for "rigorous scientific studies" to determine the prevalence of eating disorders among fashion models. In the wake of the deaths of Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos and Brazilian Ana Carolina Reston and the British panel's own inquiry suggesting that rates of anorexia among models could be as high as 40 percent, the call for more studies sounds like so much institutional throat clearing.

Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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