When size four is too fat

New York's fashion week wouldn't be complete without yet another runway model's bleak story

Published February 16, 2010 5:17PM (EST)

Fall fashion week in New York wouldn't be complete without an are you kidding me? story about the fashion's world's warped body size standards. So here it is: Coca Rocha, a 21-year-old model who worked the catwalk this week for Diane Von Furstenberg and Zac Posen, told The New York Times that she's not in demand for shows anymore thanks to her size four body. That's right: size four. Rocha sanely responded by telling those designers to stuff it. "If I want a hamburger, I’m going to have one. No 21-year-old should be worrying about whether she fits a sample size."

Rocha, already an advocate for industry reform, recounted her struggle with her weight as a young model. When the five-foot-ten Rocha weighed in at just 108 pounds, she was told to lose weight, and made herself sick by taking diuretic pills on an empty stomach. In an e-mail to the Associated Press in 2008, Rocha wrote:

"I'll never forget the piece of advice I got from people in the industry… They said, 'You need to lose more weight. The look this year is anorexia. We don't want you to be anorexic but that's what we want you to look like.'"

Needless to say, ugh. With all the uproar over fashion industry shifts and the much-hullaballooed appearance of a few normal-sized women on the runway, it's discouraging to see just how little has changed. As we've said so many times, the truth is that very few women can fit into those teeny-tiny sample sizes naturally, and the ones who can't are either forced out of the industry or have to struggle to conform, often developing disordered eating habits to cope with the daily scrutiny of their bodies. The deaths of models Ana Carolina Reston and Luisel Ramos remind us all too vividly of the dangers of this system.

At the Council of Fashion Designers of America's symposium last week, industry insiders discussed upping the sample size of clothing from a size zero to a size four and banning girls younger than 16 from the runway. That measure, if it was actually put in place and honored, would nudge the industry in the right direction. Maybe in the future stunners like Rocha won't be skipped over for having a hamburger now and then.


By Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Salon and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in New York City.

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