Vogue editor launches new war on size-zero fashion

The editor of Vogue has accused some of the world’s leading catwalk
designers of pushing ever thinner models into fashion magazines despite
widespread public concern over “size-zero” models and rising teenage

Alexandra Shulman, one of the most important figures in the multi-billion-pound
fashion industry, has taken on all the largest fashion houses in a strongly
worded letter sent to scores of designers in Europe and America.
In a letter
not intended for publication but seen by The Times, Shulman accuses
designers of making magazines hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts
or hips” by supplying them with “minuscule” garments for their photoshoots. Vogue
is now frequently “retouching” photographs to make models look larger, she

Her intervention was hailed last night as a turning point in the debate over
model size that has raged after the deaths of three models from
complications relating to malnutrition, and the decision of leading fashion
shows to ban size-zero models.

“We have now reached the point where many of the sample sizes don’t
comfortably fit even the established star models,” Shulman writes, in a
letter sent to Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano and fellow designers at Prada,
Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Balen- ciaga and other top fashion houses.The
supermodel Erin O’Connor described the stand by the editor of Britain’s most
prominent fashion magazine as “a huge breakthrough”.

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25 Responses to Vogue editor launches new war on size-zero fashion

  1. Melissa says:

    Good for her!! I hope these designers listen.

  2. tk says:

    vogue could feature obese models for all i care. i buy fashion magazines for just that – the fashion.
    i also judge my body solely on what I think. i do not care if i am surrounded by anorexic models or overweight models. i will always look at myself and tell myself i am fatter than anybody else because that is what my eating disorder has done to me.
    but hey, if the campaign helps stop teenage girls from googling “how to become anorexic” then i’m all for it.
    eating disorders have always been around, even before there was so much hype about size zero models in the media. i know eating disorders have increased, but maybe we are looking at it from a different angle. what about the difference in upbringing?individual experiences?
    the media is exploiting eating disorders but not causing them IMO

  3. Bela says:

    There should never be a “war on” anything – it goes nowhere productive.
    Body acceptance is obviously what is necessary… I do not think that one body type should be valued over another in regards to bodies that are in a healthy range i.e. not bone skinny, not morbidly obese.
    I think if the idea of equality was actually present in the minds of everyone globally, all our lives would be much much easier and less stressful… and hurtful… because we all know that comparing hurts… and in fact, is only comparing someone else’s strengths to your weaknesses.

  4. "Julia" says:

    Interesting that the name Alexandra means “defender of men.” She’s certainly a defender of someone.

  5. prettyshinythings says:


  6. MCP says:

    Melissa- I just said precisely the same thing to Mama V the other day about Media while definitely not a help, NOT THE CAUSE of eating disorders. I don’t she gets it.

  7. Rachel says:

    When Vogue also calls on its paying advertisers to stop using the same size models as fashion designers, I’ll support them in their call. Keep in mind that Vogue was one of the leading forces in the late 1990s in promoting the heroin chic look.
    These letters, which were supposed to be “private” but were somehow leaked to the media, were written strategically to draw publicity to the magazine, which conveniently focuses its current edition on women and body image insecurities. I have no doubt that Shulman is sincere in her call, but I am bothered by the fact that she is using eating disorders as a way of increasing profits.
    I have more on Shulman and the call on my blog at: http://the-f-word.org/blog/index.php/2009/06/16/whos-to-blame-for-super-skinny-models/

  8. smudgeruk says:

    I don’t think the media on its own can ’cause’ anorexia, bulimia, and so on. But it can’t be helping those teetering on the edge, or already suffering. It reinforces the same old, stale old stereotypes of what a woman should be and look like.
    I *do* think it puts unrealistic and huge pressure on women, teens and even children to aspire to a certain look, with the implication that unless you’re skinny as hell, your life isn’t worth a thing, you’ll never achieve anything, you’ll never get the man, the job, the future…
    That, in turn, leads people into such unhealthy behaviour as yo-yo dieting, fasting and binging, depression and overeating as a result, low self-esteem and behaviour that can only ever be described as “disordered eating”.
    If you make a *conscious decision* to restrict your food intake, or to purge whatever you *do* eat, it may not fit the classic boundaries of anorexia or bulimia as a mental illness. But it certainly can fit into the EDNOS definition, and therefore is worth of examination.
    If you want to know why there are so many girls on pro-ana sites ‘playing at anorexia’, look at the fashion mags, look at advertising. If a teen girl starts dieting because she’s being bullied for her appearance – well, where have those opinions on “what looks good” come from?
    So perhaps we can’t say it causes all eating disorders – but it certainly causes disordered eating and is indirectly connected to the rise and rise of the pro-ana site – so why not tackle it head on?
    And, at the end of the day, MamaV is expressing HER OPINION on HER BLOG. She’s not claiming to receive government funding, she’s not claiming to be an authority as such, it’s her thoughts and experiences, and so whether you think “she gets it” is neither here nor there, in the grand scheme of things.
    There’s no right and wrong. It’s all opinion.

  9. Mrs. B says:

    I think that was a very good post. Something is going on with young women, and it isn’t good. Whatever part that media is playing should end.

  10. smudgeruk says:

    Unfortunately, I think Rachel above has a point. Money talks, above all else.

  11. Jera says:

    War on Size Zero. Please. How about a war on capitalism. The whole “profits before people (especially women” mentality is what has us all in this mess to begin with. Waging war against a size or body type isn’t going to change anything. Eating disorders still existed back in the days before “size zero” and when models were a big bigger than they are now.
    And I agree that it is suspicious that those letters “mysteriously” leaked out.

  12. MCP says:

    In my opinion, if she wants to focus on EDNOS and how the media causes disordered eating, then fine. A lot of people have disordered eating habbits and are influenced by the media- I am not saying it is right- But she should not throw full blown anorexia or bulimia with very serious psychological, psychiatric deep seeded roots into the same category.

  13. "Julia" says:

    MCP, I have to ask you what the difference is in your mind between EDNOS and anorexia and bulimia.
    They may not be in the same category in your mind, but I can tell you as someone who has lived with EDNOS for ten years that I do have the same psychological issues going on as my friends with anorexia and bulimia.
    The idea that my suffering is somehow less because my problem doesn’t have a name is completely incorrect.

  14. prettyshinythings says:

    I had a nightmare that she got fired last night. ***ANXIETY DREAM***

  15. rach says:

    although i don’t think the development of my eating disorder had anything to do with the media or size zero, it certainly doesn’t help when i’m trying to recover and get back a good body image. i can look around and see skinny models everywhere and use it as justification not to gain weight.
    kinda like ‘if they’re allowed to be skinny, are even praised for it, why aren’t i?’. i’m trying to accept that i have to gain weight, and as my natural weight is definitely not thin, seeing skinny models can be quite demotivating if i’m in a bad frame of mind
    however i agree that you should state you focus mainly on media influences, as articles correlating size zero and eating disorders don’t help the stereotype that ‘they just think they’re fat and want to be skinny!’

  16. smudgeruk says:

    Very well put, Julia. A lot of people seem to see a diagnosis of EDNOS as “anorexia/bulimia lite” – and it really is much more serious than that.
    To use an example :
    A 30 year-old woman orders an extra-large family size pizza, potato wedges, potato salad, garlic bread with cheese. She binges on the lot, washing it down with 2 litres of cola. She doesn’t really know or understand why she has to stuff herself with dough and cheese like this, but she does. It doesn’t happen every day, sometimes not even every week. But pretty regularly.
    Full of self-loathing and disgust at her behaviour the previous night, the following day sees her eating nothing more than an apple and drinking only water. Sometimes, after binging, she makes herself sick.
    Now, the diagnosis.
    Anorexic? Bulimic?
    Not by conventional diagnosis.
    Overeating/compulsive eating/EDNOS?
    “very serious psychological, psychiatric deep seeded roots” ?
    (Oh, and the example? That’s me. I suppose you’d guessed that already though, right?)

  17. MCP says:

    Julia, you are right. Unfortunately, I wrote that in a hurry and it didn’t come out appropriately. I apologize. I certainly understand your suffering.
    I guess what I seem to fail to get across to Mama V which can get me extremely frustrated is that I feel she generalizes every eating disorder – be it anorexia, bulimia, ednos, binge eating disorder, obesity…into one lump category that she calls a disordered eating society.
    Practically everyone at least that I know in this world struggles on some level with food/fitness/weight/appearance and has felt guilty every now and then over eating a cookie. I am not saying that this is rational, I am just saying that I don’t think you can make claims that every person who may feel guilty about what they put in their mouths or if they one day think their hips look too big in a pair of jeans has an eating disorder. Who has never felt that way at one point?
    Maybe she doesn’t think everyone has an eating disorder- I don’t know. But in my opinion, it is how she comes across. As I have said over and over again, I do think the media definitely adds pressure on body image,and being thin, etc.
    But, having been in several facilities myself, having seen I don’t know how many experts in the field- some of them the most reknowned in the world- I know for a fact that there has been significant research proving that eating disorders are biologically based mental illnesses.
    In fact, and I am not sure Mama V is aware, several class action lawsuits have been successfully won against SEVERAL insurance companies who would not cover treatment for eating disorders based on the argument that it is indeed a biologically based MENTAL ILLNESS. These cases have made national headlines across the united states and in Europe
    Here’s the way I see it and if people don’t agree with me that’s fine- but a big part of the reason why insurance companies do not pay for eating disorders is because they believe what Mama V does- that eating disorders are caused by fashion magazines and lame tv commercials- that it is a society problem and not a serious mental problem. And I am not making this up, because in all the stories I have read and seen on tv and in the papers, stories that are widely accessable on the internet- this was what was reported as to the reason why insurance companie’s were reluctant to pay for treatment. They saw it as a problem created by society, and not someone who has a serious mental illness.
    I understand that she is not a trained professional in the psychological problems and causes of eating disorders- but I don’t feel that she acknowledges or addresses the fact that eating disorders stem way way beyond Vogue, Laundry Detergent, and Nivea ads. I hope this clarifies and better articulates my point.

  18. "Julia" says:

    No problem. I understand.
    I just felt that EDNOS was in that statement lumped in with “wannarexia” (those who decide that they want to become anorexic, thereby bypassing the psychological factors and also treating the disease as though it were a diet from which escape is actually possible).
    And definitely on the problem not being driven by society alone.
    You just have to look at cases of anorexis mirabilis (“holy anorexia”) extending to St. Catherine of Siena, St. Margaret of Cortona, and St. Joan of Arc in the early medieval period. No doubt it existed before then and in less glorified persons.
    However, I do think that the current societal attitude toward weight is detrimental and a factor in the increasing incidence of eating disorders.
    The pressure to be thin and the omnipresence of triggering materials may be among factors that are pushing girls with preexisting insecurities and emotional problems over the edge. And as stated by others on this page, these things certainly don’t help those in recovery.
    It won’t address the root causes for everyone, but if this insanity with advertising and models and actresses being too thin ever goes away, it will likely help reduce the numbers.

  19. .C. says:

    I want to get in on this.
    MCP, I want to say that, regarding the insurance company thing, they don’t necessarily BELIEVE that it is simply caused by society, but probably do use this as an EXCUSE. Insurance companies make money by not paying claims. I guess the real problem is seeing an eating disorder as less serious because it is caused by media influence, and not a ‘serious biological disorder’. That’s just an example, of course – frankly I think the reasons for eating disorders are myriad.
    That’s the real thing. There are lots of causes. They vary from person to person, but I think almost all the time there are multiple causes with each sufferer. I’ll take a leaf out of smudgeruk’s book and use myself as an example.
    I always wanted to be thin, and never was. I was a slightly chubby kid, but also I have a muscle in my stomach that never quite connected, so it simply cannot lie as flat as everyone else’s. I definitely got the message that thin was good all over the place – various people in my family/social circle, etc.; but also media sources. I always idolized the beautiful princess idea, and she was always thin.
    I restricted my food intake because of this, but I have also starved myself for other reasons. When I left .J. I did not eat for a week. I can think of two reasons for this: the first one was punishment. I feel like it was some sort of search for absolution or something, for hurting him. I hurt the person who means more to me than anything, a person I would die for. I think the idea that I was punishing myself for that is a distinct possibility. Then there is the fact that I wanted the fog starvation brings. When your mind is fading out from lack of food, you can’t feel so acutely the absolute, wracking pain of whatever it is that’s driving itself into your heart.
    So, basically, yes I want to be thin. I also do use starvation as a coping mechanism, and as self-punishment. Media probably plays a part; I admit I think skinny models are gorgeous. I see Lady Dior ads and that sort of thing that I just wish I could BECOME. I can’t though. I think I’m almost ready to come to terms with that, but I’m not quite there yet.
    Anyway, there’s my much more than 2 cents. Last thoughts:
    Julia: I’m EDNOS too. I gave in and ate a sandwich today so I’m not “allowed” to have dinner. Not anorexic, but it still hurts.
    Smudgeruk: I know what it feels like to binge. I know that the reasons are many for that, too. Were you just hungry? After I’ve deprived myself for a while, I usually lose it. If you ever need to talk and want my email, let me know.
    To everyone else, cheers.

  20. smudgeruk says:

    Hi, .C.,
    The cycle seems to be:
    ‘normal’ eating
    massive binge
    normal eating… and repeat.
    I’m hoping to get some help soon for it. I’ve been in denial myself that there has been anything wrong – I’ve certainly never spoken to anyone about it before, or detailed the sorts of stuff I’ll eat in one sitting. A blood test has just come back and my body is completely screwed through this. I’m just a bit scared at the moment.

  21. MCP says:

    I sure hope! I definitely think that sometimes, her drawing so much attention to it with pictures and such makes it worse.
    Media is no doubt a problem- definitely so. But sometimes, I feel like she acts like it’s the only factor. I know it’s impossible in any blog to address every aspect of any one issue…but it seems to me that the media is more often than not the ONLY thing she attributes eating disorders to.
    I think she over-simplifies it. It’s like saying a kid who may watch a violent movie or a tv show is going to then go out and kill someone. That’s how I feel she comes off sometimes, and it’s just not that simple.
    Then, I get even more frustrated because I feel like her attitude is “well, you don’t like what I say, then don’t visit my website”
    While she has a point, if she is going to consider herself a leader and a positive influence in the eating disorder community, I think she could learn a little bit more about them and not be so narrow in her thinking. And it’s like crap- god forbid I saw narrow… because I bet she will harp on me about using the word narrow and go off on one of her tirades about how I am using a word that relates to being thin.
    I enjoy this site, and I like communicating with people. I think Mama V is well intentioned, but everyone on here is not in the same stage of recovery. Many people who may come here for help are in very fragile mindsets, and I don’t think it’s very appropriate to be posting pictures like that really rail thin model. She refuses to agree.
    But I think this is where having a deeper understanding and sesnsitivity of eating disorders and their psychological components could be very helpful in her mission to raise awareness about them. But that’s just my 2 cents

  22. MCP says:

    C- thanks for sharing. I am sorry for your pain. I Relate to what you say about the fog of the starvation state. Definitely!!!!
    But I’ve been doing well for awhile now. I agree with you on the insurance thing using society as an excuse not to pay. My insurance actually pays for my therapy pretty well. But about a 1.5 years ago, I had an awful relapse with my anorexia. I was determined not to go back to the hospital and insisted I do it as an outpatiet- even though in NYC one of the best facilities in the United states at Columbia Presbyerian Hospital allows has a free in patient unit in participation for their research from a grant from the NYS department of mental health. I had the opportunity to go. I refused.
    Instead I opted for out patient therapy and a nutritionist. My insurance company said they don’t cover nutritionists unless you are diabetic. That it was part of the policy. Well… I couldn’t find that stated anywhere in my policy. So after fighting with them over and over again- they think you are just going away- I went and made a complaint to the State dept of Insurance. I won. Since it does not state it is excluded, they have to pay and it is retro active. So now all 20 times i have seen her in 1.5 years, they have to give me a portion of it back.
    So ladies and getleman- the lesson is- never stop fighting. You are worth it!

  23. Sarah says:

    THANK THE HEAVENS ABOVE. this is fucking amazing.

  24. .C. says:

    MCP – AWESOME story! That is so cool, that you fought them and won. I am considering recovery, and while I am wary of seeking treatment, that gives me hope that if I DO decide I would like some professional help, maybe my health insurance would cover it. How are you doing today with your recovery? Anything you can tell me about outpatient?
    Smudgeruk – yeah, it’s scary what happens to your body. I realized today that I hadn’t – erm – moved my bowels, to put it delicately, in 2 or 3 days. I get weak, so weak I feel loopy. I have trouble sleeping and I notice that sometimes my hands/arms just go numb when I have been sleeping. Still, none of that is anywhere near as bad as I feel after a binge. I sort of binged today… I say sort of because I didn’t really feel out of control the way I do when I’m seriously bingeing, even though I ate a lot. I just kind of decided to try the rest of the things I’ve been resisting trying while in France, so I did. Meringue, creme brulee, pralines, chocolate, the whole deal. Of course, I feel sick now, and am going to restrict like hell to make up for it, but that’s what life is for me right now. Sad to admit, but there it is. I did try to throw up but I am not good at it (low gag reflex) and honestly I don’t beat myself up when I’m unable to too much, because I am a singer and I know it’s bad for the voice. One thing that keeps me pretty much out of the bulimic track, which is probably a good thing… Anyway, anything else you feel you can share about your life? I am really interested in the circumstances of other people with EDNOS, since I am a sufferer. It sounds like we’re in pretty different situations but act very similarly. Thoughts?
    Love to all from,

  25. MCP says:

    Hi C,
    Thanks for your message. I am actually doing well now, although it was a very rough rough relapse.
    I have to say that though I opted for out patient therapy- when you have anorexia- it’s extremely difficult. This is not to say that no one in therapy with any kind of eating disorder does not find therapy tough or that one person strggles with one kind of eating disorder over the other- so please no one say that’s what I am implying.
    I am just saying, with anorexia, it’s hard because anorexics as we know hate gaining weight. When I was kid, my parents put me in every known facility in the tri state area for my ED. It’s a lot easiar to have people laying down rules that you have to follow, making you gain weight and basically force feed if you don’t eat which is what they did with me.
    If you are over 18 and don’t want to go to the hospital- no one can make you go. No one is watching how many laps you run, whether or not you eat that meal, and how much water you could be drinking to fudge your weight on the scales and lying to everyone. When I had my relapse at 33, (I will be 35 next week) one of the doctor’s at columbia’s out patient eating disorders clinic who evaluated me told me flat out-I don’t think you can do this on your own. I’ve seen this movie, and I think you need to go in the hospital. Looking back, sometimes I wish I had but at the time, I was so entrenced in my anorexia that I was like hell no- you aren’t making do anything I don’t want to. Being a rape survivor, I pretty much have that attiutude whenever I feel like I’m being pressured to do anything against my will.
    You have to be extremely motivated, but it’s possible. You have to really want it. I don’t know your area but I know that there are a lot of different options for out patient treatment. There’s regualr talk therapy, nutrition therapy- maybe you could google nutritionists who specialize in eating disorders. Also there are some treatment centers- at least there are in my area that have partial day treatment- some are a few nights a week for like 3 hours, and then they also provide options for more intense and longer day treatment
    I don’t really know much about EDNOS except that I think it’s a category that they diagnos people in who have disorded eating but don’t fight the medical criteria for anorexia or bulimia. I believe binge eating disorder falls in that category. I read the post on that book purge on here, and I don’t really quite get it. I remember reading some thing she said in an interview, and she admitted to both restricting and purging. To me- that says you have both… which many many people with eating disorders do. I mean- if your scarfing and barfing and at a normal weight- to me that is bulimia. Bulimics binge and throw up and also have patterns where they restrict too so I don’t really understand why they didn’t put her in the regular ed category, but I haven’t read the book so I don’t know. I seem to remember reading some ridiculous thing somewhere that EDNOS also applies to how much binging/purging you do which to me is ludicrous. Ok- soo you binge and purge 3 nights a week instead of 7 times a week several days a week… it’s still called binging and vomitting which in my book = bulimia. Other ENOS’s I have heard about are ruminating- throwing up your food so you can tate it in your mouth but not all the way and re-swallowing it and chewing food but spitting it out.
    So that’s about what I know. If anyone could explain the thing I said about EDNOS when it comes to people who have binging/purging/restricting issues and why it does not fall under bulimia, I’d love to know. I understand that if you aren’t underweight enough about not meeting the medical criteria for anorexia but the situation I just don’t get.
    C, recovery is not easy, but it is possible. Take it from me. For many of us, it’s a lifelong struggle. It has been for me. I am sorry you are having a rough time. I’d definitely reccomend seeking help, but like I said, you have to want it. A lot of people with eating disorders don’t and I understand that because I was once one of them. But it’s no way to live. It’s a horrible horrible illness that takes over you and it can be very difficult to break from from it’s grasp. I am glad I decided to.

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