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The great Kate debate

PUBLISHED: 15:26 25 November 2009 | UPDATED: 10:19 12 August 2010

A plus-size model parades a design from the Rio label during the 'Hot in the City' Intimates show at the Sydney Fashion Festival on August 21, 2009. The festival aimed at the public profiles the comtemporary spring-summer collections of local and international fashion brands as these new season's looks arrive into stores throughout the city.   RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE      AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

A plus-size model parades a design from the Rio label during the 'Hot in the City' Intimates show at the Sydney Fashion Festival on August 21, 2009. The festival aimed at the public profiles the comtemporary spring-summer collections of local and international fashion brands as these new season's looks arrive into stores throughout the city. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE AFP PHOTO / Greg WOOD (Photo credit should read GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

2009 AFP

It s incredible that the fashion industry is still using stick thin models to promote its clothes. This makes my blood boil. I know from personal experience that not all these girls are healthy or eating the appropriate amount of food required to exist i

It's incredible that the fashion industry is still using stick thin models to promote its clothes.

This makes my blood boil. I know from personal experience that not all these girls are healthy or eating the appropriate amount of food required to exist in normal day-to-day life.

They sacrifice their health for us to have the 'supposed' fantasy of what is actually just the fashion designers' idea of what an 'ideal woman' should look like in their clothes.

The girls (and sometimes boys) often only exist on meagre scraps of food - fruit mostly - plus diet coke and cigarettes or, in extreme cases, cocaine.

These poor eating habits have even lead to cases of a few young fashion models dying. In 2006 two Uruguayan sisters - Eliana & Luisel Ramos, both models - died within months of each other after suffering heart attacks brought on by their eating disorders.

After these tragedies the Spanish and Italian fashion shows banned 'ultra-thin' models from their high-profile shows. Madrid's annual fashion show organisers even rejected 69 models that they considered underweight.

The British Fashion Week chiefs declined to follow suit, but insisted no size-zero models would be used at their shows that year. However, fashion houses have slipped back into using the size-zero models again during the latest shows, it seems.

Differing views on this issue are shown by a couple of examples from the fashion industry. Firstly Vogue's editor Alexandra Schuman recently appealed to major fashion houses to end this size-zero culture. But then American Instyle magazine's fashion director, Hal Rubenstein, told the BBC recently that women like to see these super slim models on the catwalks as they like to aspire to them. This sounds ridiculous to me. Do women around the world really want to aspire to being over 6ft tall and looking like a stick insect? I think not!

The sad fact is the fashion industry is still prejudiced about using real size models to sell their clothes. Most of us 'normal sized' women - whether we are short, shapely, tall or tiny - often have very little in common with the 6ft size-zero models that they try to impress us with in their outfits on the catwalks. Celebrities that are on our TV and cinema screens strive to be ultra thin, as we see with Victoria Beckham or Alexa Chung. This is not what us women want to see I'm sure.

I was pleased to see that, during the latest London Fashion week in September, fashion house Mark Fast used 'larger' models. The Canadian designer broke with convention and caused controversy by placing three size 12 -14 models on the catwalk to show off his figure-hugging knitwear designs. Because of his decision, a stylist and a casting director left before the show was put on, apparently feeling disgruntled and complaining it 'didn't look right'.

They were replaced by a more visionary couple who ensured the show carried on. Ultimately it was a success, which gained Mark huge praise and publicity for his Spring/Summer 2010 collection. He showed that by using curvier models, such as Hayley Morley and Laura Catterall, fuller figures girls can look equally stunning in his dresses.

I appreciate that some models or celebrities are lucky. They can eat almost anything and not put on weight. But I wonder if this is true of many or just a few? They say they eat but do they really? Medical science proves that your body needs food and if you don't eat enough you get skinny and ill. Eat in moderation and you look healthy.

During my modelling years I was required to be stick-thin one week and shapely the next. Talk about messing with your body and health! It didn't do me any favours. Luckily I'm doing OK for an 'oldie' but I do worry if the lack of calcium in my diet then has had a detrimental effect on my bones for the future. Fingers crossed it hasn't.

Apart from the health issues, which worries me for our teenage girls who try to emulate these models and actresses, the whole concept of selling clothes using skinny models is bizarre. Why would we want to be skin and bone to look attractive? According to the latest surveys, men prefer their women to be curvy. Most clothes shops do not sell anything under a size 8, so why show women wearing size 4 (or is it zero) on the catwalks and magazines, if the clothes are not available in the high street shops for us?

Hurrah! For Brigitta Germany's most popular women's magazine as it has announced that, from 2010, it is no longer using professional models on its pages and are replacing them with 'real women' instead.

The chief editor told sources that the magazine would concentrate on showing women who: "Are taking part in normal life, who have their own identity, a job and a name and have normal figures". A spokeswoman for the magazine said: "It's now what female readers want to see in the ages and articles, as they have no connection with the women usually depicted in fashion features. They no longer want to see protruding bones". Well done them!

I hope the whole fashion industry follows its example.

Victoria Norval

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