Newsweek: Drop the Fashion Mags, Ladies, Those Models Are Making You Fat

February 9th, 2007 5:17 PM

Hey, I'm just the messenger.

Newsweek's Jessica Bennett, Sarah Childress, and Susanna Schrobsdorff offered lucky Web site readers a gem unavailable to grocery aisle readers of Newsweek-on-dead-tree.

In a February 8 Web exclusive, the trio of writers explore "Why Skinny Models Could be Making Us Fat" *

The answer, in part, photoshopped models. And no, I'm not referring to Katie.

...thanks to technology, often not even the models themselves can compare to their portfolios. Increasingly, photos for print are enhanced and perfected to an astonishing degree. Not only are moles, acne and subtle facial hair erased from already pretty faces, but retouchers are routinely asked by editors and advertisers to enlarge eyes, trim normal-size ears, fill in hairlines, straighten teeth and lengthen the already-narrow necks, waists and legs of 18-year-old beauties. "We're always stretching the models' legs and slimming their thighs," says a photo retoucher who works for a high-end Manhattan agency. In some cases, hands, feet or even legs are replaced in photos when the subject’s parts don’t add up to a perfect whole.

But the bigger danger, the Newsweek reporters insist, is that twiggy models are actually leading American women to bulk up:

In fact, the real danger may be that the contrast between the girls on the catwalks and the girls at the mall is creating an atmosphere ripe for binge dieting and the kind of unhealthy eating habits that ultimately result in weight gain, not loss.

Of course that flies directly in the face of what the media have always told you about the danger of skinny models holding up impossible standards for beauty, but it conveniently fits into the media's obsession with America's losing fight against the "obesity epidemic."

But the Newsweek swipe at the fashion industry also sounded curiously familiar to my colleague Dan Gainor and I, who reported recently here and here on Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan's obsession with regulating the fashion industry.

*the headline for the printer-friendly version. The standard version headline is "Weighty Matters."