Found on the Fringes


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It's no secret that the fashion industry has been under fire for catalyzing the nation's low self esteem and other postmodern ailments since what seems like time immemorial. Pressure mounts for models to maintain their 13-year old physiques into adulthood, but enough civilians have caught glimpses of the disturbing results off camera to make a dent in high fashion's bony skeleton as the fall clothing season approaches.

Fool me once, shame on me. But when supermodels like Viveka Babajee and Daul Kim commit suicide less than a year apart, or when Kamilla Wladyka looks so "thin and unwell" that her photos have to be airbrushed to make her look between seven and 40 pounds heavier (for a UK magazine titled Healthy, at that), even the most diehard traditionalist would be hard-pressed to deny that some ugly dealings have gone down among the world's supposedly most beautiful people.

The unflattering scandals seem to emerge one after the other like rolls of flab out of an American Apparel crop top. And, as expected of an Ancien Regime on the brink of revolution, the major fashion houses evaded responding to growing media and consumer dissent until recently, scared to ditch their tummy-tucking Spanx and dive out of the status quo in a low-rise bikini, so to speak.

When the fall 2010 ready-to-wear collections debuted during Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks early last spring, critics lauded Prada and Louis Vuitton for casting older and curvier (read: properly nourished and not jail bait) models in their shows. People credited Louis Vuitton's creative director Marc Jacobs for ushering breasts into the season as if a body part could become the next "in" fall item.

Along with a host of other busty and leggy models, the famously buxom Lara Stone and '80s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue babe Elle Macpherson walked the runway. Two weeks prior in Milan, Miuccia Prada had set a similar tone, showcasing several ruffled dresses to which New York Magazine's blog The Cut facetiously responded: "This just in: boobs."

Outcries of joy continue to abound among the press as the fall season approaches on the actual calendar, not just the fashion one. But now that possible alternatives to the traditional model body type have materialized in a form less alienating than a cliche rad-fem protest rant, it seems uncanny to think that we carried on otherwise for so long.

Plenty of girls are naturally tall and thin, but a look at what the fashion world praises as full-figured reveals how desensitized we as viewers have become to models' sheer emaciation. In an editorial called "One Size Fits All" shot by Terry Richardson for V Magazine, it would be hard to guess that Crystal Renn is a plus-sized model at all until you saw regular-model-sized Jacquelyn Jablonski identically styled on the adjacent page. While Renn pops her hips to the right and left revealing supple curves, Jablonski's protruding angles become apparent in the presence of her foil.

In a world of mass-produced clothing, it's no surprise that designers have literally chosen to work around the bare bones of the human body in order to experiment with different silhouettes. After all, it would be impossible to account for the infinite variety of proportions of a potential wearer. But as curvy models like Crystal Renn continue to make appearances in the Resort 2011 shows, perhaps this phase in our fashion consciousness will start to seem as preposterous as Chinese foot binding in a few decades.

Look under crop tops for flab with Nastia at [email protected]

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