“Shockingly thin” is how one of the world’s best-known fashion critics described the models in New York. The women were so narrow that they couldn’t concentrate on the clothes, tweeted Vanessa Friedmann from the “New York Times” in mid-February at Fashion Week. What she addressed in a few characters has occupied the fashion industry for years: How thin is actually too thin, and hasn’t the anorexia been overcome? After all, a lot of money could be made with demonstrative body positivity – the idea that all bodies are beautiful. Numbers now show that models beyond American size zero (size 30) are hardly ever booked, at least not for the important fashion weeks.

Just 0.6 percent of the 9137 outfits at the most recent fashion weeks were presented by so-called plus-size models – with dress size 44 or larger. This was the result of a count by the American industry magazine “Vogue Business”, which evaluated all fashion shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris (the fashion week in Berlin is not included due to lack of relevance).

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Among the models were some with sizes 36 to 42, which are considered “medium sizes”. But almost 96 percent wore 30 to 34. For classification: According to data from the Federal Statistical Office, women in Germany fit on average in 42 to 44.

The thin ideal of beauty seems to be as present as it was last in the 90s. Back then, “heroin chic” encouraged women to starve themselves until they resembled emaciated drug addicts. The fashion industry was already further along.

France, for example, banned thin models from advertising and made a health certificate the standard in 2017. Since then, brands whose models do not have one have been facing severe penalties (e.g. payments of up to 75,000 euros). The American lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret even stopped its annual mega show with “Angels” for a while. The criticism that the beauties in angel wings only served men’s fantasies, but not the needs of the customers, had become too great.

And now the efforts to achieve a healthier body image should already be over? The Austrian cultural scientist Elisabeth Lechner, who researches appearance and discrimination, finds this anything but surprising. After all, there were prominent harbingers, she explains to the German Press Agency: “The Kardashian sisters said goodbye to their curves and Gwyneth Paltrow talks in a podcast about how little she eats. Coffee, bone broth and vegetables – she doesn’t take any more to himself. Such things happen with great publicity.”

Lechner: Where were the very fat bodies?

In addition, in recent years – despite some successes – they have not gotten very far. Referring to the casting show, Lechner speaks of a “commercial Heidi Klum diversity”: “In “Germany’s Next Top Model” we now see minimally different bodies, but much more has not been achieved, because the ideal is only a little bit in Moved toward the hourglass figure. But where were the very thick bodies or skin that hung down after childbirth? Something like that is still considered undisplayable.”

The fashion system, says Lechner, constantly needs new buying incentives – and creates these with ever new trends. One of them is called “Y2K” and it’s currently bringing back the low-rise hipsters and cropped crop tops of the 2000s. “This type of clothing is almost impossible for fat bodies to wear unless you have the great courage to show what you think is imperfect. The stomach simply doesn’t fit into these cuts,” says the cultural scientist.

Most products are sold with the insecurities of consumers. According to Lechner, they are currently more concerned with their appearance because there are two worrying developments. On the one hand, the advent of a supposed panacea against bacon in the USA. Celebrities like Elon Musk (51) publicly rave about how they beat their cravings with prescription diabetes drugs. They leave unmentioned side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea – and the fact that the drugs have temporarily become scarce even for diabetic patients who actually need them.

Accustomed to face filters

On the other hand, minimally invasive facial procedures are increasing. “The popular buccal fat removal basically cuts out part of your cheek to make you look like the filtered version of yourself,” says Lechner. During the procedure, cheek fat is removed, the goal is accentuated cheekbones. Many sought their way into cosmetic surgery because they got used to face filters on social networks like Tiktok.

“The “Bold Glamor” filter distorts facial features in a fraction of a second and makes the user look like she’s wearing make-up. It’s the first filter that doesn’t blur even when you put your hand in front of your face – so others don’t even notice that you use a filter,” explains the researcher.

In the fashion industry, meanwhile, people talk their way out of going backwards into the lean times for purely practical reasons. Several designers and labels told “Vogue Business” that it was simply too cumbersome to adjust the clothes to larger sizes. This is the main reason why you hardly ever book plus-size models for fashion shows.

“I can’t accept that,” countered Lechner. “Real diversity has a price, it’s about structural changes like different cuts. That costs money and takes time. Instead, you show a fatter woman and take the applause with you.”

But Lechner is not hopeless – on the contrary. She herself was a teenager in the 2000s, when there was no way to see other bodies, either on magazine titles or in series. “Today, however, people are uniting against the beauty pressure on social networks. That is powerful.” For example, more and more women show under the hashtag