Big news for the fashion world: A new law passed in France has banned super skinny models from runways and modeling gigs.
The law also made it illegal to condone anorexia and said any retouched photo of a model for commercial use must come with a message that says it has been altered.
Once the law is enforced, models will have to present a doctor’s note that says they have a BMI of at least 18 before being hired for a job, as well as for a few weeks afterward.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a “normal” BMI for a woman is considered to be somewhere in the range of 18.5 to 24.9. That means a BMI of 18 technically falls into the “underweight” category, but just barely. (To put things in model perspective, a 5’10” woman with a BMI of 18 would weigh about 126 pounds.)
But while BMI can help indicate when someone is dangerously underweight, it isn’t always the best measure of overall health. The CDC even states on its Web site that BMI isn’t an end-all, be-all way to tell if someone is overweight. Case in point: Since muscle weighs more than fat, a muscular person’s BMI could be higher than that of a weak person who has the same build.
While French legislators seem to expect people to fall into line, the new law says that any modeling agency that doesn’t follow the regulations will face up to six months in jail and an $82,000 fine. It also states that any pro-anorexia Web sites will face up to a year in jail and fines of up to $110,000.
Will the U.S. be next? The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) formed a “health initiative” in 2007 to raise awareness about eating disorders in the fashion industry but says on its Web site that the initiative is about “awareness and education, not policing,” adding, “the committee does not recommend that models get a doctor’s physical examination to assess their health or body-mass index to be permitted to work.”
With any luck, though, the CFDA will follow in France’s footsteps soon.