This is the fall fashion season with shows in New York, Paris, and Milan etc. It is an extravaganza of beautiful clothes parading down runways on beautiful young women. Young is the key word. It is not unusual for runway models to be as young as 14 and in the top fashion magazines to be as young as 12.
I asked local upscale boutique owners what they thought of using 14 and 15 year girls as runway models. The responses varied from “Those young girls are beautiful.” to “The clothes do not not fit or look the same on a child’s immature body. How can a woman with a mature body wear them?” The late fashion photographer Lillian Bassman expressed a similar attitude in a 2005 interview in WWD. Ms. Bassman said, “To me, girls at 15 look like baby dolls. They are playing at wearing expensive clothing. You don’t find the soul in the face; you find the façade. You can’t get the essence of the woman herself. To me, a beautiful dress that costs $3,000 does not belong on a girl who looks 14 or 15.”
Some real 14 year olds object to way young teens are portrayed in fashion magazines. Jim Dwyer in his New York Times article, A Real Girl, 14, Takes a Stand Against the Flawless Faces in Magazines writes Julia Bluhm, a 14 year old blogger with Spark (a project that fights sexualization of girls) commented on the photos in Seventeen magazine “I look at the pictures and they just don’t look like girls I see walking down the street and stuff.”
Council of Fashion Designers of America’s recommended not hiring models younger than 16. Marc Jacobs, a Council board member, disregarding the Council’s recommendation, used two 14 year olds in his runway show.
Last May Vogue editors agreed not to hire models under 16. However, as Sara Ziff, founder of The Model Alliance , commented there is little to no enforcement or oversight.
Perhaps the preponderance of prepubescence girls modeling adult outfits is the real reason fashion magazines collect dust even at the low price of $10 for a year’s subscription.