Eating Disorders

The Fashion Industry Doesn’t Cause Anorexia


Kate Moss modeling skinny jeans, Fashion Week, and the rest of globalized fashion predict how some men and women see themselves; however, models wearing anything from haute couture to discount clothing does not result in the diagnoses of anorexia−it’s not that simple. One of the main criteria for anorexia is refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (body weight less than 85% of that expected). Therefore, a 5’4 adult woman whose normal weight range is between 108 and 132 would weigh 92 pounds or less. How many fashion-blog obsessed women or fashionistas do you know who are super skinny like that? Not that many I bet. Deeper psychological issues in addition to probable genetics have more to do with anorexia than fashion does.

The fashion industry influences people’s clothing choices for obvious reasons, and striving for an on-trend look or wanting to look good isn’t a crime. Although, when people have uncomfortable feelings about themselves, they tend to externalize their issues and often focus on their outward appearance, including their fashion. For example, a woman focuses on the “perfect, slimming outfit” in hopes that she’ll appear a certain way instead of looking inward to figure out how she can be her best. A lot of men and women will use fashion in a sense to avoid their feelings and focus on something outside themselves. Fashion becomes their scapegoat.

Fashion is an art form and a business. Designers, marketers, PR companies and retailers rely heavily on provocative imagery to shape their targeted audience. It’s manipulation. The same can be said of the music, broadcasting and advertising industries. Significant clothing trends like corsets, feet binding in China, minis, and variations of skinny jeans have been around for a long time – so has anorexia. Fashion and anorexia linked when media had its growth spurt in the 1980s. But I like what Judy Scheel, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. says, “Culture provides context, not cause.”

The tragic death of Israeli fashion model Hila Elmalich, or the accusations of models’ appearances in Madrid causing eating disorders help explain why the finger pointing happens. However, doctors and researchers still don’t have an answer for what causes anorexia, yet it causes the highest rates of death among all mental illnesses. Upgrading insurance benefits for treatment and additional funding for education and awareness would garner better results than erroneous articles on whether or not a model has an eating disorder or holding the fashion industry accountable for anorexia.