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A Bone to Pick With Fashion: Skeletons are for Halloween, not catwalks

Looking for a model with more heft than a toothpick? In a recent New York Times article, Guy Trebay declared that designers and editors finally are, in male models anyway. The scrawny skate-rat look is out. The strong man with suits in his closet and stubble on his face (or at least enough testosterone to sport bristled cheeks on the weekends if he wants) is in.

Naturally, images of strong women should follow. Models as distinctive, powerful, and enduring as the supermodels of the 80s. Models who—get this—eat.

I’ve always asserted that most models have naturally high metabolisms and lean bodies. When I walked Fashion Week catwalks in the 90s, I had 127 pounds on my five-foot-ten frame. I ate. My model friends ate. We vomited when we had the flu, not after dinner. Okay, maybe once too many drinks came up, with a slice of Ray’s inadvertently mixed in.

Sorry for the colorful imagery, but it’s not nearly as gross as the emaciated figures I encountered in New York during Fashion Week this fall: wide-set-eyed girls being robbed of their late-night pizza bonding moments, their energy to enjoy the adventures of modeling, of youth. I, seven years past my last runway strut (or waddle, since it was a maternity show forLive With Regis & Kelly) should have been eyeing these models in their prime with envy; instead, I felt sorry for them.

Worse yet, today’s mannequins are in and out of fashion as fast as the latest iPhone model. All that starving for a millisecond of fame and no chance of being known the world over by their first names. Bring on the next Cindy, Christy, Claudia, Linda, even Naomi (if the new version has a tad more self-control). It’s been long enough since a sylphlike girl named Kate Moss ushered in the era of Heroin Chic, which laid the foundation for the era of Skeletal.

The trend has bottomed out. Limbs with zero muscle definition, jutting hip bones, the absence of womanly curves—it’s no longer novel. These bony clothes hangers can’t go any lower, except six feet under, which is exactly where several anorexic models have ended up.  The subsequent BMI minimums on Madrid and Milan catwalks didn’t eradicate the “size-zero” models—the girls who are barely there—and models born with a tendency toward a low BMI, no matter how many Big Macs they eat, got upset. I knew girls like that, so I can see why they’d be peeved to hang up their pumps. A size 6, maybe a 4 in the odd generously sized couture gown, I would have passed even if I were newly in love or freshly broken hearted (the crush and crushed diets were the only kind I ever went on).

A few years later, the paper-thin girls linger. The health of these young role models and the masses that look up to them doesn’t seem to be a cause that influences the fashion set. It’s all about what’s in and out. That’s why now is the time. The weedy guys are out. Their female counterparts should exit with them. Editors, designers, photographers—come on, it really only takes one trailblazer. Hedi Slimane single-handedly sparked the wimpy boy era with the models he booked for Dior. Now all these muscular “real men” are back. It’s the perfect time for a Marilyn Monroe moment on the female front.

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