I bought a shirt online recently and was promptly punished for it by being sent a catalog in the mail. I was leafing through it while waiting on the phone for a sales representative to take me off the mailing list when it struck me that the models in the photographs seemed not only skeletally thin, but abnormally tall.
I thought this might be because, having spent the last five years in Vermont, I had forgotten what fashion and fashion models look like. Just to make sure, I took out a ruler and started measuring.
Greek sculptors of the Classical period made the male figure seven \”heads\” tall. Today, thanks to all the protein we eat, the average male body is closer to eight heads tall, and the female a little less.
The shortest model I could find in the catalog was nine heads tall, not counting the high heels. Most were taller than that, and one measured an amazing ten heads. These were not, I remind you, fashion illustrations, but photographs of real human beings. And the weird thing is that most of that exaggerated length was in the legs, especially the thighs.
These grasshopper-like appendages were suspended from hips so slender that it occurred to me that, like certain breeds of dogs, models must only be able to give birth by cesarean. Their ribcages were also narrow, so that every one of the women featured–whether at rest or in motion–was forced to breathe through her open mouth.
But back to those legs. I don\’t think they were real. Either those women had had pins inserted in their femurs, or the photographs were doctored to make the legs look longer. In either case, I wondered, is there a point at which leg length hits diminishing returns?
I realize that the intent is to achieve a coltish, pre-pubertal look, but if we regress much further we\’ll end up idealizing the toddler body, in which case the models of the future will have big heads, round bellies, and little fat legs.