Monday, September 21, 2009

A Question Of The Ages.

The thing that has struck me most about this season of full-on joyous insanity known as New York Fashion Week has been the models. Seeing models in person is like seeing ghosts. They are kind of impossible looking. All bone structure, and angles, and lips. Legs for miles. It seems as if they shouldn't be able to exist that way--so thin, so tall, so strangely beautiful. Upon seeing a creature of such stature and structure, I'm actually happy for them that the modeling world exists. Where else would they fit in?

If not for the fashion industry where would all of these tall, lanky, gorgeous girls find friends their age?

But behind the scenes at the tents, at the entrances and exits to the shows, you see something even stranger than their unique beauty. These incredible looking "women," dotted with just the right amount of makeup, just the perfect touch to their hair, making them appear so put together, so gorgeous, so adult, are often being followed by their mothers.

Toni Garrn at 16.

15 year old Alina Ismailova.

17 year old Darya Kurovska shot for an editorial by Steven Meisel.

The moms are almost always shorter, squatter, and so much more middle America looking than the glamazons they are carting bags and a packed lunch for. It's quite a sight, and truly signals a rarely thought of notion: these are not women at all, they are girls, teens. Most models stalking the runways are 15, 16, 17. They are gawky and angled and awkward because puberty has yet to take full hold.

16 year old Katlin Aas in Pop Magazine.

A 16 year old Paul Pavlovska shot for Mixte.

In what other industry can you imagine minors walking around in various states of undress not causing anyone to bat a lash? Even Hollywood still polices that sort of thing. Remember the furor over this photo of Miley Cirus taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair?

A 15 year old Miley Cyrus shot by Annie Liebovitz.

That's tame compared to most fashion mag editorials. I'm not a stickler for conservative rules, but I do think it's odd that this practice of selling young women to dress up is not scrutinized or monitored more strictly. I'd say that at least they are attaining fame and fortune to save for their eventual (fingers crossed!) college educations, but models aren't holding on to the levels of fame and staying power that they used to. It seems that every season of shows ushers in a new crop of long-named "girls" from a new hot spot: Brazil, Poland, Russia, Montana. How does a teenager return to algebra class in her respective home country when her short, bewildering career is over? How do chem experiments again take precedence after partying like a rockstar at the tents in New York, Paris, and Milan for a few seasons?

A photo of then 13 year old Monika "Jac" Jagaciak. Now she's 15.

There is always so much furor over models' stick skinny size, but where are the questions about their age? Log on to most model agency sites and all the stats for the models are there. Their bust size, waist, height, hips, shoe size, hair and eye color are all detailed to the nearest increment, but there's no age. Last year there was a slight bubble of attention paid to the fact that one of the most in demand catwalking models, Monika "Jac" Jagaciak was 14. She returned to the tents this season mostly unnoticed, at an apparently perfectly acceptable 15. It just doesn't seem right to me. The air of sexual energy that reverberates around fashion shows seems an inappropriate atmosphere for a 14 year old. It's also worth mentioning that the women who can really afford these clothes are often way past their teen years and definitely post puberty.

Now 17 year old Imogen Morris Clarke left, a shot of her in an editorial when she was 15, right.

Fashion tears me up. I love it. I love images. I love design. I love pretty things, gorgeous cuts, things of beauty. But there is always an underbelly that just doesn't sit right. I guess that's the way the world turns. Why should fashion be any different? I guess I just feel like these girls should have an advocate, and the women trying to imitate their images (not to mention those who are being titillated and seduced by them) should know their real ages. I would just love for someone to do a photo shoot that shows these girls with their classmates back at their schools. Maybe one page of them dolled up for the runway, decked out in designer duds and overdone makeup, then the facing page of them with the other 13 year-olds in the school yard passing notes and chewing gum, maybe lolling on the swing set.

Photos found through or Google.


Madeline said...

Anna. Wow. this totally opened up my eyes. I'm sitting outside with my once former fashion industry neighbor and I thought I was teaching her something new when I stammered that models are as young as 13... she responded with, "what about it? Nothing new there"...

um.. what? that is crazy!! I never knew that-- Well, now I don't feel so confused as to why so many models appear to be prepubescent ... because they are! Not to mention beautiful, stunning, and symmetrical (grrrr)... Thnx for the totaly interesting post! x x

fay said...

It should be illegal, objectifying minors in a sexual way. Not to mention the unrealistic ideals that are created by these prepubescent girls.