This morning one of our favorite bloggers Garance Doré took to her site to discuss her struggles with body image and compared what she calls "New York Skinny" with "Paris Skinny." While we commend Doré for discussing a topic that's so often swept under the rug and for being so open (that's why we love her)--we couldn't let some of her comments about fashion girls go by without comment: Namely, that all New York fashion girls are scary skinny, and all Parisian women have great body images.
For example: "The women in fashion in New York, they’re not just skinny. They’re New York skinny. New York skinny means thin to the brink, yet muscly from Pilates because it gives you those super long lean muscles." As a New Yorker who has lived in the city for six years and worked in the fashion industry for most of it, I just want to clarify something: We are not all anorexic. Sadly, like most women in the world, girls who work in fashion do face unrealistic body standards--and sadly, yes, many of women in the industry struggle with it. But I certainly wouldn't say it's the norm--or that it's accepted.
Doré goes on to quote an old New York Times article saying, "My mom always says, ‘the smaller the dress size, the larger the apartment.'" By the way, the "lifelong Upper East Sider" who was quoted in the article said she "disapproved of the maxim" and did not want to be named.
That everyone in fashion is obsessed with being skinny, as Doré asserts, is not a new stereotype. But it is an unhelpful one: Derision and disapproval based on weight is the last thing women in New York need--whether it's about being too fat or too skinny.
Secondly, we're getting tired of the whole Parisians-are-just-naturally-skinny thing--it's a myth that's been perpetuated and exploited diet book after diet book in the United States even as it's continuously been revealed to be false, or at the very least, more complicated. For instance, this study conducted in 2009 by AFP, showed that France had a disproportionate amount of clinically underweight women--higher than America--but that only half of them believed they were too skinny. Jezebel contributor Marisa Meltzer pointed out in a 2009 post that "if you're a woman, you're going to be told to diet for a variety of reasons, chief among them that there's a ton of money to be made off of it," adding that French women are no exception. Again it's an unfair stereotype that winds up doing more harm than good, pitting French women against Americans in a battle-to-the-skinniest.
It's a bit disconcerting to me that a woman as successful, accomplished and crazy-busy as Doré, seems to be struggling with these issues because, hello!?, have you seen this woman? She's stunning--and not an ounce over weight. Something we hope Garance and her boyfriend Scott Schuman, who Doré told French Elle was her "weight loss coach," and that he "makes [her] eat muesli with fresh raspberries," realize soon.