Ever since Twiggy appeared on the modeling scene in the UK in the 60's we have had a never-ending line of models who look as though they are in the grip of chronic anorexia. When you watch some of the more ethereal specimens on the catwalk, you half expect a spontaneous fracture or dislocated pelvis from pressure of strutting - so much bone, so little tissue.
Rake thin models look androgynous, which I suppose is the point... the mystery of sexual ambiguity. Some look like heroin users - others like walking Oxfam ads. It can get tragic too. Models Luisel Ramos and Carolina Reston, both died due to complications arising from their low weight.
There have been moves in Europe to change the perception that thin is chic. In Spain the government and fashion chains have reached an agreement that female store mannequins should at the very least be a size 10. The move is also an attempt to cater to reality. Most women don't look like Gemma Ward, so it seems counter-productive to use ultra-skinny models as a retail incentive.
The measures being taken by the Spanish go beyond window displays. Models have actually been banned from working for being too thin. Last year two fashion shows banned models whose body mass index was below 18. In the case of a model who is 1.75 meters (5 ft 7 inches), she has to weigh at least 55 kg.
The average woman on the streets of N. American cities has been entirely unrepresented by the glamor end of a fashion industry that for years has been appealing to a race of rail thin space aliens.