Cynthia Rowley Standard

In the fashion world, why is extreme thinness considered beautiful?

Does it make their clothes that much more elite, and unattainable?

If anything, a decision in Spain to ban too-thin models from the runways at the recent Madrid Fashion Week has prompted discussion far and wide on what standards -- if any -- models should uphold. A super-thin model walks the runway during the Cynthia Rowley spring 2007 fashion show in New York.
Click photo for larger image.

Spain, better known for the flamenco than fashion, sent shock waves through the industry when five bone-baring waifs were deemed too skinny.

Too skinny? Isn't the fashion industry notorious for excluding models considered too fat?

Despite recent gains by so-called real-size and plus-size models -- just look at the recent Dove and Jockey advertisements featuring the antithesis of Twiggy -- the short answer remains a definitive "yes." The idealized standard, begun in the West and Europe and now generally accepted globally, remains super-thin.

Yet, the controversial actions sanctioned by the Spanish government should not have surprised those familiar with the changing public attitude toward the fashion industry. The anti-skinny backlash is tangled up in the thorny issue of women's perceptions of body image and a silent struggle over how to rewrite the definition of an unrealistic beauty standard that has prevailed for decades.

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