October 2010

The Style List—October 2010

Zero-Sum Game

There is no simple solution to the looks-health equation

When a fashion person says you look “healthy,” you should probably consider cutting back on the carbs. You see, in the world of an underfed fashionista, healthy is usually a euphemism for fat.

Let’s say a model has ventured from a size 0 into a realm populated with positive integers—maybe all the way up to a 4. She will be deemed too large to walk the runway. Her modeling career in print isn’t necessarily over, because there is a magical tool called Photoshop, and her imperfections can be shaved off digitally. But she will be thought of as “larger” and probably won’t get as many bookings as the “regular” model-size girls.

For the designers who dress them—and the editors who critique them from the side of the runway—clothing looks better on girls who verge on starving adolescent. But what if there really is nothing healthy about these teenagers smoking cigarettes backstage to stay at fighting, er, stomping weight.

Every so often, the uproar over models that are too skinny makes a minor dent in the business, and some designer or other declares he or she will support the use of healthier-looking models. Earlier this year, it was rumored Francisco Costa, creative director for the Calvin Klein Collection for women, would no longer use size-0 models. As I write this, New York is gearing up for Fall Fashion Week, so it remains to be seen if Costa held true to that promise when his models hit the runway.

Lara Stone (she of the size 4 and red-hot career) has made quite a splash as a model whose curves defy the usual formula for catwalk success. Her va-va-voom figure is fuller than the rest of the girls who share the runway for the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Stella McCartney—and maybe that’s her appeal. The future stars of the runway are all so waifish, however, that I do have to admit she certainly looks “healthier” than her compatriots.

So, putting aside the fashion world, what does healthy look like for the rest of the population? Seventy-two million—nearly 34 percent—American adults are obese. So I’m going to count them out of the looking-healthy crowd, too.

Celebrities—the other group by which we seem to judge our own mortality—are also under the microscope when it comes to the fat patrol. It seems no young actress can gain a couple of pounds without having to undergo public speculation as to whether or not she’s pregnant. (Remember when Jessica Simpson got “fat” and was photographed in those “mom jeans”?)

These same overscrutinized starlets might whip themselves into shape for an action movie or undergo a body transformation for a red-carpet event, but it seems it’s through a heavy reliance on master cleanses (say, drinking only maple-syrup lemon water) and quick reductions. Again—not healthy, just healthy looking.

Who does look healthy, then? Athletes for sure, but they endorse (and I assume drink) bad-for-you sugar-water beverages and occasionally get caught taking performance-enhancing drugs. I guess if we’re going purely on what looks healthy, they are the closest we’re going to come in this world of “What you see isn’t always what you get.”

At the beginning of the year, I decided to start an experiment. I’ve tried to eat only what’s available from the local farmers’ markets. And you know something? Now when I do find myself at a purportedly quality purveyor of all things nutritious, the fare doesn’t feel even remotely as fresh in comparison.

I guess no matter how healthy people and foodstuffs appear, there’s often a darker truth lying beneath the surface about the ways and means they use to seem that way. Ugh, I need a cookie.

Modern Lace

by Hayley Atkin