Even Models Aren’t Small Enough to Fit Designer Sample Sizes


Surfing around the net and I came across this article from The Times online about UK Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman, who says she’s now retouching photos of models to make them look bigger as the sample clothes designers send to be featured in the magazine are tiny, too small to even fit models as slim as Kate Moss.

Here is an extract:

The editor of Vogue has accused some of the world’s leading catwalk designers of pushing ever thinner models into fashion magazines despite widespread public concern over “size-zero” models and rising teenage anorexia.

Alexandra Shulman, one of the most important figures in the multi-billion-pound fashion industry, has taken on all the largest fashion houses in a strongly worded letter sent to scores of designers in Europe and America. In a letter not intended for publication but seen by The Times, Shulman accuses designers of making magazines hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” by supplying them with “minuscule” garments for their photoshoots. Vogue is now frequently “retouching” photographs to make models look larger, she said.

Her intervention was hailed last night as a turning point in the debate over model size that has raged after the deaths of three models from complications relating to malnutrition, and the decision of leading fashion shows to ban size-zero models.

I have to say that this heartens me – I don’t think it’s the end of super slim models, but that someone who wields as much power as Shulman, having these views, hopefully will help designers think about their attitudes to size.

pic of Alexandra Shulman from Vogue Russia


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  • It wasn't long ago that an African-American model on a magazine cover was considered wildly unusual so maybe this will be another horrible barrier broken… Fingers crossed!

  • I have an off topic question after the worst morning of fashion disasters. I'll spare you the details, but can you or any of your readers PLEASE tell me where I can find good foundational garments (body shapers). I want something that comes up ALL THE WAY UP under my breasts and lies FLAT under my bra. Apparantly, this is too much to ask, since everything I've tried makes me look FATTER instead of thinner! I DO NOT want one that rolls down in the back, or stops mid waist to create nasty bulges in the midsection. It also must come all the way to down the top of my knee, to create a SMOOTH line on the entire body. I HATE back rolls, but unfortunately, I have them, and I can't seem to find anything that won't roll down in the back under my bra, making the rolls even worse. I would LOVE to get one that is a one piece with a built in bra. Only question would be, how to go to the bathroom without disrobing? The reason I'd like to do away with the bra altogether is this: my bra band confuses me–my breats fall out the bottom sometimes (I'm 38 DDD…lots to hold up!) so I thought that meant the band was too big…but it creates back bulges, which makes me think it's too tight! Anyway, I refuse to spend another penny on body shapers that are unflattering and don't stay put. On the other hand if I don't wear them I don't feel right in my clothes. I read your advice on buying these garments, Imogen, but I don't understand why you would buy it in 2 sizes bigger than your regular size. I normally wear XL and the body shapers in XL have such a long tosro on me I'd have to be an amazon to fit it…it literally can come up over my breasts! The package says mid-thigh for length but comes clear down to my knees! The XL is certainly ample enough for me in my normal size. Intervention please! Thank you.

  • I really dislike the use of the word "important" to describe humans, including Shulman. "Influential" would be way better and far less pretentious. Back to the topic…couldn't agree more! Size zero is ridiculously small. I take size 8 and I am 5'8" tall and 128 pounds so you can imagine how obscenely skinny a size 0 model is.

    Anonymous, I don't know in what country you reside but Olga is supposed to be very good. here's the link:


    Spanx high power panties suck in my opinion. They cause a nasty ridge under the boobs.

    As always, Imogen, great post!

  • I read a book by Lee Tulluch – it was sort of a (not very well) novelized expose of the fashion industry. And the only reason that fashion models need to be so thin, is so that designers can save money on the fabric required to make the clothing samples. It's all purely economic!

  • Rosina – thanks for the tips!

    Violet – given what designers charge for their clothes they could pay an extra few dollars for a little more fabric!

  • I am not as impressed as you are. When models are required to risk death for their profession — and that level of thinness DOES risk death, and causes horrendous damage both psychological and physical even when they escape death — it is not good enough to retouch photos to make the models appear bigger. That is good for us, the readers, to be sure, but in my view, it is all still horribly wrong, and these fashion editors need to realise that they are partially culpable for what is happening to these models, and they need to STOP. What she needs to do is NOT retouch photos, but simply STOP USING samples that are smaller than size 4 (or bigger, if I had my way, but 4 must be the bare minimum given models' height, that can possibly be safe. Then, when designers send these ridiculous sample sizes, the designers will simply find that their obscenely small clothes do not appear in the magazines. If all the editors adopted that policy, things would soon change. Designers desperately want their stuff in Vogue, and if it can't be made to look beautiful on someone of an even vaguely healthy weight, the designer needs to go back to the drawing board and start designing clothes for actual people instead of dolls. (I suppose Vogue could opt to photograph the clothes on dolls when they are too small for actual people…)

    Write to the magazines, everyone, and ask them to adopt this policy. They have the power to make a significant change that will literally save models' lives.


  • To the anonymous off-topic posters discussing shapewear:

    One thing to understand is that the advice typically given about bra band size is mistaken. On the one hand, they say that the breasts need to be hiked up more in most cases (I think that is true: many women need to listen to that advice IMO) but on the other hand, they say that if you get back fat bulges when your bra is on, it means the band size is too small.

    Evidently those who give this advice have no idea what they are talking about, because in most cases of normal women, following the second piece of advice above results in insufficient support. The fact is, you need a bra whose band is tight enough to WORK, and unfortunately that is going to mean bulging back fat unless you are lucky enough not to have fat on your back.

    I have the same problem and I am tiny. If I go up from a 32 to a 36 (which is what it takes to end the bulging back fat in my case) what happens is that the front slides down and the back of the bra slides up my back, resulting in no support. This is plainly silly. My measured size is 32 and that is the right size. I just have the back fat problem unless I am eating an ultra-low-carb diet and am thus 10 lbs lighter than my already light weight.

    For those of us who have back fat and are also XS, the shapewear issue is even more problematic, because shapewear doesn't go down to my size in the kind that deals with the back fat issue. Argh!

    Please, shapewear manufacturers, make shapewear that covers bra back fat, that allows us to wear our own bra rather than squishing us in the front, but that also comes right up to the bra or even halfway up it, to ENSURE no gap between bra and the front top of the shapewear, and, as the other poster said, that goes all the way down to mid to low thigh. PLEASE PLEASE do this, and note that even small thin people need shapewear! Don't stop at a generaous sized "small" or "medium". Make these in a non-generous XS too.


  • I can't help but believe that most designers want to reinvent women to look like pre-teenage boys, no hips, no breasts, no body fat. There is something so fetish like about this whole business from the designers to the stylist to the photographers to the editors.

    • Absolutely spot on!! That’s why it will never change, because homosexual designers creates for pre teen boys clothes. Most of them hate women probably…

  • Sarah-I'm well aware this is not ideal, and that for many models, being this thin is very unhealthy, but from that high end magazine it is a small step in the right direction.

    I would love it if designers actually designed for the 'average' woman but I have to admit I can't see it happening,as the clothes that suit these women have little 'hanger appeal' and designers are always trying to save money in production by cutting clothes straighter, to save on fabric usage.

    There are so many reasons why this practise of using the super slim is not right, but unfortunately I can't see it changing to the extent it needs to.

  • Belle – I too have never understood why designers who design women's clothing want them to look good on pre-pubecent girls. Unless it's because so many designers are gay men?

  • Stumbled upon your post while looking for something else entirely and I just want to say; I don't see why all types of feminine beauty can't be celebrated. There are gorgeous tall lanky model types, gorgeous average chicks, gorgeous plus sized gals, etc. As long is one is reasonably healthy one should be happy in one's own skin. And I hope someday to see the amazing art that is sometimes fashion embrace that.

    For the record I'm 5'5", 140ish lbs. and I busted my hump to put on that last 10 (because I look better with boobs).

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