The road to physical perfection leads to Argentina, a country that takes its beautiful people very seriously – so seriously that, in a startling feat of political intervention, one regional government has implemented a law that is forcing the fashion industry to acknowledge that you can be too thin.
Officials wielding tape-measures were unleashed on the glitzy shopping malls of Buenos Aires Province last month to enforce the new “law of sizes”. The legislation, which came into effect in December, stipulates that fashion retailers must stock a full range of clothing sizes for women, roughly equivalent to UK sizes 10-20. Those businesses that don’t comply could be hit with a hefty £95,000 fine or even closure.
According to the provincial government, the law has been passed to break the fashion “tyranny”, imposed by designers and manufacturers, which practically forces women to starve themselves in order to fit into their microscopic clothing. Before the law came into force, those unfortunate shoppers larger than a UK size 10 would struggle to get even an ankle into the skinny jeans and whispers of chiffon that line the racks of the suburbs’ exclusive boutiques.
By passing the law, the local authorities have conveniently offloaded any blame for the “epidemic” of eating disorders sweeping the nation. Argentina now has the second-highest rate of anorexia and bulimia in the world (after Japan), with statistics suggesting that one in ten women suffers from a “slimming disease”.
Not surprisingly, the legislation has created uproar on the fashion scene, which sees it as the kiss of death for creativity and style. One designer suggested that the provincial government wanted everyone to wear Mao jackets, and the fashion industry in general believes that enforcement will lead to the creation of clothes, based on US sizing charts, that customers simply won’t buy.
Click here to read this article, which first appeared in The New Statesman in March 2006