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Vogue bans too-thin, underage fashion models as unhealthy

Vogue pledges to set a new standard: bans too-thin, underage fashion models from its pages. Modeling advocates applaud the decision as progress for improving unhealthy standards in the industry.

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Still, there is persistent criticism that the fashion world creates a largely unattainable and unhealthy standard that particularly affects impressionable young girls.

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"We know that there is an impact for young girls — and boys, by the way — of what is put in front of them in terms of media," said Elissa J. Brown, professor of psychology at St. John University and founder of The Partners Program, a specialized therapy program for children and adolescents.

A change in what they see on the pages of prestigious fashion magazines could change the image of what they would strive for, she said.

It wouldn't hurt for parents to take a look at healthier looking models, too, she added. "I'm a mother and I hear other mothers talk about the parts of their bodies they don't like in front of their daughters instead of talking about health. If the message becomes about health, it could have a tremendous impact."

The Vogue guidelines are largely similar to the CFDA's — no surprise since U.S. editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was instrumental in crafting them.

"CFDA is pleased to see all the Vogue magazines unite in support of model health," CFDA CEO Steven Kolb said. "This increased level of support makes the message of 'Health is Beauty' even stronger."

Conde Nast, in its announcement, recognized that fashion models serve as role models for "many women," and the publisher wants to ensure that the models in its pages "are well cared for and educated in ways that will encourage and help them to take care of themselves, addressing as many of the pressing issues relating to ill-health in the industry as can realistically be tackled."

Ziff said the age restriction is important for other reasons, too.

"The use of underaged models is linked to financial exploitation, eating disorders, interrupted schooling, and contributes to models' overall lack of empowerment in the workplace," she said. "We simply believe that 14 is too young to be working in this very grown-up industry, and we're glad that Condé Nast International is making this commitment.

In addition to agreeing not to knowingly work with models under 16 or with eating disorders, the Vogue pact says the magazines will help "structure mentoring programs" for younger models and raise awareness of the problem of model health. The magazines said they would encourage healthy working conditions backstage and encourage designers "to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models."

Conde Nast publishes other magazines, including Glamour and Allure, but a spokeswoman said there are no current plans for these guidelines to be adopted across the company.

Runway model Coco Rocha applauded the changes.

"I've long been a vocal supporter of setting reasonable standards in the modeling industry," she said in an email. "Not every model appears in Vogue, but every model and every magazine looks up to them as the standard (bearer). I can only imagine this will be a solid step in a direction that will benefit models for generations to come. "

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