Italy was once famed for the sultry, full-bodied beauties it contributed to the international scene. A month after the death of an anorexic Brazilian model, the Italian government teamed up with the fashion industry Friday to promote a “healthy, sunny, generous, Mediterranean model of beauty.”
The self-regulatory code of conduct aims to fight anorexia among women and the vogue for stick-thin models. It requires models to show medical proof they do not suffer from eating disorders, bans models younger than 16 and calls for a commitment to add larger sizes to fashion collections.
“There’s a line between a thin girl and a sick one that is often crossed. Italy, with this manifesto, is committed to recognize this boundary and not cross it,” Youth Policy and Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri told reporters.
The code was signed by Melandri and Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, which includes fashion houses like Versace, Prada and Missoni. It is aimed at designers, model agencies, makeup artists and others who work in fashion.
Boselli said he hoped the code could be adopted internationally.
Stefano Dominella, president of a lobby for Rome haute couture who also signed on to the code, said designers who do not comply will be subjected to sanctions, such as being assigned to less favorable times or days for their shows.
Calls to offices of major Italian designers seeking comment Friday evening went unanswered.
The world of high fashion and modeling has long been targeted by critics who say it encourages women and girls to emulate skinny models. The death last month of a 21-year-old Brazilian model helped increase the public’s awareness of the problem.
Ana Carolina Reston, who modeled in China, Turkey, Mexico and Japan, died Nov. 14 at a hospital in Sao Paulo. The 5-foot-8 inch model weighed 88 pounds at the time of her death.
Doctors and psychologists treating patients with anorexia nervosa, a disorder characterized by an abnormal fear of becoming obese, praised the new Italian code, saying it would help redefine beauty standards.
“One of the biggest risks is the input that we get from fashion, because a thin model becomes an icon to emulate,” said Simona Ciampoli, a psychotherapist who treats anorexics at a rehabilitation center in central Italy.
“The message that we get bombarded with is that you are important and successful as long as you are thin, but these women do not represent the real ones. The majority of normal and healthy women are not like that,” Ciampoli said.
In September, Madrid’s Fashion Week banned models with a body mass index of less than 18. Body mass index is a calculation doctors normally apply to study obesity, and anyone with an index below 18.5 is considered underweight.