Spanish fashion show carries out threat to ban too-thin models

A top Madrid fashion show has banned models who are too skinny, saying they set an unhealthy example for young girls.

Organizers of Spain's top annual fashion show on Saturday rejected five models as being too thin to appear in this year's event.

The show, known as the Pasarela Cibeles, had decided earlier this month not to allow women below a predetermined body mass index to parade down the catwalk.

Doctors Susana Monereo of Spain's National Endocrinology Society and Basilio Moreno, an obesity consultant at Gregorio Maranon Hospital, were among the specialists called on to medically assess the models.

Five of the 68 models who showed up for appraisal failed the test, the doctors said. The models were over 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed less than 121.25 pounds, Monereo said.

"They had a body mass index below, well below, that which is considered normal not just by the Spanish endocrinology society, whom we represent, but also by the limits set by the World Health Organization," Monereo said.

Each model was allowed to appear at the examination accompanied by an agent and a representative from the fashion industry.

The show, which starts Monday and runs until Friday, wants to project an image of beauty, elegance and health. It has also banned makeup that makes models appear sickly, organizer Cuca Solana said.

"Clearly we don't want walking skeletons," Solana said.

Medical associations protest

Last year's show drew protests from medical associations and women's advocacy groups because some of the models were positively bone-thin.

This time the Madrid regional government decided to pressure organizers to hire fuller-figured women as role models for young girls who are becoming obsessed with being thin, Concha Guerra, deputy finance minister of the regional administration, said earlier this month.

In Britain, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowellcalled Saturday for London Fashion Week, which is also opening Monday, to follow Madrid's lead.

"The fashion industry's promotion of beauty as meaning stick thin is damaging to young girls' self image and to their health," the cabinet minister said in a statement. "Young girls aspire to look like the catwalk models. When those models are unhealthily underweight it pressurizes girls to starve themselves to look the same."

The body mass index is a calculation doctors normally apply to study obesity. It is calculated by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared, and multiplying that total by 703.

If the resulting number is between 18.5 and 24.9, a person's weight is normal. Below 18.5 is considered underweight. In the case of the Madrid show, organizers rejected women with an index below 18.