Runway rhetoric: The 2023 fall/winter shows proved that thin is still 'in'— now what?

Recent fashion weeks have confirmed that our obsession with thinness hasn't gone anywhere.

Fashion critic Vanessa Friedman said she was distracted by the thin appearance of the models for Jason Wu's New York Fashion Week show. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
Fashion critic Vanessa Friedman said she was distracted by the thin appearance of the models for Jason Wu's New York Fashion Week show. (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

Numerous publications have commented recently on how the "cult of thinness" is making a depressing comeback. Even The New York Times's fashion director and chief fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman, pointed out how tiny the fall/winter New York Fashion Week (NYFW) show models looked.

The debate over whether "thin could be in again" continues, but being "skinny" has been on the minds of many. As The Cut writer Michelle Santiago Cortés observed, variations of the '90s "heroin chic body" are popular search terms on TikTok.

But suppose you peeled back the thin veil of body positivity that brands and social media personalities would rather have you believe. In that case, it's not difficult to see that our obsession with being thin never faded. So did it ever go anywhere?

Apparently not, and a recent Twitter frenzy sparked by Friedman showed just that.

Last month, Friedman tweeted about the "shockingly small" appearance of the models in designer Jason Wu's show.

The comment prompted varied responses from her followers, with many people questioning why Friedman decided to single Wu out, considering fashion houses such as Celine and Yves Saint Laurent have become famous for casting nothing but extremely slim models.

Friedman responded by saying she'd written about this issue at Saint Laurent before, but it seems that the majority of the confusion she caused centres around why she shined a spotlight on Wu's cast. When taking her authority at The New York Times into account, she could've highlighted the issue at nearly every major fashion house a thousand times over.

After much speculation, Friedman posted a Twitter thread to clarify her statement, noting that Wu is one of the few runway designers offering a size-inclusive line.

"This, combined with the wider conversation around size inclusivity, which, currently, is more lip-service than actual, made the fact that many of the models in this show were very thin stand out, as well as the fact there were no midsize or curve models at all," Friedman said.

She went on to say that many of the models wore revealing clothing, like lingerie-inspired slip dresses, which showed how thin they were. However, this comment needs to be clarified, considering Friedman has likely been to hundreds of shows where ultra-slim models were nearly nude.

In addition, Friedman said that the difference between people with an eating disorder and naturally thin people is "not hard to recognize," and at least two of the models in Wu's show appeared to be anorexic.

None of this sat well with stylist and content creator Timothy Chernyaev, who summed up the general public's feelings about the situation in a TikTok.

"If you look at the lineup of models at Prada or Louis Vuitton, you'll see the same kind of body types," said Chernyaev.

While Friedman's goal wasn't to shame the models, she was calling Wu out for not taking the opportunity to exhibit a size-inclusive casting.

But in a world where on and off the runway, "thin" and "skinny" are synonymous with "beauty," isn't it about time critics with Friedman's influence criticize many major fashion brands for doing the same?

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