Caroline Evans, professor of fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins, writes for The Guardian about the century-long history of "too skinny" model bodies.
In the early 20th century, the first professional fashion models were called “living mannequins”. They took their name from their 19th-century predecessors, the display mannequins used by dressmakers. The term suggested that these early models were no more than animated dolls, and this was born out in reality. Uniform in their mechanical modelling styles and standardised body shapes, they stared glassily ahead, paying no attention to onlookers. One critic in 1910 described their “industrial smiles”. Forbidden to speak unless spoken to, when asked by the client, “What is your name?” the living mannequin would answer not with her own name but that of the so-called model dress she wore: Pleasures of Love, or The First Yes, perhaps. Resembling both a talking dress and the inanimate mannequin she mimicked, the fashion model cut a disturbing and uncanny figure in the luxurious couture salons of Paris.
Read the full article here.