Britain’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has declared that a photograph featuring a woman lying on the floor wearing a short black dress was “irresponsible” because the woman appeared unhealthily thin.
The advert for Yves Saint Laurent, which featured in Elle magazine, was the subject of a complaint because some felt it could encourage an unhealthy body image and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. For decades, researchers have been making links between the images used by fashion houses and the perpetuation of a very narrow view of how a woman should look.
In a statement on their website they ruled:
The ASA considered that the model’s pose and the particular lighting effect in the ad drew particular focus to the model’s chest, where her rib cage was visible and appeared prominent, and to her legs, where her thighs and knees appeared a similar width, and which looked very thin, particularly in light of her positioning and the contrast between the narrowness of her legs and her platform shoes. We therefore considered that the model appeared unhealthily underweight in the image and concluded that the ad was irresponsible
Speaking to Channel 4 news, ASA said it’s role was not to “regulate models or thin people who might appear in ads” but that a combination of factors, including lighting and styling, contributed to the advert being censored.
This isn’t the first time ASA has cautioned Yves Saint Laurent for its adverts: in 2011 a TV commercial for it’s perfume Belle D’Opium was ruled to promote drug use, since it featured a woman tapping her inner arm where heroin is usually injected, saying, “I am your addiction. I am Belle D’Opium.”
And last month an advert by Miu Miu was also banned by the ASA for ‘sexualising’ a model who appeared underage.
They ruled that the advert, printed in Vogue magazine, was ‘irresponsible and offensive’ after they were described as ‘voyeuristic’ after appearing to show a young girl lying on a bed photographed through a door left ajar.
It is not just high fashion brands which have been slammed: in March high street chain American Apparel were asked to withdraw an image of a young model in a sexualised pose used to sell a lip-print thong bodysuit. And Urban Outfitters have also been warned by the ASA for another “harmful” lingerie advert which featured a model with a large ‘thigh gap’ after someone complained that the model in the picture advertising briefs was “unhealthily thin”.
Dr Melissa Atkinson from the Centre for Appearance Research said that fashion houses were perpetuating the view that “skinny is sexy.”
“We know that simply viewing these kind of images can cause people to feel dissatisfied with their appearance and that can lead to all sort of unhealthy “behaviours,” she said.
But others say that images shouldn’t be banned and they were not in favour of “images being regulated”.
The ASA say that their work is ongoing and they will continue to monitor magazines and websites, particularly those aimed at young people – including young men who are also vulnerable.
YSL said that they did not agree with the complainant’s view but did not provide a detailed response. Elle magazine, who ran the advert, said they had no comment to make on the complaint.