Imagine if the government set out to measure the nation’s height, weight and curves in order to improve the sizing of clothes in retail fashion. Well, Spain’s health ministry has taken on this mammoth task. The goal of the study is to ensure that fashion houses “promise to fit their clothes to real women, rather than the other way round”.

From a recent article in The Independent:

Last month technicians from Spain’s health ministry visited the first of 59 towns across the country to measure 10,415 Spanish women, aged between 12 and 70, to find out what size and shape the nation’s females really are. The nationwide measuring operation continues until 21 December, and results are to be announced next spring.

Women are chosen at random from the city’s census and invited to participate in an “anthropometric study”, which the state-sponsored National Consumers Institute claims to be the first in the world. The aim is to promote “a realisable image of healthy beauty – neither Rubens women nor anorexic girls”, according to the health minister, Bernat Soria. “It is our commitment that beauty and health go hand in hand.”

The results from the study will be used to standardize clothing sizes across the industry.

This step follows Spain’s leadership in banning ultra-thin models from the Madrid catwalks a year ago. And that isn’t the end of it…

The government has also extracted a promise from retailers to banish skeletal plastic mannequins from shop windows – said to encourage unrealistic ideals of beauty – and replace them over time with those sized at least 38 – a British 10 [this is roughly an American 6, where mannequin’s today typically wear an American 2] .

Regardless of your position on the government playing such an active role in consumer affairs, these are fascinating moves. Spain has tremendous clout in the fashion world because they are home to the biggest and most successful fast-fashion retail chain in the world – Zara. I’m looking forward to next Spring when the results of the study will be announced. It will be incredibly interesting to see whether they can be applied successfully, and whether other countries follow Spain’s example.

Will idealizing the skinny ever be out of fashion?