There's a theory that fashion's obsession with bony, prepubescent figures is driven by gay male designers, who are occasionally accused of wanting women to look more like boys. An editorial in last week's Observer noted, "fashion is a con-trick by largely gay male designers to make women look more like men: breastless, hipless, as skinny as a boy"; in February, the Daily Mail stated that "the most feted designers, mostly brilliant gay men, effectively tried to squeeze women out of the fashion equation."
Patrick Strudwick wrote an article in this weekend's Guardian refuting these ideas:
Implicit in the belief that gay designers want women to look more boyish is the notion that gay men are only capable of finding beauty in the masculine; that by making women more androgynous they become more alluring; gay men are aroused by boyishness rather than manliness. These are all untrue.
First of all, he points out that gay men are perfectly capable of appreciating feminine beauty.
If you think gay men only have an aesthetic appreciation of either the androgynous or the male, you need only turn to art created by gay men — Michelangelo's Pietà, or Caravaggio's The Penitent Magdalene. Or you could note the adoration of womanly women in contemporary gay men's musical tastes - Beyoncé, anyone?
And secondly, he reminds us that gay men like other men, not prepubescent boys.
No matter how masculine — or boyish, as the rhetoric would have it — a woman looked, a gay designer would never find her sexually attractive. So why, we must ask, would they purposefully mould women in the alleged fashion? What would be the point? In short, gay men are attracted to men, not boys. To blur this line is to perpetuate the most poisonous of homophobic slurs: that gay men are all paedophiles.
Finally, he argues that the fashion industry's obsession with thinness is commercial, not a secret agenda ginned up by gay male designers.
The way to extract money from someone is to encourage fear and the desire to control. Fear causes us to buy that which prevents social rejection, to be ahead of the Joneses — deodorant, the latest cut of jeans, the constantly upgrading gadgets. And controlling tendencies lure us to products that shape ourselves and our environment: the Ajax, the Ambi Pur plug-ins, the liposuction. A thin control freak is fashion's ultimate customer.
Of course, most people understand that the size-zero debate goes way beyond homophobia and sexuality. Just as heterosexual female designers don't always create wearable women's clothes, there's obviously no plausible argument that gay male designers wish women resembled young boys.