NEW YORK - Vogue magazine, perhaps the world's top arbiter of style, is making a statement about its own models: Too young and too thin is no longer in.
The 19 editors of Vogue magazines around the world made a pact to project the image of healthy models, according to a Conde Nast International announcement Thursday.
They agreed to "not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder," and said they will ask casting directors to check IDs at photo shoots and fashion shows and for ad campaigns.
The move is an important one for the fashion world, said former model Sara Ziff, who was discovered at 14 and has since founded The Model Alliance, dedicated to improving the working conditions of models and persuading the industry to take better care of its young.
"Most editions of Vogue regularly hire models who are minors, so for Vogue to commit to no longer using models under the age of 16 marks an evolution in the industry," she said. "We hope other magazines and fashion brands will follow Vogue's impressive lead."
American, French, Chinese and British editions of the fashion glossies are among those that will start following the new guidelines with their June issues; the Japanese edition will begin with its July book.
"Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers," said Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement.
Models' health - and especially their weight - has been a lightning rod the past few years, especially after the death of two models from apparent complications from eating disorders in 2006-07, but the focus, until now, has been on runway fashion shows.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America adopted a voluntary initiative in 2007, which emphasizes age minimums and healthy working environments during New York Fashion Week, and London Fashion Week designers sign a contract with the British Fashion Council to use models who are at least 16.
The primary fashion organizations in Italy and Spain banned catwalk models who fall below a certain Body Mass Index level, and earlier this year, Israel's government passed an anti-skinny-model law.
Still, there is persistent criticism that the fashion world creates a largely unattainable and unhealthy standard that particularly affects impressionable young girls.
"We know that there is an impact for young girls - and boys, by the way - of what is put in front of them in terms of media," said Elissa J. Brown, professor of psychology at St. John University and founder of The Partners Program, a specialized therapy program for children and adolescents.
A change in what they see on the pages of prestigious fashion magazines could change the image of what they would strive for, she said.
It wouldn't hurt for parents to take a look at healthier looking models, too, she added. "I'm a mother and I hear other mothers talk about the parts of their bodies they don't like in front of their daughters instead of talking about health. If the message becomes about health, it could have a tremendous impact."