Why models look dead, and other fashion questions answered

Every so often, The Fashion Police delve into our virtual mailbag by consulting the search terms people type into Google which lead them to this site. Many of those terms take the form of questions, so, in order to try to help those poor lost souls wandering out there in the fashion wilderness, we take it upon ourselves to answer those questions (or try to, anyway). Here are some of the burning questions on our visitor’s minds this month: if you’ve ever wondered why models look dead, and if you really HAVE to wash your clothes, read on…

headless mannequin makes people wonder why models look dead

Why do models look dead?

Didn’t you hear? Looking alive is SO last season…

OK, to give this a more serious answer: we’d say most of them look more “cyborg” than “dead”, and it’s probably partly a bid to create a “blank slate” which doesn’t detract attention from the clothes, and partly just a bid to look “cool”. If you’re referring to the undernourished look some models have, however, well, that’s a much bigger issue and relates to the mistaken belief that a very thin frame makes a better “frame” to hang clothes on than a fuller one does – a bit like showing them on a hanger, as opposed to an actual human body, with all of its pesky curves and angles. This is, of course, rubbish, and we’re sure most of us would agree that we’d rather see the clothes on a range of different shapes, to get an idea of how they REALLY look, but it’s an idea some sectors of the fashion industry persists with, unfortunately.

Then, of course, there are those fashion shoots and shows where the models quite literally have been made to look like they’re “dead”. WHY this is the case depends on each shoot, and is a question that could really only be answered by the photographer/stylist, but our best guess is that many of them are attempts to be controversial or edgy, and are mostly based around the idea of fashion as art.

Why should you wash your clothes?

When this question first started to show up in our referrers we were sure someone was having a joke, but it pops up so frequently now we’re starting to think there are people out there who genuinely don’t know why they should wash their clothes occasionally. To those people: you should wash your clothes because if you don’t, they will smell, and people will start to recoil in disgust if you get too close to them. You should also wash your clothes because if you don’t, they will get dirty, and then you’ll be wearing dirty clothes. You should not, however, get carried away with this, and start washing your clothes more often than you need to or you’ll waste them, AND waste water. For more on this, see our article on how often people wash their clothes.

Why would you want a short sleeve jacket?

Mostly just because they look cute. Which is actually a perfectly acceptable reason, as far as we’re concerned. These are mostly worn in warmer weather, and function in much the same way as a waistcoat, say, or a short-sleeved cardigan, but if you want to wear one when it’s colder out, they can look good with elbow-length gloves.

Can you wear boots with capris?

You can, but it’s possibly going to look a bit odd. Capri pants can be tricky for some people because they’re designed to hit at the widest part of the calf, thus emphasising what is, for many of us, something we’d really rather not emphasise. Add boots to the mix and you’ll be drawing one more line across your leg, which can be a little bit “stumpifying”. If you want to try, though, our suggestion would be to try close-fitting boots, which fit underneath the leg of the capris without leaving a gap. Opaque tights (in the same colour as either the boots or the pants) will help here too: the trick is to avoid having a line of flesh showing, as that’ll just divide your leg up further. Really, though, we tend to think capri pants look best worn with shoes: we’d love to hear opinions on this!

Can short girls wear midi dresses?

Yes they can. Short girls can wear everything that taller girls can as long as the proportions are right. If we were to show you a photo of a short girl in a correctly-fitting midi dress, and then a photo of a tall girl in a correctly-fitting midi dress, you probably wouldn’t know which was which, unless they were standing next to each other. The shorter girl, however, will possibly have had to have her dress tailored to get that correct fit, while the taller one may not have. If you’re short, and you try to wear a midi dress designed for tall or “average” height women, it’ll look all wrong: in fact, it’ll possibly look more like a maxi than a midi. To make sure your dress hits at the right spot, try shopping from the petite section or investing in the services of a good seamstress. Alternatively, it won’t always work, but  dresses and skirts which are designed to be knee-length on taller people: they may well be “midi” length on you. Remember, a hemline which hits just below the knee will give the “midi” effect, but will be more flattering than a “true” midi dress, which should it at mid-calf.

See also: our article on how to wear a midi dress.

Can short people wear skinny jeans?

We can’t for the life of us imagine why not. Actually, skinny jeans can be easier for short people to wear, because it’s easier to find a pair that’ll fit without having to be turned up or hemmed. Our tip: look for jeans billed as “cropped”, “flood length” or “ankle”: they may be cropped on tall people, but they won’t be cropped on you!

If plus size women aren’t supposed to wear horizontal stripes why do the stores sell them?

Well, for one thing, the stores don’t actually CARE whether you look good or not (or most don’t): they just want your money. But for another thing, there is no actual rule stating that “plus size” women shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes. We actually think this is an old-fashioned idea: “plus sized” women aren’t all built the same, and some of them can look fantastic in horizontal stripes – just as some skinny women might not. It all depends on the shape of the woman, the type of stripe they’re wearing… and whether or not they care about obeying some kind of “rule”. For more on how to wear stripes, see our article here.

Do you have a burning question for The Fashion Police? Ask away, and we’ll do our best to answer in a future post!

Image © Mikhail_levit | Dreamstime Stock Photos &Stock Free Images


  • March 13, 2013


    Well I have always found vertical stripes to be much more unflattering than horizontal stripes.. Where did that come from anyway?

  • March 13, 2013


    I’ve always wondered why models look dead behind the eyes. Also, these retailers need to realize that us common folk can tell better how an outfit drapes with someone who fills it out at least a little bit. Grrr. 😉 That’s a big pet peeve I have with JCrew.

    • April 24, 2013


      1.) The dead look in the model’s eyes is STARVATION.
      2.) I am totally with you, and often the clothes are pinned in the back to fit the models. What you see in the photos often has nothing to do with the original garment – very painfull if you buy online.

  • March 14, 2013


    ” It all depends on the shape of the woman, the type of stripe they’re wearing… and whether or not they care about obeying some kind of “rule”.”

    I really love your attitude when you’re giving advice/just in general. Very accepting, nonjudgmental, positive, etc. You come across as a very nice person.

    Sorry if that’s a bit random to say, but I always feel a little better about myself after reading your posts, whereas other blogs sometimes make me feel worse. I’ve been reading TFP off and on since high school, and I just thought I’d tell you I think you’re great. :)

    • March 14, 2013

      The Fashion Police

      Thank you SO much for saying this! That’s exactly the kind of tone I’m aiming for, so you’ve just made my day by saying that’s how it comes across! I’ve always really hated fashion magazines which are all, “These are the hot trends so you WILL wear them” and which are one minute talking about how REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES then the next minute providing diet tips… I always hope this site will be a place where people can feel free to give their opinion about clothes, but not feel judged if they happen to like/wear the things I deem to be a “crime”: it’s all just a matter if personal taste, after all :)

  • March 14, 2013


    Sooo, pressing questions.. can we talk a little bit about fabrics?
    I feel like a lot of people – well, at least myself and many of my friends- have a gaping hole in fashion education when it comes to understanding and choosing fabrics, and it kinda becomes the last thing you consider when shopping for an item, when it really makes all the difference!
    Which fabric will flatter who, what will pill or not, what do those percentages on the tag actually mean, are all artificial-sounding fabrics really not breathable, can you tell ahead of time if something will rip easily? I can think of like 20 more questions just now, off the top of my head. Maybe even foray into how to recognize bad sewing and seams? or even the quality of a shoe? SO MUCH I want to know!

    • March 14, 2013

      The Fashion Police

      This is GREAT question… and it’s one I’m probably going to have to do a little research on first, so please bear with me! It’s really interesting, though, that women of my mother or grandmother’s generation would probably know this stuff almost instinctively (or so it seems, anyway!), but for me there is definitely that “gaping hole” you mention. I think fast fashion has definitely changed the way people look at clothes, and fabrics in particular!

      • March 15, 2013


        I’ve been searching for information on what makes a garment an investment piece (i.e. fabrics, seams, etc.) for a while and the only blog I’ve found thus far which covers this topic is http://emptyemptor.com/
        The author doesn’t speak about fabrics as much as the way garments are made in general, which I found really interesting.
        If you haven’t already read any of her entries, I’d really suggest having a look. My favorite entry probably is about how designer items can and do fall apart :)

        • March 15, 2013


          thank you so much, will definitely check it out:)

  • March 24, 2013


    This is really a fashion-newbie question but… what makes a dress a “Sunday dress”? Can the fabric be made of cotton or does it have to be fancier fabric? Does it have to have sleeves? I know it can’t be too low-cut or too short, but are there any other “rules”? I don’t go to church anymore and back when I did, I certainly didn’t wear dresses (really, nobody in our church did) so I have no clue. And google images didn’t exactly help.

    • March 25, 2013

      The Fashion Police

      I’m not a Christian, so I could be completely off-base here, but my understanding is that the old “rules” of the “Sunday best” have started to die out, and that dress codes will vary hugely between different churches and communities. For instance, I know the Mormon church has stricter ideas about dress in general, and women would be expected to cover their shoulders, so a dress with some form of sleeves would be appropriate. The few church-goers I know here in the UK, though, mostly seem to wear jeans and sweaters to church, so my impression is that’s it’s pretty casual – I don’t think women are expected to wear dresses at all, let alone special “Sunday” ones! That said, I’m sure there are still churches here where people are expected to dress in a particular way, or where older members of the congregation may still be adhering to an older kind of dress code: as I said, it’s really going to depend on the church! In very general terms, I would say the kind of thing that would be appropriate for the office would probably also be appropriate for church: so, as you say, nothing too short or too low cut, and nothing that looks like it would be more at home in a nightclub, basically!

      Any church-goers want to weight in on this one?

      • April 4, 2013


        I reckon you’re pretty on the money, Amber. Churches I’ve gone to, nearly anything goes, as long as it’s somewhere in the casual to smart casual zone (I have felt over-dressed in church before!) I also think (I don’t know for sure) that the term ‘Sunday dress’ comes from way back in the day when people tended to have ‘good clothes’ and ‘work clothes,’ I guess because they just had fewer clothes in general (you know in books like Anne of Green Gables where they talk about their ‘second-best blouse’ and stuff like that), and wanted to keep their good ones looking nice longer, and church was considered like a special occasion? And back then it would’ve been dresses that women wore, too.