Runway fashion has more in common with economic theory than may at first appear.
Consider the models that are required by the world's top designers.
The important thing, for a designer, is the outfit. The clothing. That's what's being shown off during a fashion show.
The perfect runway model is one that does not distract from the clothing. She must have all the features generally expected in a human being, but nothing more. No extra fat, no tell-tale shapes, no quirks of personality or appearance that would allow her to outshine the ensemble she is paid to display.
In brief, she is to be a person only in the sense that she has enough features shared by humans to avoid drawing attention to herself via their absence.
This non-beauty has often been mistaken for the ideal of beauty. The end result? Predictably tragic. Eating disorders, anxieties, and worse.
"To speak the truth," a female artist recently wrote, "I always hear guys saying something like that. Somehow media lie to us, telling that 'everyone prefers the thin tall types', but then you never find that 'everyone'..."
Exactly so. Those yearning for a model's body largely miss the point.
Economic models work in a very similar fashion to runway models.
The bare models are very seldom the point. The best constructed models are lauded for not being unnatural, for not having any feature that will draw a reader away from the world being woven to think, 'that's not right; that's not the world I live in'.
Models are as bare and featureless as possible, in their general form. The less there is to them, the more widely they may be applied.
These applications are the true point of economic models. They are the 'clothes' we put upon them. Shocks, new policies, a novel twist, these are where the excitement comes in, where the focus should be. The rest? Just a hanger, which, if it performs its duty, bears the weight of the sumptuous garment without distorting its shape.
If a basic model ever resembled an ACTUAL economy (say, that of Peru) in all its richness and complexity, it would immeditaley be rejected from use in most academic papers and policy briefs. When tacking on a rise in oil prices to a simple supply and demand model, everyone can see what the consequences are. If the same rise in oil prices were put through a 'true' model of the Peruvian economy... who knows what would happen? The peculiarities of that place and that culture at a given time would give the seemingly simple shock its own flavour, and may lead to - horror of horrors - a result or advice that cannot be generalized to other countries or times.
Similarly, if a normal, healthy woman were to model runway fashion, some of her body's personality would necessarily shine through... and this is a no-no when it is supposed to be the designer, and only the designer, on display.
For this reason, supermodels tend to be featureless, with faces like a Teflon pan. Their bodies are skinny for much the same reason that a coat-hanger is skinny: it allows the clothing to keep its own shape. A curvy woman, a woman with an actual figure, very seldom looks like another woman of the same height and weight.
It is tragic when a healthy woman decides to emulate a supermodel, mistaking glamour for beauty.
It is equally tragic when a healthy economy decides to emulate an economic model, mistaking elegance for efficiency.