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Side Line: 04/01/2010

NORMALLY she teaches history at a Hamburg grammar school, but elaborately made up to look like Marlene Dietrich and wearing a €480 silk dress, Sybille Zschaber was yesterday all over the fashion pages of Germany's most popular women's magazine as it began its ban on professional models.

The 29-year-old blonde teacher was among a cast of more than six "normal women" selected by 'Brigitte' to pose for its January fashion feature following an editorial pledge by the magazine to keep controversial size-zero models off its pages.

Editor Andreas Lebert announced the ban last October after receiving letters from hundreds of women readers who complained that they had no connection with the models and that they no longer wanted to see "protruding bones".

He claimed that the models 'Brigitte' used for years on its fashion pages were so skinny that editors had to "fatten them up" using Photoshop, the image-manipulation computer software program.

"This is disturbing and perverse and what has it got to do with our real readers?" he asked. 'Brigitte' declared that it would, in future, invite "normal women" to feature as models on its pages.

The magazine's January edition, which went on sale throughout Germany at the weekend, is the first to do so without professional models, although these still appear in advertisements.

Paunch

The women photographed for its fashion feature pages are a deliberately mixed bunch. Apart from Ms Zschaber's attempt at Marlene Dietrich, 'Brigitte' contains glossy images of a 21-year-old hotel receptionist from Capri, a 28-year-old restaurant owner from Hamburg, a 45-year-old Icelandic artist, and a 21-year-old economics student.

Each has clearly received the full attention of make-up artists and fashion photographers, yet there is the odd detail that reveals the models are amateur: the Capri receptionist has a slight paunch and the 45-year-old Icelandic artist has a face well-endowed with wrinkles.

The magazine's campaign has provoked controversy. Karl Lagerfeld, the veteran German fashion guru, has described those who criticise so-called skinny models as "fat, chip-eating mummies" and claims that much of the objection to them is sheer jealousy. "Nobody wants to see a round woman," the 71-year-old designer insisted. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent