Paris, June 3 (Reuters): The love of buttery croissants and entrecotes in creamy sauces has finally caught up with French waistlines, sending the fashion-conscious nation back to the changing room for a wardrobe refitting.
Adult obesity has almost doubled in France since the 1980s, with almost one in 10 adults considered clinically overweight.
So, armed with one million euros of state cash and two high-tech cabins, the French Institute of Textiles and Clothes has set about sizing up thousands of people — from little boys to grannies — to pin down the shape of the nation.
“People have become bigger, particularly in the legs... and maybe a bit fatter,” said Professor Regis Mollard of the Applied Anthropology Laboratory, who helped design the campaign.
The proportion of overweight 10-year-olds soared to 16 per cent in 2000 from only three percent in 1965, with the number doubling roughly every 15 years.
But even though the French are filling out, they still have a long way to go to catch up with junk food loving residents of the US, where half the adult population is overweight and more than one in five grown-ups are obese.
In a bid to map out the new French figure, two measuring cabins will tour the country on lorries for 18 months. The first cabin will make its high street debut on June 5 in a clothes shop in Villeneuve d’Ascq, near the northern city of Lille.
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s been, what, 50 years since they last measured people' Sadly, I think people have got bigger since then,” said 46-year-old Marianne, shopping for a summer wardrobe in Paris’ Galeries Lafayette department store.
It will take just 15 minutes to measure up, first by hand and then by a hi-tech machine.
The cabins are fitted with four cameras — one in each corner. Two laser beams “slice” the body into pieces and the cameras photograph each layer before sending the images to a computer to create a three-dimensional picture from which proportions and measurements can be taken.
“It’s no more dangerous than a laser pointer people use in presentations,” assured Jean-Louis Heyd from Lectra, which distributes the 150,000-euro ($180,000) cabins.
In 10 seconds, the machine takes an astounding 85 different measurements. Participants are rewarded with a card on which their virtual figure is stored.
“To fulfil all our criteria, we need to measure at least 12,000 people. But if more volunteer, all the better. We won’t turn anyone away,” said IFTH spokeswoman Helene Pichenot.
“We will be able to work out the average size,” she added. “We’ll also know more about those who are not standard sizes — the very tall, or the very short for example.”
French men were last measured in 1966; women haven’t been officially sized up since 1972.
“In 30 years, things have changed. The French have grown,” said Bertrand Hardeman, a spokesman for Kiabi, a chain of shops stocking cheap fashion for young French females, which is taking part in the campaign.
“The clothes sizes we are getting from our suppliers no longer match the real morphology of our customers.”