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You can’t find “thigh gap” in the dictionary but Google the two words and the results are mind boggling and disconcerting in equal measure.

JOSE MIGUEL GOMEZ/REUTERS

New York Fashion Week gets underway tomorrow, kicking off nearly a month of ready-to-wear shows that follow in London, Milan and finally, Paris in early March.

While most editors and buyers will be focused on what we'll be wearing next fall, others will be paying close attention to the models – and more specifically, their "thigh gap."

Huh?

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You can't find "thigh gap" in the dictionary but Google the two words and the results are mind boggling and disconcerting in equal measure.

Just like visible collarbones or hipbones, the space between the upper legs has become another measure of thinness – and one that appears to be increasingly monitored (chock this up to teenage starlets who leave home sans pants and models posing in swimwear or lingerie).

Today, Britain's Daily Mail offered a rather loose timeline on thigh gap's rise and its pernicious effect on the female psyche.

"Websites promoting the desired thigh gap show thousands of images dedicated to the achievement of losing weight until they have a space between their thighs," the article explains. "And young women are using social networking technology to share tips and pictures and 'inspire' each other's misguided attempts to copy their favourite celebrities.

Those singled out for their exemplary thigh gaps include Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, new model sensation Cara Delevingne and Eleanor Calder (Don't fret if you've never heard of her; she is the 20-year-old girlfriend of one Louis Tomlinson from the boy band One Direction).

Thigh gap scrutiny has become such a thing that when Beyoncé's performed in a lace-and-leather bodysuit during the Superbowl halftime show on Sunday, a surge of comments on Twitter noted that the superstar's thighs actually touch.

Muscle, it's worth pointing out here, can create mass, too. If Beyoncé lacks thigh gap, it's because she's fit, not fat.

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Still, when a parody Twitter account in the manner of Fat Amy (the character in the movie Pitch Perfect played by Rebel Wilson) tweeted, "Beyoncé doesn't have a thigh gap but shes [sic] considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Remember that when you feel bad about yourself," it was retweeted more than 800 times.

Thigh gap wannabes and aficionados seem undismayed and post messages about wanting to lose enough weight so that the space becomes pronounced.

But it's just as likely that models' thighs don't touch because they have yet to hit 20. Whereas pipe cleaner legs would be considered unattractive and unwomanly in some cultures; ours turns to diets, cosmetic surgery and digital retouching to deemphasize the body's curves and increase the negative space between the inner things.

So if thigh gap has become aspirational, the joke is on those who aspire to achieve it since it basically suggests lack of nutrition, activity, maturity or all of the above. Most of all, it suggests a gap in reason.

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