Since her first appearance in the radical fashion photography of Corinne Day in the early 1990’s, ‘the waif’ has been a problematic figure for both popular and academic feminism. With her childlike appearance, skinny frame and suggestion of decadent living, she has come to be seen as a negative role model, encouraging anorexia and drug abuse: as such, she stands in for a pervasive cultural fear of the negative effects that media representations of femininity are widely assumed to have on spectators, and especially on young women who are assumed to be especially vulnerable to the toxic power of media images. In recent feminist theory, a counter position has arisen to this dominant view of media ‘pressure’ which focuses on notions of agency and pleasure. This paper argues that neither of these positions is adequate to account for the affective power of images of femininity to provoke strong affective attachments. By following the evolution of the original waif, Kate Moss, from waif model to near-ubiquitous icon of contemporary consumer culture, the paper argues that her status as cultural icon stems precisely from an ability to embody the ambiguities and tensions inherent in embodying feminine identity in a ‘postfeminist’ age.