Thursday, April 4, 2013

Precariously In Vogue

I have a long-historied love affair with fashion magazines. My mom never had any around, so it definitely took effort on my part to bring them into my hands. I would desperately want to rip pages out when I found a stash in someones' home, and I often do if it's in a doctor's office or some other waiting room. I used to be (ahem, still am) so delighted when people would give me their back issues. I still have pages of the September 2006 issue with Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette that my great grandma Peggy gave to me. In fact, I've saved the notebooks I filled with clippings from countless torn up glossies. When we lived in China, I bought a stack of old issues of InStyle from a cafe in Tian Jian for 40 yuan, which felt like a lot, but was totally worth it.

But this relationship is not without its difficulties. I subscribed to Vogue for a year because it quickly became more cost efficient than buying even 3 or 4 single issues throughout the year. Individual issues are very hit and miss to me, but the more I saw, the more a certain issue stuck out and began to bug me. I don't know the academic term for it (white supremacy? no, globalization?, no, exploitation? perhaps), but I feel like the habit of models swathed in riches plopped into ethnic scenarios as a stylistic setting is insensitive. Take these two photos, one from 1956 (Vogue?) and one from September 2011.

Ok, so it annoys me too when white 20-somethings go on and on about how the West is ruining everything, but seriously, let's just analyze these photos for a moment. I know the 50s were a different time, but this picture (left) just screams, "I am a beautiful, rich, white person using this exotic landscape [and man] to show off my status." On the right, we've fallen to using identically dressed factory workers as a pattern to contrast miss Kloss's impressive figure (and butt-ugly clothing, if I may say so). Maybe I'm over reacting, but it really seems like a habit of Vogue's. Maybe Anna Wintour needs to travel more or something and get a dose of reality. I almost wrote Vogue a letter explaining why I thought this (photo on right) was in poor taste, but after reading the actual article, I thought it was interesting and treated China with respect (even if it did depict only the minuscule percent of the population that is well off), so I refrained.

Again, maybe this isn't worth griping about, except I've never heard anyone criticize it. My sample group of fashion spreads are largely from American Vogue, but I can say that I've noticed this trend in styling less in other magazines, of which I see a fair amount online. To me, there's nothing wrong with being rich or taking enjoyment from fine clothes and other belongings, but I find it disrespectful to juxtapose world cultures (often impoverished ones) with extreme materialism. To Vogue's credit, the factory workers do look like they're enjoying themselves, and for all I know, they were paid for their time, but it still doesn't sit right to me.

In large part because of this issue, I've migrated away from reading/looking at Vogue so much, and I actually enjoy Elle a lot for their more accessible (and dare I say affordable) take on fashion (though their editorials, and perhaps even the quality and subject matter of their articles, can not compare!). But when all is said and done, I mean, April 2013 US Elle's cover girl was Nicki Minaj, and Vogue's was Michelle Obama. That pretty much says it all. I just wish I could have the acessability and lack of ethnic-exploitation of Elle with the images and prestige of Vogue.

And while I'm whining about fashion, I want to complain about Karlie Kloss; maybe I'm just jealous of her wild success, but I just don't find her that incredible. And she looks so smug. Can we have Agyness Deyn back, please?

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


  1. not a fan of karlie, either! and she's everywhere! i don't get it. to me, she's pretty generic.

    i haven't necessarily noticed it to just be vogue, but i've seen this juxtaposition so many times. editors must love the dichotomy. have you seen "funny face"? it's audrey hepburn, photography, "new look", fashion magazines, and paris. it's divine. anyway, there's a scene when the brash editor is overseeing a shoot in a crummy old bookstore, and she pulls the shop girl into the frame. "She's fabulous! Put her in next to Marion!" The girl (Audrey) is offended, of course.

    Do you ever read Harper's? I love it. I'm back to Vogue for the year, though. (Half of my birthday gifts were mag subscriptions!)

    1. I should try Harper's! I've read a bit of Vanity Fair, but I wish they had more pictures.

      I have seen Funny Face, but I forgot about that scene in the bookstore. I'm guessing you have, knowing what a big Hepburn fan you are, but have you seen Paris When it Sizzles? I think that's my favorite of hers that I've seen.

      Thanks for commenting. Glad I'm not the only one over Karlie.


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