As if all this was not enough then your February UK edition has delivered yet more gems to demonstrate how fast you really are hurtling out of orbit in terms of your fashion relevance in the real world.
First up as the object of my derision is the More Cash than Dash column. I bought this month's copy of Vogue after Emily of Sugar and Spice alerted me that it a featured an outfit totalling £550. I digress to her excellent post about why their selected items do not a budget friendly suggestion make - think sleeveless trenchcoat and leather legwarmers at eyewatering prices. May I suggest the more appropriate title of More Cash to Splash?
And while I'm at it can I also assure you that it is perfectly possible for your stylists and wardrobe team to walk into Primark or a charity shop without spontaneously combusting? Really, millions of women in the UK do it all the time. If I remember rightly your favourite cover girl Kate Moss learnt how to style clothes in her broke youth by habitually dipping into charity shops. Didn't seem to do her sense of style any harm.
If you thought the suggestion that you should get your shirts pressed on hubby's account was offensive then cop your Vogue-weary eyeballs on these beauties from the article "Magic Touch" on female entrepreneurs investing in fashion. If you think this is about celebrating self made career women then these come with a health warning: high blood pressure may result.
"...there is a new generation of sharp, ambitious fashion-savvy women who use their families' financial clout and impressive contacts to forge new careers by investing in others."
"...these women are already experts at micromanaging their [domestic] lives to perfection...They've simply added business to their checklist, and more surprisingly, with their husbands' blessing"
Surprising indeed. I didn't think that things could get any worse but then yesterday morning I saw this post on That's Not My Age about an article I hadn't got around to reading yet. Turning the pages of my own paper copy with some trepidation there it was in all its barrel scraping glory. The horror! The horror! This is Vogue's attempt to embrace diversity. To describe black models as merely part of a separate model tribe rather than just acknowledging them as legitimate models in their own right.
|Image from February edition of Vogue UK, The Catwalk Report|
Can we not just call them models rather than black models? In the same way that magazines have tended to fetishize plus size models instead of incorporate them as a normal part of their fashion aesthetic, if you're a model and you happen to be black it seems you are relegated to being a kind of flavour of the month, like a pouty, smiley or tough look. Notice something else? All of the three latter characteristics are completely changeable for other models: the pouty ones can stop pouting, the smiley ones can frown instead and the tough girls can grow their hair out. Not much you can do about your skin colour if it suddenly becomes unfashionable. And as That's Not My Age succinctly put it on her blog: "Can models not be black and pouty, black and smiley, black and tough?"
Vogue is not the only culprit that has this kind of blind sightedness in the way they misrepresent or under represent women of an ethnic background other than white Caucasian. Elle's December edition featured a "Model Power List" of the faces of 2010. Of the twenty almost exclusively white models who made the list Naomi Campbell was the only non-white model featured. Not a single Asian model was selected. With the variety of ethnic backgrounds of models working out there now the inclusion of Naomi Campbell, who as a supermodel was also a statistical rarity, seems nothing more than a token gesture on the part of Elle. No mention of Alex Wek or Jourdan Dunn, and fresh faced newcomers were abundantly represented so as long as they were white. In this day and age this seems crazy.
How do magazines get it so wrong? Surely that's what editors are for? To weed out the inappropriate? To provide balance without it seeming a blindly token act? In part I believe the lack of diversity in the offices publishing these magazines is responsible, and I don't just mean in terms of ethnicity but also across different socio-economic groups and mindsets. I got a very insightful comment from Jill of Street Style on my previous post about Vogue recounting her experience of trying to get some work at the magazine and I reproduce it here to illustrate a point:
"...I actually spent three hours once, sipping tea and reading magazines while waiting to meet HR at Conde Nast (a 'crisis' had developed, the sweet JUNIOR HR girl told me when we finally had our interview, because her boss couldn't get out of the meeting: two girls at Vogue had gotten into a cat fight and one was threatening to quit and HR had to intervene). All I wanted was a little freelance layout work, and I ended up doing my own layouts as an 'audition'...
When I sent them, the HR girl emailed me within minutes: someone at Vogue was really interested and she'd get back to me. Whoever that was must have changed her mind. I never worked a day at Conde Nast.
The truth is very simple: it is harder to get into the sorority that is Vogue UK than it is to run for President. It's not just because I'm American: this is a very tight group and they only hire their 'kind': an intern will be the boss's friend's daughter.. and it is so not a meritocracy...
I don't feel bitter about it at all, and I sound angrier than I actually am: the HR girl was a very sweet, albeit posh little thing ... In fact I remember exactly what she was wearing: a pink twin set. Pencil skirt. Clear stockings. Court shoes. And pearls."
The problem with a magazine staffing only "their kind" is that only the viewpoint shared by this elitist group makes it into the editorial content. This isn't limited to their narrow sense of fashion and taste but also how they view the world at large. It may well be naïvety rather than malice behind such editorial gaffes but the message that is received is nonetheless very offensive.
Husband or Daddy an investment banker or from a wealthy family? Well £550 is going to seem like a pretty tight budget for just one outfit then isn't it? Don't have to relate to people from different racial backgrounds to yourself on a regular basis? Then it must seem totally acceptable to file them away under some condescending label that makes them slightly more understandable to you while you congratulate yourself on your token effort to celebrate diversity.
I recall a time when Vogue actually had a letters to the editor section, and occasionally you would get an irate reader dressing them down for some offensive feature that would at least let them know that they were out of line. Mysteriously this section disappeared about ten years ago, effectively cutting off any avenue for reader interaction. It meant they could publish what they felt like without any fear of repercussion by giving voice to their readers' reactions in subsequent issues. I personally feel that since then the obnoxiousness of the content has increased exponentially.
Even if I never bought Vogue again I am now realising that there's nowhere to hide because I'll hear about such ire inducing articles via the blogosphere. So Vogue please stop now. Hire some real talent instead of somebody's well connected niece and start producing content that at the very least doesn't offend our sensibilities. If I wanted to read about high society and the super wealthy there is Tatler. If I buy Vogue I expect to read about fashion. Period. And girls, I don't know about you, but I can't really bring myself to take cutting edge fashion advice seriously anymore from a fashion magazine where HR is dressed in a pink twin set, pencil skirt, clear stockings, court shoes and pearls, can you?