Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A fashion moment

I had my yearly fashion moment. I bought the September issue of Vogue.

For those of you who do not share this insidious addiction, the September issue is the biggie: Fall Season. Summer is nice and all, but it's hot. Nobody wears much. Fall, and its attendant friend winter, means lots of layers. Leggings and pants and blouses and sweaters. Oh, and coats. Some fur, casually snuck in. And you really, really need some jewelry with that, and a Prada handbag, and the new platform shoe, five inches high, perfect when you're running for the train on a wet platform.

As an adolescent I was a fashion mag junkie. I have no idea why, as I have never harbored any interest in fashion and certainly lack the figure for it. Still, I devoured all those moronic articles about how to wear my hair and what color my eyelids should be. I bought into the notion that I was not thin enough, and paged through the photos of models jealously, vowing to better myself through starvation. Of course I failed.

As I grew older I came to appreciate the idea of couture as an art form. I have the perfect body for Dior's New Look, except the look was new during the forties and I really don't live a life calling for wasp-waisted skirts and little jackets. Also, high heels make my knees hurt.

A couple years ago I subscribed to Vogue anyway. It was the Playboy excuse all over again: I liked the articles. Their arts coverage is strong, and the initmitable Jeffrey Steingarten is house food writer. But the fashion was just so annoying. In addition to looking to too thin, the models began looking too young. Every few months there would be an issue purporting clothes "for real women". The spread would include somebody very tall and thin, the "petite" person, who was usually around 5'5 and weighed eightly pounds, the pregnant woman, and the "curvy" woman. With the exception of one year where a genuinely fleshy girl was pictured (Hockeyman was in love with her) the curvy woman was tall and maybe a 32B. Like, maybe she needed a bra for jogging.

I ALWAYS need a bra. My waist is small, my hips wide but not hugely so. I cannot find pants that fit properly and spend most of my life in long skirts. I have never seen anybody in Vogue who looked the faintest bit like me. Honor Fraser, former model-turned-gallery owner, is no exception.

"I was always in corsets because of my big boobs," Fraser says of her modeling years." (459) Now, we are told, "chicer edges are being added to its (the hourglass) Jessica Rabbit proportions." (459)

The accompanying photograph of Ms. Fraser, while indeed chic, shows no evidence of aforementioned boobs or an especially waspy waist. She looks like every other six-foot, 120 pound beanpole.

I let my subscription lapse in favor of the yearly moment.

I am about three-quarters of the way through the issue; I read it while drinking my morning coffee. It's like visiting another planet, where people publicly wear odd costumes and take tights seriously. I got my fix, and won't buy the magazine for another year--it will take me that long to forget how stupid it is. By now I am confident enough in my aging, imperfect self not to worry over the magazine's admonitions about wrinkle prevention and the right shoe. The people I worry about are the girls in articles like this one.

Alex DeVinney was twenty when she died. At five feet, eight inches tall, she weighed seventy pounds.

Do I blame Vogue? Of course not. It is up to us, readers and consumers, to reject the culture the magazine promulgates, and to help young women like DeVinney see Vogue and its sister magazines for what they are--hawkers of ridiculous fantasy.


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