Call Her Anna
September 22, 2009

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The September Issue, the documentary about Vogue, Anna Wintour (seen above in a scene with photographer Mario Testino) and the making of the magazine’s largest-ever September 2007 issue, brought with it a ton of publicity, culminating in her appearance on David Letterman’s show just before Fashion Week. Finally the film has opened in LA (and it expands across the country this coming weekend) and, for all you Anna-philes out there, the movie reveals some amusing and arcane remnants to ponder about the legendary editor.

1. Anna doesn’t like black! I had never realized this before but think, quick, have you ever seen her photographed in a little black dress? And she isn’t very partial to it in the pages of her magazine either. In one segment, Anna’s palpable gloom is hilarious as YSL’s designer Stephano Pilati determinedly tries to assure her that the muted morass of his new collection includes some murky green and red. She doesn’t see it (and, really, neither do we).

2. Anna lives in a cottage! Or rather, a ersatz cottage inside a Village townhouse with goldenrod decorator-sponged walls (so ’90s!), pretty painted pottery and a jumble of coats hanging in the entryway. I don’t know why I was so surprised – her ex-husband was an academic, not the corporate type like Miranda Priestly’s withering spouse in The Devil Wears Prada. But in contrast with her chilly, walk-the-plank office….

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3. Anna loves prints!  You can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl, apparently.  Her uniform is unvarying – a print dress (often Prada) worn with or without a cardigan.  Add fur at the slightest hint of a breeze. Delicate Manolos in summer (no lumbering Louboutin platforms for her!) and sleek boots in winter. More often than not, she accessorizes only with what appears to be a very fine vintage citrine necklace. Customarily a floral print gives your run-of-the-mill fashionista the worst kind of the heebie-jeebies so it’s kind of perversely wonderful that they’re the unvarying uniforn of the queen.

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The September Issue: Vogue
September 11, 2009

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When I started this little romp around the fall fashion issues of the big magazines, I thought The September Issue, the Vogue documentary that was my inspiration, would have opened nationwide but in fact only New York got it early and finally today it opens here in L.A.  So much has changed since that epochal flying-high September portrayed in the film – this year’s fashion issue clocks in at 200 or so pages less for starters.subscribe We will probably never see the likes of that 4-pound  2007 doorstop again. This year’s model boasts cover girl Charlize Theron, pretty, pared down with no accessories, certainly a big “get” but otherwise standard fare – nothing seems to link her image with fashion at this moment.  Inside she’s given a vaguely Georgia O’Keefe treatment, photographed in the high desert, styled with white T-shirts and men’s button-downs under long dark gowns, a conceit I feel like I’ve already seen too many times before.  Also old and quaintly amusing in that unintended Vogue way is the Last Look coda from the back page – a Manolo (of course) Blahnik lizard “take” on a Timberland boot, modified with sky-high heel and open toe – “fully equipped for any urban stomping ground” (at $1,595). Don’t get me wrong: when paging through the magazine I really don’t care what the items cost and I find some critics’ harping on Vogue‘s pricey merch to be oh so dull and dreary – it’s all a fantasy so just go with it. But the Manolo bootie is kind of like your grandma uttering the word “bootie” in reference to a hoochie  rap song. I cringe.

All is forgiven though by the opening fashion spread: who else but Vogue would lead off with most-likely-the-supermodel-of-today Natalia Vodianova as Little Red Riding Hood in a crimson collection of capes and other assorted get-ups?  Subtly recalling editor-god emeritus Diana Vreeland and her red reveries while also conjuring up the all-too-real recessionary wolf currently prowling around fashion’s fantastic forest, it’s also a proverbial Eve’s apple temptingly thrust at the consumer/reader to rush right out and buy something – and make it red! That’s Wintour’s commercial genius still firing on all cylinders.

Jezzie-nation
September 8, 2009

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Are you a Jezzie?  For the uninitiated, that would be a reader of Jezebel, part of the Gawker family of fine blogging products. “Celebrity, sex, fashion for women” it promises, and all without any kind of supposed airbrushing – visual or mental.  Jezebel wants to keep it real, you see, so no rosy idealized vision here.  Skinny size-zero models, unyielding bad-mommy Anna Wintour and dictatorial (male) designers top its fashion enemies list,  and a casual reader might be forgiven for thinking, “Who are these crazies who think fashion is just a grand conspiracy to keep women down?”

Any post that touches on body image automatically sets off at least 100 comments and this weekend’s “Do Women Want To See Themselves In Fashion Magazines” opened another floodgate. If you’ve been living in a media-deprived cave you may not have heard, but recently model Lizzie Miller was photographed in Glamour and became a “we-need-to-see-more-of-this!!!” rallying cry all out of proportion to her slight tummy roll. One dissent came in a Times of London article in which author India Knight suggested that putting “real” size 12 models in magazines might make women actually feel worse about themselves because they would be comparing themselves with all-too-real women of their own stature rather than an obviously fantasy “stick-figure” model.

Jezebel’s Hortense (love her moniker!) counters with, “perhaps women wouldn’t find fashion to be as difficult or overwhelming or, as in Knight’s case, joyless…if we could actually see ourselves in the pictures, as well.”

But then the comments roll in, and eventually we hear from a Ms. hippichx sez PEACE:

“if for no other freaking reason, i think women of all sizes should be portrayed so we can see how clothing hangs on different types of women. i may be skinny, but i have an hourglass shape. i’ve always wanted to wear those drop waist dresses, but they look ridiculous on me…. something i was unaware of until i tried one on. while the body of the woman may not be attainable (no matter what the size) they are modeling a product, and that product should be. why the hell would a size sixteen woman want to purchase something they have never seen on somebody with a similar body? and even then, there are all different kinds of size sixteen bodies….it took me decades to get used to the fact that i am, in fact, curvy. that this is something i should embrace and emphasize with my clothing, rather than hopping on the latest bandwagon and looking ridiculous in whatever is in style. stick thin curveless robots are clothes hangers. if i wanted to see how something looked on a hanger, i would go to the mall.”

Sing it sister!!!  Still, it’s almost too easy to take potshots at overwrought tirades like this – I’d bet money she’s in her ’20s, so I doubt it took her “decades” to realize she was curvy; she wants to see everything modeled by every size in magazines yet can barely be bothered to try anything on herself; and most importantly “if for no other freaking reason” – she thinks it’s her unarguable right. And maybe it is.

That’s what fascinates me most about Jezebel and its devoted sisterhood of the traveling rants. Like it or not, hippichx sez PEACE is the future of fashion. Wrong, actually. For her generation, she is the now.