GaGaggle!
December 2, 2009

Lady GaGa is on the January cover of Elle and I’m only half-surprised. She’s toned down her trademark bizarre appearance in her latest TV appearances on Jay Leno and the AMAs and starting to work the sexpot vibe, albeit the 2009 version of sexpot – big blonde bouncy curls, no pants just panties, tattered Balmain-style leather.

I saw the GaGa shots on Jezebel, which continues to fascinate me. They do have a lot of fashion content amid the post-feminist postings, like the thoughtful stories – yesterday’s about Lacroix – from Jenna, formerly Tatiana, the Anonymous Model (long story but basically she quit the runway and dropped her decoy byline). Also frequent red-carpet roundups. And, of course, their famed preoccupation with the airbrushing sins, inflated egos and mundane content (their view, not necessarily mine) of the “ladymags”, the fashion MSM – Bazaar, Elle, and especially Vogue.

So wading into the comments section of their post about the GaGa both bemused me with its youthful (at least I hope it was youthful) enthusiasms and frightened me a little about the future of women as fashion consumers. First there is dismissal of GaGa’s sexy turn, “…she looks like every other sexy-faced-fake-eyelashed-skinny-corset-wearing pop star out there.” Some back and forth follows – is she bi, what does it mean, does it matter?

Then, like the shark approaching in Jaws, comes the comment about the cover image itself: “I hate to be the one to point out an airbrush FAIL…but doesn’t her right arm look freakishly small at the armpit/ shoulder joint area?” Twelve posts follow about whether it really is the dastardly retouching or just foreshortening because of the photographer’s angle. Nothing’s really settled, but moving on, one commenter exclaims, “I hate ladymags, but I am buying the fuck out of this!

The convo then skips through a few posters comparing notes because their dads like GaGa, her makeup, her poses, and then a discussion of what to wear to a GaGa concert: “The lack of pants is key. We are all wearing redonkulous dresses from Forever 21 with crazy colored leggings.

Lastly comes the question of her artistic cred, including the touchingly honest, “You win, Lady Gaga. My head hurts whenever you do anything, but I’m okay with that.” Then the possibly naive, “Yes, she puts a lot of it out there for the world to see, but it’s obviously done by her because that is a part of who she is, not because she thinks it will sell records.”

And then, finally, a larger cultural context, “She also does a great job of referencing the fetish community and probably challenging vanilla and middle america more than they quite realize. Rock on Gaga…” What could I possibly I add? Rock on, indeed.

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Weight for It
October 15, 2009

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Boy, fashion is barely standing on its spindly little legs this week, sorta collapsing under its own weight – or lack of it. By now you all know about Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton – first she was deflated by a round of extreme retouching by her employer and lizzie-miller-2then we found out she had already been taken out of the lineup and fired altogether six months ago when her size-4 figure reportedly became too big for the clothes. From the news today comes a report that overweight women’s self-esteem plunges when they look at any model, whether she’s toothpick thin or flaunts a few extra pounds (like Lizzie Miller, left) Skinny girls had the opposite reaction: they always felt better when they looked at a model, whatever her size. In France and England, meanwhile, there’s a move to label Photoshop-crazy retouched images on a sliding scale with a health warning like they do for smoking. And in Germany, leading mag Brigitte will no longer use models in its pages, only “real women” that readers could identify with. Of course, Bavaria’s favorite-son fashionista Karl Lagerfeld dismissed that with a wave of his gloved hand: “No one wants to see curvy women,” Lagerfeld was quoted.”You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” Nice.

There’s no denying that Ralph’s retouching was absurd, however limited they say the use of the image was intended to be. According to insiders speaking out in blog comments,amd_lauren there was even a reaction inside the company before the picture was released. On the matter of Hamilton’s dismissal, their statement that she did not live up to the terms of her contract probably means that yes, her now size-4 body didn’t fit into their samples. No doubt that’s true – she’s 23 now and has been working for the company since she was 15, so she’s not a gangly teen-age girl anymore. And unfortunately that’s the problem and it’s a lot bigger than Lauren – the runways of the world are now populated by the beautiful beanpoles and the entire fashion system of runway and sample garments has been “downsized” to their 0 to 2 frames. The reign of the shapely supermodel, being long over, has been replaced by underdevloped hordes of mostly Slavic teens, like the Prada model at the top of the page.  And it’s Prada, headed by a woman I must point out, that usually gets the credit for turning the industry to the look-alike and lanky Lolita’s. They wanted the clothes to stand out and the girls to disappear on the runway; well it seems they got their wish and then some.

As for magazines, Diana Vreeland famously said they were “the places that people dream,” and now some people see only a nightmare. Overheated blog Jezebel doesn’t even believe the skinny on skinnies – that they like looking at models.  No, no, no – models are part of the “beauty-industrial complex (that) is basically designed to enscript” women everywhere. (Are they armed? Is Agent Orange the new trendy color?) I know the topic is serious, but the true wisdom comes from a reader who notes that models are, like always, just models – beautifully shaped and cellulite-free – whatever their size. Women need to look elsewhere for their self-esteem.”The “plus” and “real” women never look like us,” she adds. “It’s easier to ignore the message sent by the skinny model.”

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.