Weight for It
October 15, 2009


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 The reign of the shapely supermodel, being long over, has been replaced by underdevloped hordes of mostly Slavic teens, like the Prada model at the top of the page.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.”


The September Issue: Vogue
September 11, 2009


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.