Red7 , March 19, 2014
Can you imagine a world where clothes are modelled on women of all shapes and sizes? Where make up is advertised on women with flaws, in all their airbrush-less glory? And where the cover of glossy fashion magazines like Vogue and are graced by, not perfectly digitally enhanced models and celebrities, but real women with wobbles, the odd stray grey hair and (God forbid) pores?
UK Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman thinks that we don’t want to imagine such things at all.
This week the Vogue editor was interviewed by Lily Allen on Radio 2, who confronted Shulman about the fashion industry’s unrealistic representation of women.
Lily Allen has been particularly vocal about the media’s contribution to the negative impact that the media, especially within the fashion and music industry is having on the self esteem of young women. The video to her recent single Hard Out Here features Lily on the operating table having liposuction, before parodying young pop stars like Miley Cyrus with some rather exaggerated twerking and references to Robin Thicke’s controversial Blurred Lines. The pop star has also admitted that she would rather look like Kate Moss than herself in an Elle magazine interview, but as she reasons in her Hard Out Here video: ‘Erm, I’ve had two babies.’
Shulman defended the magazine saying: “I think Vogue is a magazine that’s all about fantasy to some extent and dreams, and an escape from real life.” The editor argued that people can see the real thing at home: “People don’t want to buy a magazine like Vogue to see what they see when they look in the mirror. They can do that for free.”
We’re sure that Alexandra Shulman is aware that magazines like Vogue are ultimately aspirational. Women buy glossy fashion magazines because the images and products are something to aspire to. Flick through the pages of Vogue and one thing is clear – a huge proportion of the magazine’s pages consist of advertising. It is also true that these beautiful images of women in expensive, luxury clothing are the main reason why women buy Vogue.
The danger comes when women are lead to believe that such fantasies are achievable.
However, Alexandra Shulman has been shouting loudly and clearly about her frustration with designers using tiny models for their clothes. She reiterated in her BBC2 interview: “I’ve said it again and again. But there is much more diversity than there used to be. It is changing.”
Last year Shulman launched a secondary school initiative aimed at highlighting to young girls all the work that goes into a fashion photoshoot, including makeup and airbrushing, to create a highly unrealistic final image. In 2012 Vogue editors advocated the Healthy Model Initiative in a bid to stop models with eating disorders and models under the age of sixteen from being used to promote an unrealistic body shape to ordinary women.
Vogue’s April cover girl is a ‘natural’ looking, famously buxom TV chef Nigella Lawson, which is a smart move on the part of the Vogue chief.
Looking at this picture perfect image of Lawson on the Vogue cover, however, illustrates that the fight against negative body image in young people associated with media representations of women has a long way to go.