I haven’t read an issue of Vogue in three months, but good news for me: nothing’s changed! In her January “Letter from the Editor,” Anna Wintour demonstrates the magazine’s remarkably persistent distance from the real world.
[French fashion designer Sophie Theallet] is a very rare creature in fashion these days. As [Lanvin designer Alber] Elbaz told the crowd, it is too often the case these days that people elect to work in style industries in pursuit of fame, not skills. “Why does every girl over five feet tall and age thirteen want to be a model?” he asked. “Why don’t they ever want to be a seamstress?”
Yeah! Why be the beautiful woman who wears the clothes when you could be the poorly paid one who makes them?
Never a magazine to back down from a completely indefensible viewpoint, the issue also includes an article detailing the struggles of size-four model Lara Stone. Which is great, you know, because Vogue clearly offers an unbiased perspective on the fashion industry’s obsession with preternatural thinness. (Sigh.)
From “Hello, Gorgeous”:
It’s hard to say which came first—the superskinny model or the size 0 sample. Either way, the trend has been tough on both the models, who find it nearly impossible to maintain that body type past the age of seventeen, and the magazines that want to show clothes on models who aren’t painfully thin.
Vogue not being one of those magazines, obviously.
Designers who use the superskinny girls defend the trend, saying clothes hang better on a coat hanger. But the opposite is also true—some clothes look better on bodies with “boobs,” which is why Stone’s career has flourished.
What a charming pair of sentences! Slender women's bodies are compared to coat hangers, the fashion industry's ideal woman is actually an inanimate object, and we learn clothes aren't designed for humans. Oh, and for those who don't happen to resemble a hanger, guess what! One model who is still way thinner than most of us is enough to represent us! Who says the fashion industry doesn't love women?
Stone doesn’t blame fashion for her problems. “I like my job,” she says… She doesn’t even blame the designers—“That is their aesthetic. It’s not for me to say whether it’s right or wrong.”
Well, I’ll say it. It is wrong to call a woman fat because she doesn’t resemble a wire hanger. Also wrong? Not blaming designers. Canonizing a coat hanger as the ideal female form isn't the worst thing they could do, but it's probably illegal to make clothes out of asbestos.
By the way, those difficulties writer Rebecca Johnson refers to? They include a recent stint in rehab for alcohol abuse—a habit that began when Stone tried drinking to lose weight. In a sentence so callous that I can't quite believe it's in print, Johnson says this:
Her problems—if you can even call them that—recall the poet Rilke's definition of fame as the collection of misunderstandings that gather around a person.
Got that? Stone's drinking was reminiscent of Rilke, and not, say, indicative of a destructive atmosphere in the fashion world.
“People still tell me I’m fat, but when I look in the mirror, that’s not what I see.”
Maybe Wintour and Elbaz are on to something: why would a woman aspire to be a model when this is how models are treated?
Stone’s recent surge in prominence may well lead to a positive shift in attitudes—but until then, it’s disheartening to see her continually treated like a size-four sideshow. Her shape makes her an anomaly in the fashion world, but by focusing on her "fat" size-four body, magazines seem to overlook that she's an anomaly in the real world, too.
Related: What W Really Thinks About Women's Bodies