As someone who has been reading fashion magazines since about the age of 5, I am amazed at how much they’ve changed. Fashion magazines used to show women the best of our culture and instruct us in the way of style. Women read fashion magazines to learn how to look their best and whom to look up to in terms of fashion.
Today, fashion magazines play catch up. The most vulgar styles originate in the street, and the magazines dutifully tell us how beautiful they are and how we should aspire to copy the cultural icons who wear them.
Recently Vogue had a big layout on Rihanna and how she made over one of their editors, Plum Sykes. Rihanna may be very talented, although I wouldn’t know, never having heard her, but she certainly is not a style icon. Neither is Lady Gaga who’s on the cover of so many magazines and is someone we are told we should aspire to.
I remember when fashion magazines featured beautiful models who were grown women, Anita Colby, Dovima, Jean Patchett, and the like, who were posed very stylishly. Today we see children in their early teens in the most vulgar poses. Legs spread apart, hair uncombed, a sneer on their faces, they look as if they were just arrested for drugs or prostitution.
When did fashion editors abdicate their roles as style arbiters? More to the point, why did they? So many of our cultural icons today originate in the pop field and are cheap and vulgar. Why don’t fashion editors have the courage to admit it? Are they chasing the youth market that much? The kids who want to look like Lady Gaga and her ilk are in their teens and certainly can’t afford the clothes seen in the magazines. Grown-ups like myself who can afford the clothes don’t want to look like a pop star.
I love looking at old copies of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar of many years’ past. The models were all so stylish and chic. They were all either smiling or looking out at you with an expression as if to say, “I know something you don’t.” Of course, what they knew was how to look so alluring.
So many magazines are going out of business today. Maybe if they changed their thinking and gave us something that we could really aspire to, they would do better.
Miriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.