Given the down-to-earth sentiment expressed by Aussie Vogue's top lady, I'm surprised then to see she approved 'Body of evidence', this month's "health" story, which could be called 'How to be a size zero'. The piece basically reinforces the fact that Vogue has a thin body ideal we should subscribe to, even in middle age, in order to fearlessly fit into all that fabulous, doll-sized designer garb.
The feature starts thus: "Spring's slimline pants and waist-cinching belts hold no fear for Gail Catterick. At 169 centimetres and 50 kilograms, the self-confessed fashionista delights in slipping her leanly muscled size-six frame into the latest catwalk trends. She loves a short skirt, and breezily carries off sleeveless shifts with all the elan of a woman half her age. Or less than half. Because, next birthday, Catterick will be 63 years old."
Catterick, a boutique owner, is the ultimate Vogue woman (tiny, fashion conscious and in control). As such, we learn what she eats everyday and how much exercise she does to maintain her size-0 figure, which pays off in her ability to wear sleeveless tops.
Lest you think this is all (fat-free) pie-in-the-sky glossy posturing, Vogue's thin world view comes with a medical seal of approval (the story's called 'Body of evidence', after all): "Dr David Cameron-Smith, associate professor of nutrition at Deakin University...is keen to spread a message many of us within shouting distance of middle age will be pleased to hear... age need not be a barrier against attaining and maintaining a svelte silhouette...".
Vogue goes on to list all the horrible things that middle age does to your body (fat deposits move to your mid section, everything drags south, your appetite will increase) but assures us that we are in control: "With exercise and good nutrition, our 70-year-old selves can and should remain within a five kilogram gain of the heaviest we weighed in our 20s if we are to drastically diminish our risk of developing inactivity-related diseases (think diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure). And – vanity as a sin be damned – if we are to still fit into our favoured pieces of wardrobes past."
And the thin torture goes on, under the guise of maintaining one's "health". We meet another woman for whom vigilant adherence to a rigid nutrition and exercise regime keeps her at a comfortable but "still-slight" size 10, who says, "Occasionally I might have something naughty, like a vanilla slice, but I have to fight with myself... You see people who are overweight and you think: 'I don't want to be like that." Then we meet a "70-year-old habitual gym-goer" who wears a size eight and "carries just 51 kilograms on her 168 centimetre frame". She's ditched the lavish dinner parties she'd throw in her 20s (when she weighed 63kgs – and was obviously having fun) in favour of reduced portion sizes and challenging physical activities. Our girl Catterick says: "At each birthday I think about having less calories because you need less." Happy birthday! Whee! Pass the cake knife.
Self control, determination and good habits are espoused – and if you can't get it together on that front, you're advised to see a counsellor or life coach. The story concludes: "And when the going gets tough, [Catterick says], just think of the fashion. Confidently zipping up new-season Collette Dinnigan onto your 70s? That should be enough to encourage anyone to jog an extra mile."
While I can appreciate that throwing caution to the wind and enveloping yourself in a layer of middle-aged fat is not the healthiest option, and that the article is free from the ageism we're used to, what concerns me here is that Vogue is encouraging women of all ages to shrink to fit the designer clothes – that being larger than a size 10 essentially equates to a lack of self-control. Size 14? You might as well shoot yourself.
And, so, Vogue sends us running backwards in our high heels to the Land of Size Zero, where attaining the glossy-prescribed version of physical perfection is the ultimate aspiration. Major bummer. Especially as the rest of this issue is really very good...
The good bits:
- Obviously, Australian model Myf Shepherd on the cover wearing Romace Was Born is something to be celebrated, as is the gorgeous six-page fashion tribute to the Aussie label inside the magazine. Fun, frivolous, inspiring...fashion has been lacking this sort of theatrical excitement and it pleases me no end to see it being celebrated in the pages of our premiere fashion glossy. Natasha Inchley's article is beautifully written and Max Doyle's studio photography is spot-on. Passion and energy in surfeit. Bravo!
- 'Talent Time' pays tribute to Vogue's pick of the Australian fashion designer crop, including Therese Rawsthorne, Antipodium by Geoffrey J Finch, Arnsdorf by jade Sarita Arnott, Ellery by Kim Ellery, Gary Bigeni, Friedrich Gray by Ben Pollitt, Konstantina Mittas, Romance Was Born by Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, Karla Spetic and Dion Lee, with each designer answering the same set of four questions and breakouts on trends, labels to love (TV), ones to watch (Soeli Pedrozo), model moments (Myf, Emma Balfour) and collaborations. Succinct and aesthetically lovely.
- Alexandra Spring profiles "postmodern pop star" and "multimedia phenomenon" Lily Allen in '21st-Century Girl'. Spring starts with an account of Allen's recent Twitter updates, before recalling her MySpace rise to fame, describing her new-media mastery and giving us an account of the time she spent trailing Allen on the Sydney radio circuit. Spring articulates Allen's cheeky appeal, describes her mannerisms and dissects her multidimensional personality. The star's openness makes her a prime interview subject (she talks about the strained relationship she has with her sister) and she's also happy to talk about subjects close to Vogue's heart: fashion, style and art. A worthwhile read.
- Read about label Amber&Thomas, meet model Dree Hemingway (great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway) and take a look through Sydney store General Store in 'Shop Girl'.
- Tim Blanks' account of memorable parties takes in soirees held by Alber Elbaz, Lanvin's women's store opening party and the party held by U.K. Vogue's Alexandra Shulman in honour of Gucci's Frida Giannini. High on glamour.
- Love the Q&A style interview with Sarah Lerfel, creative director of Parisian boutique Colette, who says: "We approach the store in the same way as you would a magazine, so we refresh the layout each Sunday" and "Style is being yourself" and "Style is not a question of money". Also love the single page profile on stylist/"creative consultant" Yasmin Sewell.
- Cleo Glyde writes 'The waiting game', about our obsession with the designer pieces of the moment and our willingness to practically sell our souls for a slice of the fashion Zeitgeist, with a list of 'Wait List Predictions' ready to tempt.
- Ann Hamilton writes 'My girl', in which she discusses the challenges presented by raising a girl in these pop culture heavy times: "At four my little girl became a poster child for the kind of pernicious suggestive marketing that turns an innocuous visit to the local Target store into a gauntlet of "can I haves". As if by osmosis she discovered Bratz, a precocious breed of dolls whose wardrobe choices veer towards the slutty. Barbie proved to be a marginally less provocative alternative...Her radar became honed to the existence of the High School Musical ensemble...and Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus's gratingly annoying characterisation of a modern teen...".
- Blake Lively is profiled in the Vogue Talks section, which also reviews Sunshine Cleaning (Emily Blunt, Amy Adams), tells us about electro-pop duo La Roux and offers up this month's Playlist of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Madeleine Peyroux, Angus Stone, Lady Sovereign, Bob Dylan and Daniel Merriweather. I always love Vogue's book reviews, and this month's selection is no disappointment.
- Rather than a standard profile of Audrey Tautou, who can really be an elusive interview subject (the polar opposite of Lily Allen), 'Revolutionary role' talks about the making of Coco Avant Chanel over three pages with a full cast of interviewees.
- Social commentator Rebecca Huntley writes 'Talk of the town', which asks "Are we simply too self-obsessed in this hectic digital age to master the art of conversation, of exchanging intimacies with friends and chatting with strangers?". I love Huntley's writing: she starts with a Jane Austen reference and, after taking into account the comments of author/editor Catherine Blyth on the importance of one of "life's greatest, certainly most useful pleasures", quips "she who converses wins". Words like affable, intimacy, reflection, consummate, engaging, curiosity, seamless and contribution pepper the piece, like a list of conversational prerequisites.
- Joanne Fedler reminds me to book in for a pap smear with 'That dear little smear', a deserving piece of service journalism.
- See aforementioned 'Body of evidence' article. Tsk.
- Vogue View takes the winter escape as its theme. Skinny models in cashmere sweaters and bikini bottoms play in the ocean and gorgeous still-life pieces for packing clutter each page. Take me away.
- Denim jackets get the 'Tracing a trend' treatment.
- Vogue endorses GIANT clutch bags and $895 Prada pumps.
- 'Notes from a sandal' is a cute headline for a simple page, though your feet will freeze in these babies.
- Have you seen the delightful 'Lose yourself' ads for Victorian tourism?
- Beauty takes on an Amazonian theme, wards of winter nasties, talks hair with Kate Hudson and takes in the view at Spa Hayman and winter friendly scents.
- 'Cry Me a Riviera', photographed by Troyt Coburn, is decadent, luxurious, glamorous, lush... very Coco Chanel.
- 'Night Moves', shot mono by Richard Bailey, is moody and disheveled and angular. The model looks a little like Tilda Swinton.
- 'As Light As Air' is more frivolous fashion fantasy on a plate. Gorgeous. Inspiring. Love it.
- The issue closes with 'Yes, we Cannes'. More Riviera chic.
Glossy stats: July 2009; $7.95; 186 pages
Blosses: Kirstie Clements; News Magazines
Glossy ads: Estee Lauder, Lancome, Rolex, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, John Frieda...
Glossy rating: If it were not for 'Body of evidence', I'd give it a 4 or 5. As such, it's a 2.
Girl With a Satchel