Mags: Gretel's take on glossips

Published on Saturday, Good Weekend magazine devoted five pages and a cover to comedian/TV host/author Gretel Killeen (see right), who just so happens to have a new book due out right about now (The Night My Bum Dropped is on my bedside table pending review).

Killeen, 46, gives journalist Mark Dapin (author of Sex and Money; former lad mag editor) some killer quotes to work with. Of note this pertinent one regarding Big Brother and the tabloid media, which reflects the sentiments expressed by Oliver Burkeman:

"As time progressed, we needed drama, drama, drama, and that's what we've created in our society, too. You can see that in women's magazines now, and in much of the news coverage – simple information is not enough. It has to be coloured in and exaggerated and sometimes completely fabricated, because we live in this hyper-real situation. It's created an appetite where normality is not enough, and I'll be interested to see how it plays out, because I don't think that's an eternally expanding notion. You can't continue to inflate things. One day it's got to pop."

Killeen's own media narrative is sensitively dissected by Dapin in 'A handle on Gretel'. She is a self-aware, media-savvy interviewee who "seldom gives serious interviews" and whose book is an "extended comic monologue" from which "very little personal information" can be garnered. Dapin says she "smiles continually, even while she expresses sadness or frustration, to show that she is not embittered or angry." She doesn't want to be portrayed as a whinger, even after receiving cruel feedback on her Logie's hosting performance.

Dapin dives into her northern Sydney upbringing, academic achievements (she was school captain), the burden of the Methodist faith ("it can tend to make you feel like your thoughts are wrong, your personality is wrong, your pursuits are wrong...") and her early failed marriage. She worked in advertising as a voiceover artist in the 80s ("a time of great indulgence, great camaraderie and rampant sexual harassment") before scoring gigs on TV (Beauty and the Beast, Midday show) and her career-defining, and often controversial, Big Brother role, for which she copped a lot of flack.

She says: "One of the things that has happened in our society is we've created a culture that some refer to as tall poppy but I think could also be referred to as bullying. We're so concerned with bullying within schools, without an awareness of the bullying that we hear on breakfast radio shows and in the magazines and so many newspapers, which is about making someone the butt of a joke. And the logical consequence of that is it tells people it's okay to treat other people like that... I fear that one day the lies and fabrications and the elaborations will hurt someone irreparably."

I've no doubt Michael Jackson would have agreed. Perhaps this is why publications like Good Weekend, and journalists like Barbara Walters and Tracy Grimshaw, get such excellent celebrity interviews (recently, author Nikki Gemmell and Kath & Kim's Gina Riley have appeared in Good Weekend, too): they respect their subjects and their readers.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: A small MJ tribute

Michael Jackson's Bad was one of the first albums I ever bought. I'd spend hours choreographing dances to The Way You Make Me Feel and Man In The Mirror. My favourite dance concert was a tribute to The Wiz; I tried and failed to "moon walk"; Human Nature is one of the songs I play when I'm feeling down ...

So much talent. So much saddness. I truly hope that now he can rest in peace. Thank you for the amazing music, Michael.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: Postbox gratification

Some days the postbox is filled with discontentment (bills, bills, reminder notice, bills); some days it is filled with delight. Today's parcels include an invitation to my niece's baptism, a selection of '50 Popular Penguin' titles (I plan to devour Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock and Woolf's A Room of One's Own en route to Sydney for said baptism) and a new edition of Frankie, which is celebrating 30 issues in print (woohoo!).

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: Declaration of love

After penning last week's Code of Commenting Conduct (which I'll be placing in the sidebar as a wee reminder today), I approved a comment this morning in which 'anonymous' called me a "bitch" for rehashing gossip about Harper's Bazaar in yesterday's Media Musings.

Another anonymous reader wrote, in response to 'Man meets mag', "I feel a bit like you hate magazines but you make your living out of them...You might have to start blogging about how TV is negative, or newspapers, or blogs."

In addition to these comments (which went down like pack of nails with my morning cuppa and muesli), I've also been thinking about the overall vibe of the blog and its purpose. To that end, I've been really convicted by this passage:

"Try to learn what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light...And when all things are brought out to the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed; for anything that is clearly revealed becomes light." (Ephesians 5: 10-14)

And this one, too... "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things." Philippians 4:8

So, it's time to clear a few things up and introduce some changes! Firstly, I don't hate magazines. In an interview with Daily Imprint (which is produced by a glossy industry insider) earlier this year, I said:

"I'm passionate about the glossies and the business of gloss (it's endlessly fascinating). Despite their shortcomings, magazines are like beautiful history books recording the who, what and wear of contemporary female life."

I still believe this to be true (see also 'Behind the Gloss' in the sidebar).

But like a ballet mistress who becomes frustrated with a promising young student who's more interested in boys, booze, parties, her hair, body and clothes than living up to her God-given potential, I'm disappointed when the glossies play to the lowest common denominator, producing content that does little to inspire, empower, comfort, innovate, educate or celebrate women (or men).

Of course, I would be hypocritical if I did not try to produce content in line with the same values I'd like to see reflected in the glossies. To that end, a few things with regards to changes to the blog:

1. No more gossip. While I'll still be reporting industry news, I'd like the blog to be a gossip-free zone. It doesn't do anyone any favours and brings down the tone. Perez and Ros Reines can have that beat.

2. No more 'glossips'. Will you miss the presence of the weekly glossip mags in your Monday morning Short & Sweet posts? I'd sooner draw attention to some niche magazine doing great things, or work on refining my culinary/photography skills for 'The Breakfast Club'.

3. More focus on finding wonderful and unique magazines to write about (and the women/men who produce them) and celebrating creativity, innovation and good works.

4. More insights from glossy consumers who exist outside the publishing bubble.

The more critical reviews will stay, as will Media Musings, Cute & Chic, etc. But the overall vibe will be more positive, nourishing and encouraging. Like a Care Bear hug.

Now, is that a blog you would like to visit? Bring on the feedback!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

P.S. Totally aware that all this GWAS talk is quite self-indulgent, but stick with me while I refine a few things so I can get back to looking into the glossies!

Mags: A feminist call to fashion arms (without sleeves)

After her comments about the designer "dolls clothes" she is forced to find models to fit into for her glossy pages (like the one pictured right) made international headlines last week, Vogue Australia editor Kirstie Clements (pictured below) has written about the designer sizing conundrum in her latest Sunday Telegraph column titled "Cold shoulder the sizing tyranny".

In the column, Clements insinuates that this is not something that she has spoken with her British counterpart, Alexandra Shulman, about, but reiterates that she gives her full support to the cause:

"There's been lots of talk recently about the tyranny of sizing and how many designers are making their samples too small for even size 8 models to fit into. The editor of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, has apparently challenged a number of designers on the issue and I say, "Well done, Alex."

It's a constant problem: the samples arrive from overseas and you put them on a willowy, super-slim teenager and cross your fingers that you'll be able to do up the zip. I mean, really, it's almost impossible to have tiny proportions and be tall. There are only a few girls in the world who can achieve that, and the window period is from about 14 to 18 years of age, until a more womanly shape starts to kick in.

When my fashion director and I fly from Milan to Paris at show time, the plane is often full of all the catwalk girls, and they are extraordinary, in the literal sense. They look like stick insects: if you find yourself sitting next to one you quickly ascertain that their legs are about the width of your arms. I don't think that they are all just genetically blessed, either (many of them are dieting hard); they look totally exhausted and either have a cold or are cold. I guess it's because they have zero body fat but I have never in my career heard a model complain that she's hot.

I don't think we need to regulate the industry or impose any specific sizes, because all body shapes will be slightly different, but I definitely think certain designers could put up their samples a good size or two. How radical a thought is it that, by easing up your sizing a little, you might make women feel good about themselves and, thus, buy more?"

The column then segues into Clements' applause for Country Road's new range for the 35+ market (Generation X meets Generation Jones), Trenery (which, in contrast with Clements' positive sentiments, other fashion editors have taken to task for using 20-something models at the catwalk launch; still, the issue is about weight, not ageism)...

"Country Road is set to launch a new label called Trenery which is addressing this very issue, dressing women over 35 who want clothes that are both fashionable and forgiving. I went to the launch last week and the pieces looked great: slouchy silk pants, easy trenches, T-shirts, jackets, all fluid and feminine and not trying too hard. They had taken into consideration that we have hips and thighs and that no woman is happy with her upper arms.

I suggested to a 40-something colleague one sweltering day that she take her jacket off and she said, "I can't, I'm wearing a sleeveless top underneath."
"But aren't you hot?" I asked. "I've been hot for 20 years," she answered.
We laughed, but there has to be a better solution. It seems to me it's been a long time coming.

Give us fashion that respects the natural contours of a woman and, hey, we'll give you our money."

Her final sentiment is one I hinted at last week. Let the sensible fashion labels sell!

Meanwhile, eloquent Irish writer Kevin Myers (pictured) has credited Shulman with initiating a turning point in history, while accusing the gay designer fraternity of misogyny – and female fashion journalists of feeding into the woman-hating game – while also coining a new term ("Cosmosexual") in this very excellent, historically contextual essay (extracts only):

"When they write a social history of women in the final decades of the 20th century, and the first decade of this one, may they engrave the name Alexandra Shulman in stone at that point where history turned...

Female anorexia goes hand in bony hand with the fashion industry. Our anglophone relationship with that industry is so craven and submissive that we accept that absurd French term, "haute couture" -- high culture -- to describe it. And that goes to the core of the problem.

From the outset, this bogus high culture has created an emotional and political imbalance, which places the fashion houses responsible for their fascist, woman-hating ethos, as our intellectual superiors. They are nothing of the kind. Only the word play of charlatans has caused this moral inversion, which allows misogynists not merely to appear to be superior to the rest of us, but to present themselves as what they are not: lovers of the female sex.

Almost no designers of women's clothes are women. Most are male Cosmosexuals -- who are either homosexuals, such as Yves St Laurent, Christian Dior or Gianni Versace, or more ambiguous denizens of the Cosmosphere, such as Gaultier, Lagerfeld and Valentino. Hardly any designers for women are simply straightforward heterosexual men. Tommy Hilfiger and Paul Costelloe clearly love women as they are. Which is why their clothes celebrate women's carnality, their sexuality and the sheer exuberant bodiness of the female form...

There are no more personally powerful alpha-female journalists than those in fashion: yet even they are enthralled by the personal magnetism of the barons of this bogus world of haute couture. And the ideal young woman of this demented ethos is a waif, an asexual, unbreasted, libido-free hermaphroditic elf...

Men who love women have been excluded from the process of dressing them, while the high queens of Cosmosexual high culture impose their terrible visions upon a strangely obedient female sex... And most paradoxically of all, the political triumph of feminism has done nothing to stem the rising tide of woman-hating body-fascism.

Indeed, the sisters' ideological blinkers have blinded them to the role of a misogynistic haute couture in creating the disease of anorexia. This is the first ever, culturally transmitted fatal epidemic. It is the brainchild of a fascist Cosmosexuality, which in turn was born in the fashion houses of the world..."

So good to see blokes, like Myers, Benzer and arguably Blimes, coming out in support of this issue, picking up where Germaine Greer (The Female Eunuch), Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women) and our own Kaz Cooke (Real Gorgeous: The Truth About Body and Beauty) started so long ago. But why has it taken us (i.e. young/modern feminists/women) so long to wake up and smell the calories?

Is it simply because magazine editors are disempowered by their designer advertisers (which Shulman and Clements would contest), or, as has been suggested in the comments on this blog, women have always, and will always, aspire to be thinner and, thus, magazines promising entry to the Secret Society of Thin, the one all those emaciated elves belong to, will sell?

I like to think not. Because denying the natural female form, and failing to celebrate it in its many splendid and curvaceous varieties, is robbing us of the progress made by our feminist forebears, by keeping us from feeling intellectually, creatively, spiritually and physically empowered and emboldened. There's nothing more disempowering than an obsession with diet and image.

I hope all this talk leads to a cultural shift and a reinvigoration of the feminist cause – one we'll proudly wear on our shirts-without-sleeves (don't worry, we'll shave).

The Evolution of a Fashion Story
From little things, big things grow. Vogue "Size Zero" story links:
- "The death of size zero" - Times of London
- "Is size-0 finally over?" - moi
- "Vogue editor launches new war on size-zero fashion" - Times of London
- "British Vogue Editor's Lame PR Coup: No More Size Zeros!" - Gawker
- "Fashion heavyweight bags thin models" - The Sunday Telegraph
- "Bravo to UK Vogue Editor, Alex Shulman for saying ENOUGH to size zero." - Mamamia
- "Shulman shuns size zero" - moi
- "Vogue running backwards in high heels" - moi
- "Shulman’s Campaign Against Subzero Sizing Lands Down Under" - The Cut
- "Vogue & The Size Zero Problem" - Jezebel
- "Fashion houses hit back in row over who's to blame for 'size zero' models" - The Guardian
- "Cosmosexuals redesign women to suit their own demented needs" - Independent

Pic credits: Kirstie Clements via; Liz Hurley in Valentino via; Trenery via SMH;

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS New York News Desk (Vintage Edition)

Reading all the recent brouhaha over Vogue’s skinny standards got me thinking. Can we expect things to ever improve? Or will magazines always perpetuate the thin-is-in ideal? I decided to look back in time to find a clue—back to the October 15, 1952 issue of Vogue....

First of all, look at this cover. I mean, gorgeous doesn’t cover it. And, look, Anna, it’s not Sienna Miller or Cameron Diaz, but a model! The cover price, by the way, was 50 cents.

OK, Mad Men fans, get ready to salivate. The next set of photos are part of a shoot entitled, “For the Woman Who Wants to Change Her Looks.” It’s a make-up story, but even the intro reinforces the message that “make-up isn’t everything; so we go on to show the news in coiffures, and the change they could make to a face. And we remind you, as we always do in every beauty issue of Vogue—that a beautiful face needs the help of a beautiful figure.”

Need more specifics? Just turn to pages 62–63. Here you’ll find instructions for a “Change in Attitude” (ie: drop the pounds, lady). Here’s the deck: “Beauty statistic: the body is, ideally, seven and a half times the length of the head. So a pretty face is not, in Vogue’s Eye-View, everything. A beauty needs a slender and supple figure.”

To wit, the story gives us a series of “completely un-gymnastic muscle-controllers”—deportment moves illustrated with line-drawings. Most are designed to train the smallest of muscles for a straighter posture. (Tracy Anderson, eat your heart out.)

Underneath the “carriage” advice is “Welcome Change: A Delicious Diet,” which tells us, “A weight-reducing diet does not have to be a grim sentence for past caloric sins. What it can be is just a different way of eating with pleasure.” This section is helpfully illustrated with large crosses through the sauce boat, olive oil, and butter, just in case you weren’t able to follow along. Still, they do make depriving oneself sound so much more poetic than the fashion mags of today. How could you not step away from the fatty stuff after reading lines such as: “The undressed vegetable is often too nude for taste. But butter is not the only dressing” and “Salad ingredients have been so usually swathed in oil dressing—their own, unadorned flavours comes as an adventure.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for lunchtime so I can have a dry lettuce-leaf adventure!

Just in case you didn’t heed this diet and exercise advice, the issue follows up with a fashion spread entitled “Made-to-Order Slenderness.”

Overall, this 1952 issue seems like one Anna Wintour would’ve been right at home with. And the answer about whether U.S. Vogue will follow the lead of the mag’s U.K. and Australian editors in decrying tiny sample sizes appears to be right there on page 52. That line about a beautiful face needing the help of a beautiful figure is followed by this: “and the expressions of both should be graceful. On this point, we never change.”

Looks like someone’s been reading her title’s archives! Sigh.

On another note, the ’52 issue had another prescient story, this one coining the phrase, “Nillionaire.” As in, “the girl with a name for fashion, and a fortune that’s nil.” The spread featured cheaper American versions of Paris fashions that “fit into her clothes allowance.” Kind of like your ’50s-era designer knock offs sold in chain stores? Perfect for today! Expect to see a 2009 issue of Vogue bring back this term in 1, 2, 3 …

Until next week,
Your NY Nillionaire, Rebecca

Mags: Foodie fun with Jamie

"Magazines that celebrate life and food and all the rest of it should be given our full support," wrote Tali in response to "Misogynistic Grazia". Well, while other mags suck the fun out of food to help us fit into fashion, I think it's timely we had a chat about Jamie magazine, the eponymous title published by the cheeky TV chef now into its third issue.

Launched in December last year and printed on thick, matte card stock derived from sustainable managed forests (brand values, man), this bi-monthly brand extension of the Jamie Oliver empire (TV shows, cookbooks, restaurants, DVDs, homewares, food products) mixes food with travel, first-person essays, profile pieces and, of course, recipes.

Some have derided the magazine as nothing more than a catalogue for Oliver's Jme Collection products (endorsements slipping, as if by accident, into editorial pieces and all – this issue, there's a skincare feature pimping Jme Cooks & Gardeners' Lavender Hand Cream, a product page showing off his range of garden tools, a five-page profile of designer David Queensberry, whose Coco dinnerwear range is available exclusively to jme/, and much, much more).

It's also been accused of being blatantly nepotistic and wanky (good mate Brad Pitt dropped into the first issue, and wife Jools had a column). But I'm prepared to let it all slide because, well, it's his magazine. It says so on the cover. And Oliver and his editor Andy Harris only have themselves to blame if the parochialism/nepotism/product creep starts to detract from a good read. Commercialism is like a dirty word in this post-eco-movement/GFC world, after all.

Australia is having a love affair with food right now, if MasterChef ratings are anything to go by. And if they're craving authenticity from their magazines, as much as from their cuisine, mags like Jamie are right for the picking. Plus, unlike other magazines which peddle "food porn" (as Catherine Deveny put it so deliciously) alongside diet stories, the Jamie experience is to the true epicurean what Vogue is to serious fashionistas (okay, it's high-class food porn).

What's on the, erm, menu this month? My pick of the crop (oh, stop it!) includes:

- the Q&A with journalist Wolf Blitzer whose time in the Middle East has given him a love for hummus, falafel, chopped salad and pita bread but would happily eat his breakfast cereal concoction of Special K, raisins, nuts, bananas, blueberries and skimmed milk if he had to choose one dish to eat for the rest of his life.

-The short (advertorial) piece on Recipease; a fabulous concept in food education (attend an Easy To Make session to learn how to follow a recipe!). Brought to us than none other than Jamie Oliver.

- 'The F Word' by Peter Begg. Like Mills & Boon for foodies, the feature begins: "The key to perfect fish and chips, the smoothest chicken liver parfait, a shiny jus or the ultimate roast potato is not a mysterious technique or gadget up a chef's sleeve, it's the judicious use of a certain ingredient...". Guess what it is! Lick those chops.

- The 'Bloggers' profile of Dave Barker, former printer turned chef, which plugs as a great way to get yourself a food gig (this feature comes with a side recipe of Leek, Wild Mushroom & Spinach Lasagne).

- The Asparagus Frittata recipe on page 41, which I made to impress friends. Worked a treat! See evidence in below picture.

- Danny Moynihan's essay on growing up in Southern France in the 1960s. Epicurean heaven. I had to contend with variations on chops and three veg.

- Restauranteur Mourad Mazouz's review of Beirut restaurant Fadel. Rich with description, it left me salivating.

- '3 Tenors', a tale of friendships broken and repaired, it features Jamie and his mentors-cum-mates Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio. Very Sopranos. A sprawling 18 page feature which features recipes by all three men ("cooking is a great way to bring people together").

- The story by Lebanese-Australian chef Greg Malouf of MoMo (Grand Hyatt, Melbourne) who travels to Turkey. "For me, when it comes to food and travel, it's all about the little discoveries you make and the connections between ingredients, techniques and recipes," he writes. Accompanied by fantastic food photography.

- 11 pages of Italian dishes by Jamie and co.

- The Damascus travel feature by Fiona Dunlop resplendent with illustration, travel photography and tips on where to eat.

- The expandable, pull-out Monthly Menu (above right and as modelled by Husband below).

- Paul Dring's account of attending 21 tapas bars in two nights. The foodie equivalent of a pub crawl.

- The quirky 'Make Me' comic by Emma Tissler that closes the issue. This month: Rice Paper Rolls for 12!

Jamie is a rich magazine "experience". Beautifully designed, with gorgeous photography, prose crafted with description, anecdotes and notable quotes, and typography and layouts that are easy on the eyes, it's the kind of magazine to be shared with friends. At $14.95, it's not cheap for us Aussies (about as much as a takeaway Pad Thai), and the advertorial can be annoying, but if you're looking for a tasty distraction from those insidious diet stories, this is the mag to sate your cravings.

Above: Husband modelling the genius pull-out Monthly Menu.

Above: Asparagus Frittata for friends. So simple, even I could do it!

Yours truly.
Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Notes: Why I fell out of glossy love

When avid glossy consumer Alison Kennedy (pictured: she reminds me a little of Maggie Alderson with her dimples and all) emailed me last week, we got to chatting about glossies (naturally).

She listed off a ream of her preferred titles (Paris Vogue; Dumbo Feather, Pass It On; The Monthly; Monocle; Frankie; Vanity Fair) before lamenting that some of her former glossy loves – U.S. Vogue, Vogue Australia, marie claire and madison – no longer cut the magazine mustard. I asked her why. So she wrote this...

Glossy magazines: why we are no longer friends

I have a guilty secret. I love magazines. The glossier the better. Extreme unwearable fashion: yes! Quirky accessories: bring it on! General air of fabulousness: yes, yes, yes! Yet something has happened over the last six months to curb my magazine enthusiasm. My friends and I have stopped buying all but a few glossies. And not for fiscal reasons. This is why:

1. The amount of blatant advertising. Magazine consumers are not stupid. We see the seepage of advertising into editorial, comment, puff pieces and profiles with great cynicism. We are savvy to product placement. We have noticed. Oh, yes, we have. And we don’t like it.

2. The narrowness of the viewpoint. In short, you are nepotistic and self-absorbed. We generally see fashion insiders and media people in the social pages; and advertisers, retailers and PR people in the features. It is rare to see women who have style, intelligence and great clothes who happen to work outside these areas. Sometimes they wander in, but generally as a one-off profile. And generally they are wearing advertisers’ clothes.

3. The mag customer has changed. We are really savvy... Customers who pay a premium for an item in any area expect differentiation. Yet some of our glossies rely on recycled articles and images readily seen online or in imported glossies available on the same newsstand.

We can cope with a rich element of fantasy in editorial, just don’t try to sell us some new beauty product we know won’t work. We also may no longer aspire to buy items priced in the vicinity of four figures. In fact, this now looks hopelessly naff and smacks of insecurity.

4. The medium has changed. Competition is fierce. Our newsagents are saturated with international and local glossies. And the internet is great! It has inspiring images and text and importantly offers independent and thought provoking points of view. And it offers this all quickly. Blogs such as this one cherry pick the most interesting and au courant elements for us – the magazine customer. Inspiring, fabulous images are coming from the street. There is an interest in diversity and self expression and some glossy magazines can appear outdated – at the very least as a result of lagging publication lead times.

So what's a glossy mag to do?

We still love you. Women will be reluctant to leave behind the luxurious, escapist bubble that you create for us to live in, even momentarily.

Yet something is not working. We need more independent voices and images. Less tokenism. Less reliance on international sources. More idiosyncratic content. Less thinly disguised advertising. More inspirational personal style. And, most of all, we need authenticity.

Yours truly,
Alison/Girl With a Satchel

GWAS Code of Commenting Conduct

This post comes care of a suggestion made by a loyal Satcheling, which was cemented by the surprisingly lively, yet not entirely positive, reaction to last week's 'Cute & Chic' post.

In the spirit of the Girl Guides, Pollyanna and our feminist friends at Jezebel, I've decided to implement a GWAS Code of Commenting Conduct, according to which I will be vetting comments.

Until now, I've pretty much approved every comment based on the idea that open dialogue is what blogs are based on and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Often these opinions are extremely well articulated and add a valuable dimension to an otherwise one-sided or insufficiently thought out post, as would an interview subject in a magazine feature. Also, as this blog's main meal is often critical magazine reviews, I have to be prepared to get as good as I give. Many readers are passionate about their glossies and understandably defensive.

But when the feedback descends into the realm of personal attacks, I have to say enough's enough. As one reader joked with me recently, "everyone knows you sit at home and live off your rich husband and rip off the government by claiming back mags at tax time". Thankfully, I can shake off those sorts of comments because they are so ridiculously far from the truth. My husband is cute (see him in an upcoming post!), but rich he is most certainly not.

The reactionary and largely anonymous nature of the blogosphere – in addition to the pervasively snarky nature and influence of many blogs, web forums and even magazines – means we are often quick to comment without consideration for a person's feelings. And not just mine – I'm talking those of fellow commentors (you are all valued – even in your anonymity), women who work in the industry, celebrities, and other women I choose to feature on the blog.

As Gordon Ramsay so eloquently demonstrated with his unprovoked attack on Tracy Grimshaw, this snark might just be reflective of a relaxing of standards in society at large: Therese Rein, Susan Boyle, Beth Ditto and Gretel Killeen are just a few more women who've fallen victim to media nastiness of late. But we can all do better than that.

Petty bitchiness, particularly when it comes to a woman's appearance, is diminishing, and not just for the victim of the attack. I know that every time I post something that verges on the bitter side, it kills a little part of me. And no amount of chocolate can console a girl's soul. Deep down, I think we all want to be good and positive and encouraging, but sometimes we give into the persuasions of our lesser selves, like partaking in an office kitchen bitching session that leaves us feeling utterly deflated. Being critical and using your university educated cerebral faculties to articulate an argument is one thing; unwarranted snark is another.

On my MacBook, I have a Bible verse, which I try to consult before posting (often, in haste, I don't). It reads: "The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control... We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another." (Galatians 5: 16-26). These are the values GWAS attempts to espouse.

In the Bible it also says: "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45).

So, if you're having a shitty day, or shitty life, try not to bring that to fruition via a nasty comment. Go have a coffee with a girlfriend. Or see a shrink. And if you don't like what I have to say, just turn away. Blogs are subjective and personal – as much as I shoot for the journalistic principles of fairness and accuracy, as well as the GWAS mission of "finding the good in gloss", I will offend, annoy and irritate some of you.

In short, to have your comment approved and ensure the positive, salutary spirit of GWAS lives on (even on the crappy days we all inevitably face), it must adhere to these principles:
- Constructive criticism.
- Relevance.
- No personal character attacks.
- No attacks based on appearance.
- No swearing.
- No hating.
- No bullying.

Grace, poise and nobility are valued. For example, a recent worthy comment from Liz with regards to my recent post on Vogue:

"GWAS, I do love you so, but I sometimes feel that you pick on Harper's Bazaar whilst ladle praise upon praise on Vogue (bar that one article). Now I don't think HB are going such a great job, but in fact both magazines are lacking that certain 'must-read must-buy' factor right now. Whilst I understand the current economic climate (the 'R' word) is making them look both magazines inappropriate, it seems that Harper's bears the brunt of your insults whereas Vogue always seems to get away relatively scot free."

A+. Tick. Approved.

I am fully encouraging of diverse, interesting, witty, informative, funny and insightful comments: particularly those framed in a positive way. Even what might seem a banal thought in your own mind ("I liked that cover because it was pretty") is worthy and adds to the GWAS commenting community. So, stand up and have your thoughts counted. No use storing them up for a rainy day.

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Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Vogue running backwards in high heels

Vogue Australia editor Kirstie Clements came out in support of her British counterpart's stance on size zero models over the weekend, telling The Sunday Telegraph (for which she writes a fortnightly column), "Some of the international designers' samples look like dolls clothes when they arrive. We shouldn't have to starve to fit the clothes. The clothes should fit us."

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 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, 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.
Blink and skip it:
  • See aforementioned 'Body of evidence' article. Tsk.
Pretty pages:
  • 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 posse: Lily Allen, Myf Shepherd...
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.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Shulman shuns size zero

British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman has got glossy tongues wagging with a letter she sent to fashion design houses deriding them for supplying size-zero garments going public.

Written off by Gawker as nothing but a backpeddling publicity stunt, Shulman has been largely (no pun intended) applauded for her firm stance. In the letter, sent to key designers (and, notably, glossy advertisers) including Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Prada and Versace, Shulman wrote:

"We have now reached a point where many of the sample sizes don't comfortably fit even the established star models. Instead, we are having to use girls with jutting bones and no breasts or hips, to fit them... Quite often I hear the fashion editor say when talking about one model or another "I don't think she will fit the clothes". Some of the girls she was talking about were already very thin... Nowadays I will often ask the photographers to retouch to make the models appear larger... I am finding that the feedback from my readers and the general feeling in the UK is that people don't really want to see such thin girls."

Shulman may have presided over Vogue when Kate Moss's heroin chic became the look du jour (care of Calvin Klein) in the 90s, but I believe magazines have to evolve along with public consciousness (if not direct it). And we are all simply fed up with seeing underfed models (and celebrities, for that matter). We've been talking about this for a long while now. Sowly, we are collectively coming to the realisation that size zero is not aspirational... if it ever really was. Even Moss has loosened the belt on her skinnies.

Fashion fantasy glossies have never really been into what's realistic – even LOVE's use of Beth Ditto on its debut cover was extreme (albeit at the opposite end of the scale). But designers, magazines, stylists and modelling agencies all need to come to the party and get real about pushing healthier models down catwalks and using a wider range of shapes in fashion editorials and advertising.

They might just be surprised by the public's positive response. And, like, SELL MORE STUFF!

Sources: The Daily Mail

See also: Is Size Zero Finally Over?

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Bloke in Media – Rob Moran

Do you remember the cartoon Doug? It aired in the early 90s and I watched it obsessively. Adorable Doug was my first (and, er, only) male cartoon character crush. An 11-year-old with a love for writing, music and Patti Mayonnaise, Doug transcribed his thoughts into his beloved journal (not a diary, he would insist) each episode, composed cute songs about Patti to the tune of his banjo and transformed into one of his many alter egos (Quailman, Secret Agent 000 Smash Adams, the Chameleon) to accomplish all sorts of feats. A geek with a social conscience and a 6th grader out for my own heart (hey, I was 11).

If Doug had been a real boy (like Pinocchio), he might have grown up to be Rob Moran, Girlfriend magazine's resident entertainment reporter. In fact, when Rob was recruited into the team during my own tenure on the mag, I thought he was Doug come to life (see picture, right!).

While his penchant for procrastination was always a running joke at editorial meetings (sorry, it was!), Rob has a knack for producing endlessly amusing, pithy reportage, while also bringing balance to an otherwise estrogen fuelled office (though he did question whether the word 'bloke' was applicable when I approached him about this interview).

His blog 'Front Row' is one of my favourite monthly reads (seriously, if you haven't picked up a copy of Girlfriend of late, you should), while his brand of irreverent entertainment journalism brings a fun flavour to what can otherwise be a boring beat (rehash press release here; kiss celebrity butt here...). Though, you do sort of get the sense that after three years on the job, Rob writes as much to amuse himself as his 14-year-old girl-fans (send job offers care of – joking... sort of!).

So, at the risk of bringing down the integrity of this blog, meet Doug Rob. I bet he can't wait for Britney to bring her circus to town!

Age: 27
Occupation: Entertainment Editor, Girlfriend
Tenure: 3 years or so
Writing credits: Girlfriend, TV Hits, Remix, Rolling Stone, Top Of The Pops, The Brag, Beef Knuckles [see zine question below].
Greatest aspiration: robot slavery

Why writing, Rob? My hands were too delicate for carpentry. Dreams shattered!

Where were you educated? UNSW Faculty of Film. I was too dumb for words, so I studied pictures instead.

Did you have any mentors and/or role models? Anybody who has given me money for writing stupid things. Nick Tosches and Richard Meltzer for teaching me to review CDs with the shrink-wrap still on (you get more money at the pawn shop that way).

How has your writing career developed? Uh, less swearing?

How did the Girlfriend gig come about? I wore a Hilary Duff badge to my interview in a cynical attempt to sway [then editor] Sarah Oakes’ love. It worked and she resents me to this day.

What's it like being the only bloke in the office?
Pro: I can say anything I want and people will laugh it off with, “Oh, boys!”
Con: Everything smells like musk. And the squeals; oh, God, the squeals.

How does an average day in the office pan out for you? Wake up late, turn up to work late, read the whole Internet, stare through my computer screen, go home with genuine relief that I wasn't fired that day, resolve to get more done tomorrow.

Best celebrity interview? Zac Efron. The way he touched my hand as I left his hotel said we’d be friends forever.

Worst celebrity interview? Barack Obama. America, politics, change, blah – I just asked him what his favourite dinosaur was!

Your thoughts on the state and/or art of celebrity journalism... It’s boring as heck, unless it’s about Paul Westerberg or Pam from The Office (US).

Which mags do you think do entertainment well? I haven’t read a magazine since some early ‘90s issue of Right On! with Heavy D & The Boyz on the cover. That was pretty great. I guess Blender’s celeb interviews were funny (‘cause they were mean), but they don’t exist anymore (or so I’m told, I haven’t actually checked).

Just how annoying and/or helpful are celebrity PRs? For people that party so much, they sure can be uptight. But most of them are pretty nice, until they’re institutionalized for alcohol abuse sometime near the end of their careers (see: Jack Lemmon in Days Of Wine & Roses).

Piece you're currently working on... Nice try, snitch! But it’s probably got something to do with RPattz [that's Twilight's Robert Pattinson].

Pros of being a teen entertainment editor... Teenagers are great! They’re like little adults or big kids.

How do you keep up with the ET world? AV Club. Oh No They Didn’t. Pitchfork. Kotaku. Armond White film reviews (NY Press). IMDB messageboards.

Tell us about your zine... It’s called Beef Knuckles. I write some stupid stories and hat poems, and my friends Hon and Bryn draw amazing comics full of laughs and pathos. It costs $3. You can only buy it out of our hands.

If there was a Rob Moran magazine, what would it feature, look like and where would you sell it? It would feature cats, essays about basketball, rap song reviews, cool hairstyles, self-help slogans and some sort of healthy recipe. I’d sell it from my coat pockets and it would look like this (see attached).

Yours truly (wetting her pants),
Girl With a Satchel