Mags: Party Of Five Review Special

Glossy Review (with a silly-season lemon twist)

In lieu of an actual office Christmas party, I decided to host a glossy party, inviting five of our fashiony friends to eat, drink and be merry. Who was the best company? Who wore the best outfit? Who brought the best gift? Who drank the most? Who's invited back next year? Pop on a compilation of your favourite Christmas tracks and be my guest...


Party representative: Miranda Kerr. She looks tired, like she could drop off the perch at any moment. Life's hectic for this supermodel and she tells the magazine as much: "Arrgghh...the fairytale of 15-hour days, six days a week, two different countries a week and no life. I pretty much get there, work, sleep, go, work, sleep go...I'm tired." We’re tired just reading about it. Kerr is probably also going to make us feel guilty for over-indulging at lunch ("I eat mainly organic and stick to the 80:20 rule"), suggesting that we sip on green tea between helpings. Still, she's a true-blue Aussie girl, and you just want to pinch those dimpled cheeks till they’re pink.

Party clothes: Sparkly dresses, full-volume minis, Antonio Berardi frocks, Prada prints, a $2999 white Dolce & Gabbana dress, $950 glittery Miu Miu shoes, and a fur hood inspired by Where The Wild Things Are. Fur in summer. Tres practical!

Party look: red lips and a nonchalant hairdo like one of the French It Girls (Charlotte, Lou, Julia, Melanie...), perhaps?

Party conversations: Nikki Gemmell tells it like it is in 'My Story' – she finds herself downtrodden by a mortgage, her husband's retrenchment and pressure to bring in the bucks as a novelist, but is humbled by the kindness of close friends; Laura Brown tells us all about The Year of Shoulder Pads that was 2009; Tamara Davis recalls her Top 10 Fashion Moments; Interior designer Sibella Court explains why she wears only four hues (cream, white, caramel and black, I'm guessing); beauty director Eugenie Kelly talks about genomics, sirtuins, oxofulleram and disport, and my head hurts. Then, for added punishment, we get a serving of exo-bot Tracy Anderson.

Party tips: "To balance out dark circles, go with a yellow colour corrector," says Chanel celebrity makeup artist Kate Lee. "Brighten your eyes by rimming your inside bottom lid with a white or navy pencil," says fellow guru Joanna Schlip.

Party presents: A $9400 Cartier watch, $895 sequined Pierre Hardy shoes, bags by Pucci and Phillip Lim and a $615 Hermes notebook. Santa must have a big budget this year!

Party on a plate:
"Tasty hors d'oeuvres and glass after glass of Moet can add up to an extra five kilos by January," warns Dr. Stephen Gallo. Harper's lends a hand with its "tips to avoid packing on the pounds", including "Wear formfitting clothes to parties. You'll know instantly if you are gaining weight."

Party-girl rating: 4/5. Fashion obsessed much, Harper's makes for frivolous festive company and gives expensive gifts. Watch she doesn’t drop off after a vino or two on an empty stomach.

Party representative: Eva Mendes: the kind of girl who gets all the male attention in the room. Still, says Harvey Marcus, this beauty has hidden depths: "an intellect, with all its attendant anxieties and fancies, that hasn't always been apparent in her film work." She has been described as not entirely "girl-friendly", is a proponent of therapy and checked herself into rehab last year ("nothing happened"). She also loves her dog and cemeteries. Interesting company.

Party clothes: Marie Claire has the most enviable wardrobe of all. The flirty French ensembles in 'Bonsoir, Mademoiselle' will have you craving a pair of Jonathan Aston lace tights, a pretty bow for your hair and a pouffy skirt and jacket. But you will also want to dress up in a printed frock and wear your hair straight with a centre part as per 'Child's Play'. Then 'Flower Power' will pull you in with its luxe pairing of florals and neutral pieces, and 'Summer Breeze' will tempt you with tailored shorts and a little black Collette Dinnigan dress that's sure to sell out. But it doesn't end there – ‘101 ideas’ is replete with even more party dresses and the shopping pages are a treasure trove of editor-approved clothing (I'll take the $1750 Josh Goot dress!). Marie Claire will make you want a whole new wardrobe.

Party look: Primping Marie Claire style involves rainbow bright hues. Applied incorrectly you will look like a clown and scare small children. A great tactic if you don't like small children. Saving grace = 'Back to Base', which enlists all the best foundations and application tips. Perfumes are in abundance and a page of hair accessories for grown-up girls are a fancy proposition.

Party conversations: Marie Claire can always be counted on for a bunch of provocative, informative and challenging stories – a verbal buffet for the conversationally challenged. This month she's talking about: Tantric sex, YouTube celebrities, "intersex", Patrick Swayze, business success stories, swimming pool statistics, crap presents, London fashion, bullying, relationships, overeating and Powderfinger's new album. Christmas makes an appearance via the annual Christmas light displays, while festivals, books and films fill up the silent moments.

Party tips: "Keep to one or two colours when decorating your tree to streamline your Christmas palette"; "Only eat until you are comfortable and could eat more, never until you are full and bloated." Stephanie Conley is the ultimate hostess. Her secret? "Good food and keeping everyone's glasses topped up."

Party presents: Marie Claire caters for all the people in your life with its Gift Guide but your eyes will gravitate towards the things you'd like for yourself - just like real Christmas shopping! Necklaces, journals, wedges, makeup cases, notepads, purses, lingerie, sweets, books and sneaks... for him, her and the kiddies. Everyone is happy. It's the little things that count.

Party on a plate: Salmon tartare on crostini, turkey and leek pies, turkey with chestnut stuffing, Christmas pudding and a selection of sophisticated wines.

Party-girl rating: 3.5/5. Marie Claire definitely sits at the grown-ups table. Best behave accordingly.

Party representative: Abbie Cornish. Best not to put this party girl in the same room as InStyle (see below). "Strong but delicate" is how she describes her Bright Star character, and she's quite the same. She's a serious actress: "I just think life is too precious to mess around with things you're not interested in. I don't really see the point, and there are so many other things that I like to do that I don't really want to be on a set 10 months out of the year. I just don't. I prefer to have time to make music or paint or be with friends and's the time between that allows you to live and to learn and [also to] fuel the mind, the body, the spirit, which then goes on to affect the kind of work that you do." She hints to Vogue that she may do an album a la Scarlett Johansson. Is she Australia’s answer to intense, voluptuous Scarlett?

Party clothes: Vogue has helpfully organised your summer wardrobe by occasion: beachside brunch, poolside, market day, music festival, road trip, outdoor cinema, picnic in the park and boating. It's like sartorial tourism - lots of fun. Electric blue, floral prints, pink heels and Fantastia-inspired girlie things populate single trend pages. But things get really fun with 'Be Good, For Goodness Sake', which sees models Holly Thompson and Sarah Stephens playing with giant props, like two Christmas fairies lost in Wonderland. Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, Harry Who, D&G, Viktor & Rolf, Giorgio Armani, Madame Hall and Marni have all sent frocks out to play. A page over, it's all boring block colours and shapeless shifts. 'The Frill Of It All' is opulent with rich textures and colours. But what I really, really want is the Josh Goot outfit on p76 – jacket, cardigan and mini in black and soft pink.

Party look: Elegant up-dos and a jewelled hairclip, gleaming skin, graphic eyeliner and false lashes are the recommendation. But perfume takes centre stage with Vogue's Ultimate Fragrance Guide occupying seven pages. Aerin Lauder makes the natural look oh-so appealing.

Party conversations: Jo Abbie confesses to a Twilight obsession; Brenda Harvey introduces her bag collection; Kit Willow-Podgornik recalls her earliest fashion memory; three party girls (Bianca Brandolini, Emily Pero, Alexis Elliott) reveal their beauty, health and style rituals; Vogue works its Little Black Book to get fashiony types to tell us about their holiday plans; Ryan Kwanten is an Aussie hottie; Bridezilla are the band du jour; Natalie Imbruglia makes sweet music with Chris Martin; and Sarina Lewis yearns for a life threaded with elegance (“We want that Sophie Dahl ideal: successful model-turned-author making an organic stew in a gorgeous cashmere sweater dress”). Did you know brain cancer mostly affects young professionals in the prime of their life? Eek! On a positive note, Felicity Loughrey writes on the Australians In New York Fashion Foundation (AINYFF) – a fantastic initiative and inspiring bunch of Aussies living the Manhattan dream.

Party tips: “An impact lipstick or smoky eye alone will help you feel like you have changes for the evening,” says Emily Pero, who also advises, “Never buy an outfit on the day for that night. You’ll make a panicky choice and never wear it again – guaranteed!”. Note here: GWAS ALWAYS buys on the day of the event, and usually winds up wearing the outfit again, and again – believe in sartorial serendipity and it will come true for you, too!

Party presents: Vogue’s Christmas gift guide is like a nativity calendar bursting with surprises. The best thing? It’s studded with FREE GIFT IDEAS, like “give an overworked loved one a day – or a week – off from domestic duties” and Sophie Lee’s suggestion, “I once made a gift for my husband of a small Moleskine notebook with poems, stories, illustrations and little collages.” What a fabulous idea. Thank you, Vogue, for imbuing the materialism with some heart.

Party on a plate: Not a single canapĂ© in sight! Vogue doesn’t do food, darlings.

Party-girl rating: 4/5. Girlie, witty and sophisticated, Vogue never fails to impress me with its array of girl-crush-worthy interview subjects, while the warmth of personalised contributions in the form of anecdotes and quotes keeps it from being too lofty and unapproachable. Still, now I think I have brain cancer, and what’s a party without foooooood?

Party representative: Reese Witherspoon. She says, “I’m an open book. I’m not about intimidating women or making them feel like less than what they are.” I still find her intimidating. But perhaps her life experience has softened those hard edges? She runs and trades clothes with her girlfriends, likes to cook, has chickens and grows her own tomatoes, and says her ideal scenario is to do one movie a year and has stopped spending so much time thinking about the future. Right now, she’s learning to “live more in the moment, and have more fun.” Me too! I think we could be friends. Plus, she’s a shortie, so we could swap clothes!

Party clothes: Reese’s black Alexander Wang dress and killer heels do it for me, but there’s much more inspiration to whet the appetite: celebrities in mustard coloured frocks and little navy dresses; Diane, Erin and Audrey in Chanel; Teresa Palmer in an AMAZING J’Aton beaded French lace dress ($5,800 – a girl can dream); looks for brunch with the gals; a Yeojin Bae sequined-nylon mini skirt ($590); garden party frocks; Christmas lunch outfit suggestions (white dresses mostly – skip the beetroot); exotic pool party ensembles; sparkly heels; bustiers; Emma Booth sporting a White Suede one-piece and Sass and Bide jacket I Have To Have; pretty Natalie Bassingthwaighte in frou-frou frocks… so much to contemplate!

Party look: ‘The Disco Flip’, ‘The Flapper’ or ‘The Pin-Up’ for your hair; classic, trendsetter, seductress, bohemian or bombshell for your makeup.

Party conversations: Mostly just celebrities talking about themselves. Join in ‘A Couture Christmas’ with J’Aton Couture designers Anthony Pittorino and Jacob Luppino or ‘Island Time’ with Gail Elliott and Joe Coffey. Fake fashion friends!

Party tips: “For glamorous party locks like Eva Longoria Parker’s, Great Lengths Hair Extensions could be what you need.” Are we really still doing hair extensions? “The finest parties are ones filled with laughter,” says Poppy King. “A well-thought-out playlist is a conversation starter,” says Stephen Ormandy of Dinosaur Designs.

Party presents: 101 items hand-picked by InStyle’s experts! In a world plush with funds, I would request the $1,500 Prada silk bag and keyring ($430); $550 Ginger & Smart silk dress; $389 Miu Miu silk key ring coin purse; Harry Ellen resin and silver-plated rollerskates ($575); My Wonderful World of Fashion by Nina Chakrabarti; Bally leather computer bag ($2,580)… yes, there’s much to love.

Party on a plate: Top points for presentation: InStyle does entertaining guests like no other. This month the glossy has enlisted the services of chef Christine Mansfield to give Aussie personalities a cooking class (way to work in the celebrity angle!). On the menu: vanilla cream and balsamic strawberries and roast suckling lamb leg with sticky rice and green mango salad.

Party-girl rating: 3/5. Loads of personality, pretty celebrities and people having fun. Superficial festivities.

Party representative: Charlize Theron. She’s the kind of woman that could give you the cold shoulder (ha ha). She wouldn’t suffer fools lightly. She’d be tricky to buy a gift for. She comes across a hard sort of person – but I guess you get that way when your childhood wasn’t an idyllic walk in the park. However, there are elements of the every-woman about her that could make for a good conversation. Like, she says “I work out just like everyone else”. She’s a lover and a fighter.

Party clothes: ’50 Accessories for Under $250’ will make you consider festive bling and oodles of shoodles populate ‘Luxe to Less’. Elyse Taylor models creamy, dreamy, drapey dresses; Pania Rose sparkles in mini dresses; Sarah Stephens strikes a pose in black dresses… then we get more Elyse in summer swimmers, which we could probably do without seeing as we approach the fattest month of the year. A full-page picture of leggy Alexa Chung in a button-up men’s shirt and tiny denim shorts is memorable.

Party look: Madison advocates the deep side-part, grey smoky eyes, Chanel highlighter, metallic eyeshadow, lash-enhancing treatments and the natural look (which can be achieved with a commitment to facials, eyebrow shaping, bronzer application, drinking two litres of water a day…). And no party outfit is complete without the perfect perfume. Of course. Are we sensing a smelly theme across the glossy spectrum?

Party conversations: Puppy dog adoption; Australia’s “pride and prejudice”; domestic violence; having good sex; David Penberthy on a decade of politics; Tim Footman on pop culture; Alexandra Carlton on “premium denim, designers for the masses and the Bradshaw effect”; Jessica Montague on the sports scene; Elizabeth Wilson on ‘The Waiting Game’ (hold your horses, good things come to those who wait – like JK Rowling, Martin Scorsese, Coco Chanel and Tina Fey… and Pandora jewellery’s Karin Adcock); Richard Gere, the ladies man; ‘The Twilight Zone’; Alexa Chung’s innate coolness; ballet, running or Wii workouts; Cindy Crawford’s supermodel awesomeness.

Party tips: “By giving your tummy, liver and body chemistry a little TLC, you can help minimise hangover symptoms” – water, Vitamin B and crackers before bed should to the trick. “Fat delays the stomach emptying. So if you’re going to have pate and cheese for starters, choose a low-fat dinner and avoid big serves,” suggests gastroenterologist Jane Andrews.

Party presents: A puppy! Turn to the ‘Shopping’ section for five pages of gifting ideas for the kids, him, her, mum and dad. Doing Secret Santa this year? Dominique Bertolucci suggests a book, a voucher or a bottle of wine (p288).

Party on a plate: Prawn and avocado stack; fried zucchini flowers; negroni cocktail; roasted chicken sandwiches; spinach, goats cheese and pesto salad; pistachio cannoli… all lovingly layed out for us, on silver platters, in the home of Alex Zabotto-Bentley.

Party-girl rating: 3/5. I'd be paranoid about spilling red wine on her perfectly plush cream carpet but Madison would make a fine dining friend.

Party issue verdict: Marie Claire is the best dressed; Vogue works her Little Black Book best; InStyle invites us to appreciate Aussie celebs; Harper's is light on conversation (blame it on fatigue) but produced a pretty cover; and Madison is doing her best to strike the perfect seasonal balance.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

CHICTIONARY by Clare Press

(I speak, you speak, we all speak...FASHION)

They say (sigh?) that regional dialects are dying out, thanks to Hollywood creep and the ever-expanding tentacles of the World Wide Web. But as every serious fashionista knows, they be wrong (note: that works best if you say it in a bumpkin accent like an extra from Midsomer Murders). There might be fewer Yorkshire souls yapping on about putting wood in t'ole and there being nowt so queer a' folk, but clique-alects rule okay in elite circles.

It's nigh on impossible to understand what the f’row is saying half the time ("f’row" = front row...don’t you read Grazia? Hello?!) but happily I’m here to help by acting as interpreter via this regular new post for GWAS. I’ll be decoding le fashion speak for readers each week in the hope that karma's gonna get me…a Phoebe Philo for Celine jacket for Christmas. Capiche? Stay with me. I hereby launch, Chictionary. Ta-da!

F’row Word of the Fortnight

Nonvin (non-van) adj., Derog. 1. Denotes a fashion crime; something ugly, hideous, shockingly off trend. Literally, to be a long way indeed from the work of revered French fashion house of Lanvin [currently headed up by one Alber Elbaz, A.K.A. le chicest homme alive].

In conversation. Hints and tips for daily use:
On seeing a short and scary frock covered in alarming plastic bling as sewn in Bali, Fashionista 1 says, "Ouch! Plastic, c'est pas chic!”
Fashionista 2 replies, “Eiuw! I know. That is so Nonvin!"

CHICTIONARY CREDENTIALS: In case you didn't know, Clare Press is a former fashion director for Vogue Australia and has her own fashion label, the wonderful vintagey Mrs. Press. Pretty and witty, she's also a really lovely lady, so I'm delighted that she'll be gracing this here blog on occasion to impart some words of sartorial wisdom. Visit her frolicking new blog here.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Goodwin Glossy Goodness

Oh, my glossy goodness!

This morning I got the same feeling when I entered the newsagent and eyed off the women's stand as I did the Christmas morning when I unwrapped my first Cabbage Patch Doll (Sally-Anne, where did you go?). Because there, nestled amongst all the gossipy weeklys and show-offy fashionies, was a fresh new Australian Women's Weekly glowing with all the joy of Christmas.

I really don't know what to be more excited about – Ellen on the cover of O The Oprah Magazine or MasterChef's Julie Goodwin resplendent in red and glowing like a superstar (with perfectly arched eyebrows, may I note), her diamond earrings a-sparkling and bountiful bust a-heaving, for the Weekly.

Then there's the Weekly's bonus bag to consider, which comes lovingly plastic wrapped with the words 'This Bag Is Not a Toy Made in China.' The Weekly had a little joke (see here to get my drift)! A gift AND a little humour. Oh, it's almost too much. I need to sit down like nanna after a few too many Christmas sherries. Someone fetch me a cold face cloth.

Let's take a quick peek inside this festive tome: lots of ads, of course; personalities posing in their festive finery; Penelope Cruz (bonus!); stories of love and giving; David Leser reporting on Jerusalem; Joe Hockey on being a dad; Serena Williams sizzling in a swimsuit; Del Kathryn Barton fronting the new 'Inspire: Women we admire' section; Santa in a fashion shoot; a 12 Days of Christmas Diet Plan; psychologist Kati St Clair on 'Keeping the peace at Christmas'; Kathy Lette on festive fun (see 'Inspire Laughs'); Wendy Squires on A-list parties; Pat McDermott's 'yule rules'; pages and pages of Julie's festive food; Maggie Tabberer and Monica Trapaga setting the Christmas table; a 12 days of Christmas giveaway; DIY decorating ideas; AND a book of Christmas carols.

Naysayers may pooh-pooh the return to airbrushing the cover after Sarah Murdoch's sans Photoshop issue, but I am blinded by all the goodness on offer here. Bless you, Helen McCabe – you've totally hit the right note.

Yours truly,
Girl With a satchel

Mags: 12 (Commission Free) Reasons to Get Glamour

Warning: this blog post contains unashamed use of sycophancy.
Because this issue of Glamour is pure magazine magic. And not just because I'm featured on page 198. Though that does help the cause (see point #10).

Leaving aside Rihanna's revelations about becoming the unwitting poster girl for domestic violence, Michelle Obama's sound dating advice, five assorted covers (ooh, it's like Christmas!) and the annual Women of the Year love-fest, all which have garnered the mag the most media attention, there are plenty of other highlights to celebrate, ultimately culminating in a fantastic finale issue for 2009.

While Jezebel has taken the glossy to task for tokenism, the virtual impossibility of living up to its body diversity promise and sex article abstinence in the presence of the demure Mrs. Obama, I once again felt myself high-fiving editor Cindi Leive for producing a very excellent magazine. But since I couldn't contain my excitement within five points, I've extended the virtual applause over a more festive and highly visual 12....

1. Miranda Kerr with a teddy bear in 'It's your day off. Dress Like it!, eight gorgeous pages of Kerrness...
2. Woman of the Year Amy Poehler in a prom frock. Applause, indeed...

3. Liz Smith, thank you for the hilarity of your A-list advice...

4. Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi starring in the food-porny ''Eat! Drink! Enjoy!', six pages of recipes and tips for keeping on the trim side when your plate's full...

5. The world needs more Hilary Duffs. Enough said.

6. Investigative journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling who were arrested while reporting on human trafficking in North Korea being celebrated for their work...

7. Travel epiphanies are not just unique to Elizabeth Gilbert. See 'The Trip That Changed My Life'.

8. Festive altruism, Glamour-style, includes "Help get PJs to kids in shelters so they won't have to sleep in their clothes by giving just $10 at"

9. I have an enduring girl crush on Jemma Kidd thanks to my stint as a beauty ed...

10. I also have a huge girl crush on actress Rashida Jones and am absolutely gobsmacked to be sharing this page space with her...

11. Stella, Stella...!
12. Goldie Hawn, Tori Amos, Jane Goodall, and five incredible women changing the world... almost too much female awesomeness in one page!

... and a partridge in a pear tree!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Girlfriend Model Search 2009 winner

Glossy Talk

Red-headed 15-year-old South Australian schoolgirl Karri Pledger has beaten out five other beauties to win the Girlfriend Rimmel 2009 Model Search, the competition which launched the careers of Abbey Lee Kershaw, Catherine McNeil, Pania Rose, Alyssa Sutherland, Sarah Stephens, Ruby Rose (who lost out to McNeil in 2002) and Samantha Harris.

Pledger, whose look has drawn comparisons with fellow Perth model Gemma Ward but more closely resembles successful Brazilian model Cintia Dicker, has won a two-year contract with Chic Model Management, a meeting with next Model Management in New York and will also feature in a fashion spread in the December issue of Girlfriend, on sale next week.

Editor Sarah Cornish says Pledger was a stand-out thanks to her red hair and "fresh, healthy Australian look."

Ursula Hufnagl of Chic Model Management (the Australian super-agency which currently represents Victoria's Secret girls Elyse Taylor, Miranda Kerr, Abbey Lee Kershaw and Sarah Stephens) said the quality of entrants this year was "sensational". Rebecca Downes, a fellow Barossa Valley girl, also made the list of six finalists.

More than 2500 girls entered the nation-wide competition, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2010 and each year garners the magazine more than a few column inches. Congratulations, Karri – your parents must be super-chuffed.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: What are Aussies reading?

All's not been well in the land of the women's mag, according to the latest Roy Morgan readership figures, with eyes going off the lady glossies like a stinky cheese plate that's seen sitting in the sun too long. Speaking of cheese, publishers of food titles can, however, thank the MasterChef effect for their lustrous new numbers. Herewith some handy comparative tables: I hope they don't hurt your eyes, Kitty.

In short: not good news. Ghastly results for NW and Who, in particular. What we need is a royal wedding. Get your act into gear, Prince William! Yes, less skinny celebrities, more Queen Elizabeth; that should do the trick.

Not usually one to buck a trend, Vogue Australia increased its readership numbers thanks, in part, to the anniversary September issue that went on sale August 5. Cleo said good-bye to 27% of its readers and SHOP Til You Drop lost 18%, while InStyle quietly retained its 239,000 readers. Girlfriend gained 12% as Dolly lost readers. Perhaps the adverse effect of competitive cover-mounting is creating a product that teen girls are reluctant to share? A small note on lovely Notebook:, which changed cover tactics to become more AWW, less homey, and took away the perforated separators back in April: ick!
Pacific Magazines' Women's Health continues to be The Business in this category as other titles eat her running-shoe dust.


Better Homes and Gardens is out of control: it's the third most read magazine in the country. Appalled that the beautiful InsideOut is getting no reader love: let's hope the makeover works for the December quarter.

Last but not least, the category that got a boost thanks to Australia's infatuation with Matt Preston and his MasterChef cronies.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Cheap, old-school Christmas cards

It's a bit of a visual candy day on GWAS, but
I wanted to share my moment of greeting card enlightenment with you and also use the word "fungible" in a sentence (thank you,!)...

I am usually the type who will spend hours in David Jones labouring over which Christmas cards to buy for my nearest and dearest and associated persons, spending some hideous amount of money on stationery that will be appreciated for a fleeting minute before being discarded or drowned in a sea of other Christmas cards, depending on the popularity of the recipient.

Now, while I'm all for scoring presentation points and pride myself on the ability to coordinate gift wrap with cards (which is right up there with diagnosing diseases in small children), as per the interiors mag instructions, the absolute absurdity of my yearly perfect-card-hunting/much-money-spending ritual hit me yesterday when standing in line at IGA.

In my line of impulse-buying sight were a rack of assorted greeting cards in packs of 10 baring a 0.95c price tag! I was immediately taken back to primary school, when you bought stacks of these cards to give to classmates, reserving the prettiest ones for your friends and the popular girls and allocating the ones featuring the Three Wise Men or boring baubles to people who didn't rate as well on your terribly superficial social radar.

Now I'm MUCH older and more mature, I see these cards in all their retro glory as a more Christian and democratic way to do Christmas... even though they're made in communist China, which also sort of rubs against my feelings about commercialised junk produced at cut prices. But, you win some you lose some. Looking at the cute traditional illustrations on these cards, I couldn't help but smile for a while: they're a fine fungible proposition, indeed. It's going to be a cheap and cheerful Christmas in the world of GWAS.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Girl Talk: Dear Gemma Ward...

Dear Gemma,

I don't want to be a conduit for the type of discussion that speculates about a young woman's weight, so apologies for bringing up the subject, but as you're in the public eye right now, you make for a good point of reference for something that's been on my heart (gawd, that's such 'Christian speak', sorry) and mind for a while (yet another media hack using you to generate content – yay!).

Really, I'm just tired of ALL talk about weight and body image and the media, as you would be, too. Because the sad thing is that the more we talk about it, the less room there is in the media/public forum/online for talking about all the OTHER great things that women are doing... that don't include losing weight or putting it on.

It is so frustrating being a female media consumer right now: what feminism gave us in the way of equal rights, we're sabotaging by giving unequal attention to stuff that really doesn't matter (nobody ever got to their death bed and wished they were skinnier). We are absolutely developmentally stifled – on a creative, intellectual, emotional, relational and spiritual level – by the superficial discussion that focuses on our bodies.

I have put on 6-8 kilos in six months (let's celebrate that for a second – whee!). One of my biggest frustrations in this process of recovery and weight-putting-on, as my mind has gained back clarity relative to each extra kilo, has been the media's celebration of weight loss, but I've also been disenchanted by the way discussion about diets/body shape/exercise permeates almost every conversation I have with another woman/women. What the frig?

My sister has battled her own body demons, but has also been one of my saving graces. She put on a little weight (she's still on the small side, like my mum) as I kept losing and losing and losing it, defiantly loving her new body shape and giving away her little-girl clothes after being a super-skinny mini during her teens and young adult life. She finally relaxed and her body naturally took the shape it was meant to be, still exercising (not madly) and eating well, but not punishing or denying herself in the process.

And, you know what? She has become the most vibrantly exciting person to spend time with – her conversation alive with witty observations; her lust for the new insatiable; her creativity unstoppable; her beauty glowing from within. Her glorious personality has come into full fruition. She is more caring. She cooks my dad lovely meals. She has more to give because she is feeding and nourishing herself on every level.

One of the things I love about picking up my copies of Good Weekend or The Age's A2 section, flicking through an interiors mag, reading a new work of fiction or non-fiction (or returning to an old one I love), visiting a beautiful crafty blog, playing at the markets, trying a new recipe, seeing a film with a friend, dancing around with my nieces or hearing a church sermon on a Sunday is that they are devoid of all the toxic drivel that stifles my spirit and recovery. In fact, I often find I spend my weekends fuelling up on these things, only to feel depleted of all inner resources by the week's end. Big BOO to that.

Really, I should be allocating time every day to fuelling up on the good stuff of life. Some people do that naturally; some of us have to learn to do life properly, while operating within the economic/cultural forces that dominate society and say you're only as good as the work hours you've put in or the pay cheque you've earned or the number of blog posts you've written or the number on the scales.

So, Gemma, don't worry for a second about your weight. Developing your character and interests and relationships are a far worthier pursuit. Defiantly ignore the crap and, as with my sister, everything will come into a lovely alignment as you start to become the beautiful, three-dimensional Aussie girl you were designed to be – the post-Vogue Gemma is sure to be just as lovely.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

P.S. I'm thinking about having a 'no body talk' month on GWAS. What think you? Is it even possible given the blog's context? For further inspiration, let's revisit India Arie's wonderful "Video".

GWAS Notes: Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree...

I feel like I've well and truly milked the glossy media cow this week, so in lieu of Playlist here's a visual Christmas treat care of my favourite local cafe, Spice of Life.

I want to buy every single one of the decorations they have on display, but then that would make for a rather bare looking tree – and I don't want to be like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Mrs. Claus with a latte is more my gig.

The Word for the Weekend: "I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith." Part of Paul's letter to the Ephesians (3: 16-17). Encouraging, no?

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Inaugural AMA Magazine of the Year Award winners

Julia Zaetta and her Better Homes and Gardens team have received a lovely pre-Christmas gift: the Pacific Magazines' publishing behemoth has taken out the inaugural Australian Magazine Awards (AMA) Magazine of the Year Award, owing to its full-hearted embrace of the multi-platform glossy branding approach.

With the winners announced this morning, the Awards, hosted by industry rag Ad News (Yaffa Publishing), are a supplement for the now-defunct Magazine Publishers of Australia (MPA) awards. An impressive panel of independent judges, including Fusion Strategy's Steve Allen and Mediacom's Nick Keenan, shortlisted 67 finalists, from which 15 category winners were selected.

Unlike the MPA Awards, the AMAs did not call for cumbersome entries from publishers, rather the onus was on the panel to select winners from across the Australian magazine spectrum – the only prerequisites being that the titles be ABC audited, with Roy Morgan readership figures. Judging criteria included sales figures, advertising volume, covers, content, layout and design.

Better Homes and Gardens stood out from the competition – including fellow Magazine of the Year finalists and winners of their respective Women's Lifestyle and Food and Entertainment categories Shop Til You Drop and Delicious – with its June 2009 audit 10.4% year-on-year circulation increase (sales of 370,000 per month make it the third-best selling title in Australia). The magazine also posted a 2.3% readership increase and 19% year-on-year increase in advertising volume (Nielsen AdEx).

"Arguably the most successful multimedia brand in the country, Better Homes and Gardens has enviable reach via its TV program on the Seven Network, its website through Yahoo!7 and its radio program," says the AMA. "With advertisers increasingly seeking cross-platform opportunities, Better Homes and Gardens is well positioned to continue its success in the future."

In a category that "relies heavily on strong covers to tempt readers", News Magazines' Delicious stood out in the Food and Entertainment category for its "stellar food photography with strong layout and design" as well as its canny use of celebrity foodies Jamie Oliver and Matt Preston "in a year that saw interest in cooking intensify, thanks partly to the success of TV programs such as MasterChef."

Pacific Magazines' Women's Health won the Health and Family category award for its "smooth transition between the lifestyle and health categories and its consistently strong cover design and editorial content" in addition to healthy circulation data.

After a tumultuous year, which saw a controversial change of editor, The Australian Women's Weekly, now in its 75th year in print, won the Mass Women's category title, beating New Idea, Take 5, That's Life and Woman's Day. Despite experiencing a circulation decline (-7% year-on-year as at June), the nation's number one selling glossy still "boasts the most powerful front cover in its category" and a "breadth of content and value for money".

Marie Claire won the Woman's Fashion award for its "strong balance of editorial and well-shot fashion features, delivered with consistency", as well as a half-yearly circulation increase and use of cutting-edge content delivery technology, despite a 10.6% fall in advertising volume (the glossy still boasts more ads than the other finalists in the category, including InStyle, Madison and Vogue).

"Consistency and clarity of focus" got ACP's Shop Til You Drop over the Women's Lifestyle category line in first place. The judges applauded the title's "clear point of difference and focus on delivering exactly what it promises readers." Mid-year circulation growth of 7.7% also stood Shop apart in a category including Cosmopolitan and OK!, which made only nominal gains. Fellow finalist Who lost sales, while the judges felt Famous' record 20% jump was "assisted by a sizeable drop in cover price."

However, this week's rather fortuitous back-from-the-brink assessment of Famous on GWAS has been matched by the magazine's 'U Turn of the Year' AMA award. "In 2008 Pacific Magazines was faced with plummeting circulation for Famous," says the AMA. "Gereurd Roberts was appointed as editor-in-chief in May 2008, charged with reinvigorating the magazine, and national advertising manager Laura Kleiman came on board in October. Just over 12 months ago, Famous updated and refreshed its editorial and cut its cover price by $1 to $3.50, which has helped drive an overall increase in sales for the celebrity weekly magazine market."

The BBC/ACP collaborative effort Top Gear, which was credited with "raising the bar in the motoring category", took out the Launch of the Year award, beating out Grazia and Good Food. Dolly was awarded the Youth/Kids top gong for being "a good all round package with consistently strong front covers", as well as a healthy June 2009 circulation gain of 4.1%. "Dolly is not just a print product," according to the AMA's assessment. "ACP Magazines has created a strong multimedia brand in Dolly over the past year, creating added value for advertisers. It delivers up-to-date editorial, video content and a What's On guide for readers of its website, which is housed under the Ninemsn portal." The judges also made note of Dolly's interactive advertorial 'Wish List' and airbrush-free June issue /Heart Your Body campaign.

In the Newspaper Inserted Magazine category, The Age (Melbourne) Magazine came out on top, standing apart from the competition for its "strong imagery and flair for features" and "a balanced package of trends, food, people, shopping, fashion and entertainment", in addition to an impressive 9.9% year-on-year rise in readership in the June Roy Morgan survey.

See the full list of winners at Ad News today. Congratulations to all of them on a job well done in a tough year.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel