The obvious fact is that very, very few women who are not size 0 or 2 have their picture taken for high-end fashion magazines. This is a serious problem. If you are an average-size American woman (or a woman of any nationality), it might be very tough for you to find anyone in fashion magazines who might look at least a little bit like you. This is not just a size issue, but it is also a question of race, level of income, and age. The general state of affairs is that fashion is very exclusive, and it sometimes seems to be the sole right of white, rich, young, thin women, or at least that's what it looks like when you read fashion magazines.
There have been some vague attempts to narrow the gap: Vogue Italia's Black issue was mostly a success some years ago, and generally speaking people tend to applaud casting directors when they choose women of different ages, ethnicities and body types to strut the catwalk. It is, then, welcome news that people within the fashion industry at least occasionally raise questions about whom fashion serves and whom it leaves out. This time, Vogue Italia has dedicated their new issue to curves. (And yes, it is called Vogue Curvy.) My first thought was that it is about time we hear what curvy women have to say about fashion. But looking at the editorial photos taken by Steven Meisel, they don't really say anything. They prance around half-naked and have a nice meal in a fancy restaurant without their clothes on.The second obvious fact is that women in our society are having to deal with the over-sexualized, over-eroticized, over-objectified characterization of women on a daily basis. Most women on TV, in movies and magazines are passive and pretty, not too opinionated, they wear revealing clothes and talk about their need to find Prince Charming. (A career woman has to talk like a man and wear trouser suits in order to be taken seriously.) Women in high fashion magazines are shown in weird fantasy settings and in odd, sometimes sexually provocative positions, but unlike in more commercial settings like the Victoria's Secret catalogue, they usually get to keep their clothes on. Unless, that is, you happen to be a model with curves. Then she gets to undress for us.
I have a serious problem with the fact that that Vogue Italia decided to portray these curvy women posing legs wide open, straddling a chair, and their butts up in the air. If Steven Meisel's idea was to shoot the sad reality of these beautiful women not being able to fit into sample sizes, he succeeded. But somehow I have a feeling that he took the easy way out and decided to depict women with curves in the way that men everywhere are used to seeing them: they are sex objects first, women second, and I don't even know what third. I am so disturbed by the overly sexed up portrayal of curves here that there isn't a bone in my bony body that feels happy that a high-fashion magazine in showing us something else than the usual size 0 16-year old. Am I overreacting? I don't know. I am just so fed up with seeing women portrayed in completely irrational, male-sexual-fantasy-driven settings, especially now, since the issue of the exclusive nature of fashion vis-a-vis women is real. Women of different shapes and sizes need to be heard, not put in demeaning positions as if they were posing for freakin' Playboy. And here I'll just throw my hands up in the air and say "COME ON! It's a fashion magazine, for ****'s sake! Where are the clothes?!"
What do you think? Is any imagery of curvy women a step in the right direction? Why do curvy women need their own magazine issue rather than for them to be included in the general framework of fashion? When are we going to stop portraying women as sex objects?
Pictures from Vogue Curvy