Every year, as a nod to the abnormality of its bony universe, Vogue publishes a shape issue purporting to spotlight non-model bodies for a change. It often feels as perfunctory as it sounds — like alpha-twigs know anything about cellulite? — but this year we dove in with extra curiosity thanks to Anna Wintour’s recent criticism of runway models’ diminishing frames. Would that sentiment bloom into an issue that actually honored real clothing sizes and three-dimensional shapes?
Not so much, apparently. Despite presumably good intentions, the shape issue feels more like Vogue trying to bum a ride on a politically correct bandwagon, and our girl A-Dubs is a particularly lousy hitchhiker. Her editor’s letter boldly blames designers for using scrawny models to present “a non-vivacious, homogenous ideal,” then steps all over that, in its attempt to homogenize zaftig designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte by offering them a free four-month diet and exercise plan — or, as Vogue puts it, “what some might consider a dream proposition.” Sure, some might; others might consider it rude. Vogue claims it wants them to gain “peace of mind and the energy to prosper;” the Mulleavys bluntly say Vogue thought they should lose weight. And though the designers participated — who can say no to Anna? — the fact that Vogue approached them unbidden leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
It further unravels with a piece called “Figuring It Out,” featuring five women grappling with different body types. But rather than include even one who is moderately chubby — or even mildly bloated from last night’s pizza binge — they are instead: thin; tall and thin; short and thin; pregnant but still thin; and “curvy,” which in People-speak would mean Queen Latifah, but in Vogue translates as “thin with boobs.” And though a story on plus-sized singer/actress Jill Scott looks heartening at first, it’s actually a very ordinary shopping piece that could fit in any other Vogue if the editors felt like it; its placement in this issue makes it an oblique commentary on her waistline, as if they’re pretending not to notice while silently screaming, “SEE? We LOVE big people.”
Yet, short of featuring a bacon-cheeseburger on the cover, this is sadly probably the best we can expect from Vogue. It just isn’t in the habit of realism. Because it peddles fashion and fantasy better than anyone, these clumsy attempts to soften up just feel as patronizing and ham-handed as a Very Special Episode of Blossom, but without the hats. So while we’d love to see women of various sizes in the magazine — wearing bizarre $20,000 goat coats like any other model — if it keeps feeling like an act of bored, forced obligation, we’d rather Vogue climbed back on its pedestal and left us to get our feel-good fix from Glamour. And a pizza. —The Fug Girls