Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Underage, Underweight — No Longer in Vogue?

I watch my tween daughter devour her Seventeen magazines and I shake my head. I would so much rather she was reading Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë or Charles Dickens. Of course, reading anything is still better than trolling through YouTube, but still ...

Then again, who am I to judge? I'm already looking forward to a certain personal ritual come August. Each year, I play hooky from my life for one glorious afternoon. I lie out on our patio with a tall iced coffee and leisurely thumb my way through the entire September issue of Vogue.

My husband chuckles as he refills my drink and tiptoes around me doing yard work. He clearly understands that this particular private party is not one to which he is invited.

I started my love affair with the September issue back in college. Since then, it's been a tradition of mine. Even years when I couldn't afford an annual subscription, I still scrimped up the money for that mother-of-all-issues. (Honestly, the thing is 900 pages and must weigh five pounds!) But, this year I may just feel a little less guilty about my guilty little pleasure. Because Vogue is finally, finally (finally, finally) taking a stand on a major issue that the esteemed publication helped create.

The utterly impossible ideal of the hipless, breastless woman.

In the world of fashion publishing, what Vogue says goes. It's either their way or the highway. So, when they feature emaciated pre-adolescent models, all the other magazines follow suit. Last year, Vogue Paris was criticized for sexing up and shooting a ten-year old model (not just here, but in larger, louder publications). 

Guess what? Heroin chic is not so chic. Real women have boobs and butts. And, you'd think with all the money those models were making, they could afford a Big Mac once in a while.

This month,Vogue publicly announced that it would no longer promote the use of sexless, skeletal models. It's a move that all moms of tween and teen girls should be supporting. Anorexia nervosa, a serious, often permanent mental illness and the leading killer of young women ages 15-24, is absolutely linked to our culture's never ending pressure to be thin.

Here is what Vogue has vowed:

1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.

2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.

3. We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.

4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.

5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.

6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.


Not sure exactly how the good folks at Vogue are going to achieve number five without putting major pressure on the fashion industry. If the sample sizes are zeros, the models have to be that big (or rather that tiny) too. Just try stuffing any well-fed adult into those clothes!

Will Vogue stand by their new stand? After all, past issues that promised fashion for "any body" have been laughably lacking in largesse. I applaud the gesture, but I'll have to wait and see if the editors and art directors really follow through.

It ain't over 'till the fat lady poses.


  1. I think we all need to support them IF they actually do this. If not, we all need to stop buying the magazines. My 13 year old daughter asked me to cancel her subscriptions to two teen magazines because she said that they only made her feel badly about her (seriously curvy) body and (normally sized) boobs! Kudos to Vogue, so long as they actually follow through.

    1. The real kudos go to your daughter for having some very mature insight about how images make us feel!