View Full Version : Why We Need MODE Again

10th April 2006, 14:51
There are of course many reasons why we need a magazine like MODE in its heydey--the brilliant photography of plus-sized models, the celebratory writing about the good life and the pleasure zone, and the focus on clothes that beautifully enhanced femininity instead of being just bland and utilitarian.

But most of all, MODE was revolutionary because of the courage of its editors and writers who asserted that "beauty begins at 12, 14, 16....", an attitude that is lamentably lacking and often under attack in the mainstream press. This thought occurred to me today when I came across an article linked to JK Rowling's criticism of emaciated models in the UK online edition of The Independent entitled "Toothpick Models: Fashionistas Fight Back" (http://news.independent.co.uk/media/article356661.ece).

The former editor of Marie Claire criticised fashion magazines for promoting emaciated waif models in climate she describes as "the dictatorship of thinness." Unfortunately, other editors refused to take responsibility for the issue, claiming there is no link between the models and disordered eating among young women or not wanting to speak of the matter at all.

Toothpick models: the fashionistas fight back
Mag editors are under fire for promoting thinness. And they're not having it
By Katy Guest
Published: 09 April 2006

Fashion editors bared their expensively maintained teeth and bit back yesterday after the former Marie Claire editor Liz Jones criticised glossy magazines for promoting images of emaciated models to vulnerable girls.

Following similar comments by the author J K Rowling, Ms Jones, who has struggled with an eating disorder, targeted editors of such fashion magazines as Vogue, Elle and Glamour. "Unless they promote women as toothpicks, they will lose their chauffeur-driven jobs and front-row seats at fashion shows," she wrote. "[Designers] want you to believe that you are not beautiful enough or young enough or thin enough, and they do that by draping cadaverous 16-year-olds across double-page spreads so you will feel so wretched that you will have to buy their products to make yourself feel better."

Although it's good that an editor speaks out against the waif syndrome, it would be even better to have a MODE-like magazine on the market again, bringing back its positive message of timeless beauty in contemporary settings and showing women of all ages that it's more desirable to enjoy life than to waste time in the endless loop of self-deprivation and obsession.

25th April 2006, 21:01
"[Designers] want you to believe that you are not beautiful enough or young enough or thin enough, and they do that by draping cadaverous 16-year-olds across double-page spreads so you will feel so wretched that you will have to buy their products to make yourself feel better."
It's wonderful to have a former editor such as Ms. Jones contribute her thoughts on this matter, and to upbraid the fashion industry for its thin-supremacist mindset. However, her statement--which is representative of a great deal of fashion-industry criticism--is misguided and misleading. It implies that the prime concern of designers is (1) to sell their wares, and (2) to do so by making women feel dissatisfied with their non-cadaverous figures, so that they purchase apparel in order to alter their self-image.

The truth is somewhat different.

1. The primary goal of designers is to create what <i>they</i> regard as satisfying designs--satisfying to themselves, that is. For most of the 20th century, these designs were androgynous and ugly, whereas more recently, the New Femininity has ushered in a wave of fashions that are sometimes quite attractive. But the point is that for the designers, the designs come first. The customer is secondary.

2. Ms. Jones's statement implies that designers have women with non-cadaverous figures in mind at all. They don't. Their focus is exclusively on women who <i>do</i> have cadaverous figures. The industry is not designed to make the non-cadaverous feel bad about themselves. (That is only incidental.) It is designed to make the cadaverous feel <i>good</i> about themselves.

The distinction is crucial. The high-street fashion industry works by making underweight women think that they are beautiful--and that they can be even <i>more</i> beautiful wearing the designs' clothing. And this is not surprising. Ultimately, telling potential customers, <i>"You're hot,"</i> is a much better selling strategy than telling them, <i>"You're ugly."</i>

Therefore, what the plus-size fashion industry needs to do is to direct the same message at its own customers that the androgyny-oriented, cadaver-worshipping designers direct at theirs. It needs to create magazines, ad campaigns, TV promotions, etc., all showcasing appealing, feminine, curve-enhancing clothing on models who are genuinely full-figured, <i>and</i> ideally gorgeous. It needs to create a fantasy that is just as compelling and irresistible to curvy women as the straight-size industry fantasy is to underweight women.

The solution to the dilemma that Ms. Jones inaccurately describes is to revise her statement as follows, and for the plus-size industry to adopt this as its mantra:<p><blockquote><i>"[Plus-size designers] want you to believe that you <i>are</i> beautiful enough, and shapely enough, and they do that by draping size-16 models across double-page spreads so you will feel so elated that you will want to buy their products, and make yourself feel even better."</i></blockquote><p>We aren't there yet--but hopefully, we soon will be.

Sensual yet chic new test image of Barbara Brickner--with deep decolletage, a voluptuously free hairstyle, and a figure-embracing top, this is a shining example of "<i>Mode</i> meets the New Femininity":<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/bb/test01.jpg"></center>