Another Perspective on V Magazine and Size Diversity

December 29, 2009

V Magazine Every Body in Beautiful Issue January 2009

When I first heard about the V Magazine spread, I could not help but be excited: A high fashion magazine was embracing size diversity. The preview of the editorial was released, and I was even more excited because the editors and stylists had not played it safe – Crystal Renn, the size 12 model, was not styled in a drab or safe manner, but with the same high fashion clothes, glamour and artistry as the size two model. She was shown in patterns, body conscious fashions, and loads of accessories.

When Kate Harding interviewed me on the spread for salon.com, I explained (as I had in my previous blog post on this topic) that these two facts – Crystal was in a high fashion magazine and was styled in a high fashion convention – was progress. I also explained that we live in two separate worlds: fashion and humankind. When real people who aren’t in the industry talk about it, they often have to jump into a funhouse and realize they’re entering a completely distorted world.

But I told Kate I did see what she saw, that Crystal’s size had been cut down. I saw it as someone going on a photoshop binge, especially compared to Crystal’s beautiful spread in Harper’s Baazar Australia where her natural body and beauty was celebrated. But I thought it was great that she could be photographed in such a variety of styles, as V and Harper’s creative visions were very different. But the reality of the V spread could not escape me. Why did Crystal not look like her usual voluptuous self? Even more, why did using plus size models require a special issue?

Sarah Kliff in Newsweek echoed my discomfort. She argues that whether Renn has lost weight or V editors went photoshop crazy, neither of these fit particularly well into the everyone-is-beautiful ideals that V is promoting. Sarah also suggests that running a special issue to feature larger women declares that this is not the norm, these are not regular models and, next month, they will return to what is the norm. For her, it proves that fat has yet to become fashionable.

I certainly agree with Sarah, but I still argue that this V Magazine issue is a revolution. But no longer because it features plus size models or because they are styled in a high fashion manner. V is a revolution because it has created dialogue and debate about what we want to see and how we want to see it. Remember it is also a first attempt. When Mark Fast used plus models in his London show, they did not have the proper undergarments or walk, and were heavily critiqued for both. But when William Tempest and Sunny Fong used plus models after Mark, no critique. Both had learned from his first effort.

As fashion endeavors to incorporate diversity, it will make mistakes. It is our job, as readers, consumers and change agents, to voice our thoughts and ideas because, only by doing so, will we shape the industry we really want to see. So next time, let’s see a size 16 or 18, some age and cultural variety, and less photoshop.

Crystal Renn in Harper’s Baazar Australia May 2009 (an outtake with absolutely no retouching)

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4 Responses to “Another Perspective on V Magazine and Size Diversity”

  1. Kim Says:

    I agree Ben. I think it’s fantastic. The spreads message is that anybody can be in high fashion no matter what size, anybody of any size can be photoshopped to fit the magazine criteria. This is the thing though, this is part of the fantasy of high fashion magazines.

    I’m not sure if the issue is on photoshopping more on that women of all sizes can embrace fashion that skinner women embrace as well.

    This is a difficult issue for me to understand as where I come from (Nigeria), women of all sizes are embraced and work the latest fashion trends like you wouldn’t believe despite size. The photoshop thing to me is a part of how it goes, I saw a make up artist from Nigeria use women of all sizes but make up was photoshopped to look “flawless” because that is what the make up is supposed to do but only on certain areas and figures were kept the same. I understand though when it comes down to misshaping people it becomes another issue.

    It saddens me though that body issue is such a problem in the Western World.I have just started reading Fashioning Reality.


  2. I was the first blogger of that outtake from Renn’s Harper’s Bazaar shoot at the time of my discovery of it on Luis Sanchez’s website there was no supplementary information as to whether it was retouched. It is possible, given the overexposure over the face and chest that contrast has been added to enhance the shadowing on the thighs.

    The never-spoken-about aspect of photoshopping is that it allows models to create a false vision of themselves. In a sense, the photoshop version becomes their ‘self’.

    In a society where every last bit of a model’s body is picked over by client, consumer and critic (see: Gemma Ward), it is no wonder that models fall prey to disordered thinking and eating patterns in an effort to recreate their digitally-prescribed ‘perfection’.

    http://runwayrevolution.com

  3. Makeup DIY Says:

    Hi hun, great blog! I really treasure this blog post.. I was wondering about this for a long time now. This cleared a lot up for me! Do you have a rss feed that I can add?

  4. HlGarden Says:

    Love the newest look. I enjoyed this article. Thanks for the excellent writing.


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