Lucky: You Only Need a Small Fortune to be Stylish

It’s no secret that fashion magazines consistently demonstrate a less-than-realistic relationship between money and fashion. Clothes as “investment pieces,” anyone? But the February issue of Lucky takes the class war cognitive dissonance to new lows, starting right on the cover. Take a look at the top left and top right cover lines:

Zoe Saldana, Lucky, February 2014

So cover model Zoe Saldana won’t specify a minimum budget for class, but Lucky sure will. And $500? I don’t know what Conde Nast is paying their editors these days, but bulletin to 4 Times Square: that is a whole lot of money. Sure, there are plenty of people in the world who can drop that kind of cash on their clothes, and after today I might try to figure out how to be one of them! But framing $500 like it’s the bare minimum to be well-dressed is a calculated move to perpetuate the value of luxury brands and their sweet, sweet advertising dollars, and worse, it’s a blatant lie.

Nonetheless, let’s take a look inside! Check out page 47, where the mag fawns over the “surprisingly affordable” line Clover Canyon. A clothing line inspired by the design work of John Lautner and Charles and Ray Eames? Sure, I’m in. Let’s take a look at the fine print and…insert record-scratch noise here. This is what Lucky deems “surprisingly affordable”: a $185 crop top, a $206 sweatshirt, a $237 blouse, and pants for the low, low price of $295. Were these clothes actually made by long-dead Lautner and the Eameses? Because unless they were handcrafted via a portal from the spirit world, there’s no way these are accessibly priced, let alone “surprisingly” so. Ghost labor is super expensive, you guys.

Later, on page 87, stylist Catherine Newell-Hanson declares, “The fact that such beautifully cut, just-right pieces all exist within this price point is concrete proof that looking put-together does not require a huge budget.” [emphasis mine] Within this price point? Like, what does this woman think 99% of the world does for clothing? Quick! Let me cover myself with the $495 fur scarf on page 88!

But probably the worst part of this whole issue—I mean, other than the astoundingly privileged premise that it’s possible to clothe yourself even if you’re only a little bit rich—is that Lucky included one item in the issue that, at $1,450, is nearly three times the $500 price limit.

This was no oversight. See, the item in question, a tiny $1,450 metallic Chanel bag, was included intentionally. The model on page 89 is sporting it as a necklace—because, you know, why should an accessory that costs as much as your rent be functional? In her editor’s letter, Eva Chen quotes the fashion editor who found the bag: “The price is irrelevant, because it’s the best bag ever.” Good news, everyone! If you find something you love, the PRICE IS IRRELEVANT. Great advice, Lucky. That attitude is only a) a fast track to financial ruin and b) a fundamental misunderstanding about how bank accounts, credit limits, and the retail industry work. Yay!

Anyway, Chen goes on about how this bag is so versatile it could be worn constantly and it’s the greatest thing ever and basically it cures cancer and ends racism, and then quotes the fashion editor again: “Every woman needs a little Chanel in her life. Chanel is the dream.”

So $500 is the baseline, and Chanel—whatever it costs—is the dream. Just like that, the unaffordability bar has been raised! How much does perspective cost? I hope it’s under $500, because Lucky needs a closet full of it.

Redbook Loves Kristen Bell’s Post-Baby Body, Hates Your Post-Baby Body

Earlier this summer, I started picking up Redbook. What? I know. Seems I’ve developed a small but heretofore nonexistent redbook_kristenbell_september2013interest in reading magazines that don’t actively make me feel bad about myself. Redbook is a little heavy on the motherhood and cooking content for my taste. But it’s packed with fashion and home décor that I could walk out the door and buy right now, because most of the items it features are affordable, cute, and from the Gap, not Givenchy. I’ll happily fork over $3.99 for that.

So I was intrigued a few weeks ago when I came across an essay on the Huffington Post by Redbook‘s editor-in-chief, Jill Herzig. In long-hallowed ladymag tradition, Herzig is rapturous with self-congratulatory praise for doing the unthinkable, something that has never been done: featuring an actress on a magazine cover before she’s lost all her baby weight!

The actress in question is Kristen Bell, and lest you get too excited, we’re talking about an extra 15 pounds eleven weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Lincoln. It’s not like Bell threw on some sweats and drove to the photo shoot straight out of the hospital. But here’s how Herzig explained it:

How did we get to this ridiculous place, where losing the baby weight is a competitive sport followed by millions? Magazines certainly haven’t helped…

You think?

As the editor of Redbook, I’ll admit I’ve sometimes been part of the problem. But I’m proud of our September cover featuring Kristen Bell…she is comfortable, clear-eyed, and lovely. She is also, by her estimation, 15 pounds away from her pre-pregnancy weight.

Weird, I’d expect someone a whopping 15 pounds over her pre-pregnancy weight to be massively uncomfortable, bleary-eyed, and totally hideous! I get what Herzig is doing here, but it’s super condescending to note that a woman who 15 pounds over her normal weight–though probably not even 15 pounds overweight because, you know, Hollywood–can still be beautiful and comfortable with herself. Welcome to the real world, Jill! Some of us manage to leave the house and function in the world while simultaneously being more than 15 pounds overweight every single day!

Full disclosure: we moved this cover from August to September when Lincoln was born a little later than expected. I counted the weeks to our cover shoot and rescheduled to give Kristen more time. I didn’t want Redbook to be part of the media meat grinder that pressures a new mother to torch off the weight…

Rampant speculation on my part, but I’m not convinced that Redbook was behind the date change, especially if the shoot was rescheduled because of an unexpected change in Bell’s due date. However, I am convinced that moving the shoot by what could only have been a few weeks was in no way as generous and significant as Herzig would have you believe, and that, if anything, the rescheduling was motivated by simple logistics and not pure Glinda-the-good-witch wishes for Bell’s wellbeing.

Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, after reading this, I was eager to see the actual article, so given my newfound lack of distaste for Redbook, I picked up the issue when it hit newsstands. First: Kristen Bell does look great–and, if not for Herzig’s warning that Bell is packing an extra 15 pounds, I doubt anyone except, like, Bell’s own trainer would have noticed. But for those of us not familiar enough with Bell’s typical body to pick out all her new fat deposits, the mag helpfully spells it all out for us!

…Bell walks into a Hollywood studio, her petite 5-foot-1 inch frame weighed down by a bag filled with new-mom essentials: breast pump, sterilized bottles, insulated storage pack, and what she calls her “compression garments.” Those would be the industrial-strength Spanx that help camouflage the last bit of pregnancy weight. The 33-year-old wiggles into one for her Redbook photo shoot and confesses that they were a vital part of her wardrobe a week earlier, when she hosted the televised CMT Awards.

Wow, Redbook, soooo body-positive to immediately throw all the emphasis not on Bell or the baby, but on the restrictive undergarments she wears to look slimmer on camera.

The intro aside, the article quotes Bell talking about her body and her pregnancy weight gain in a way that sounds not just celebrity-adjusted but normal person-adjusted, and Redbook portrays her attitude positively. That’s great! What’s not so great is what happens after Bell refers to Heidi Klum and her body that magically retracts post-childbirth as “alien,” and starts talking about her own weight loss:

Comparison is one long, agonizing death and does not interest me at all. But I’m a healthy eater. [For tips from top nutritionists, see page 104.]

Kind of intrusive to bust in with a promo there, right? Especially when page 104 is not about healthy eating, per se, but is headlined “4 Ways to Lose Faster”? Hello, mixed message! Hello, conflation of eating well with dieting! Hello, reminder of what Redbook really thinks is important!

And at the top of the facing page, a graphic callout urges you to turn the page:

See how celebs lose weight the healthy way!

So when you do turn, you get the nutritionists’ diet tips, an “ab move [that] works better than Spanx” (but is it better than compression garments?), and “The Hungry Girl lunch planner.” Sigh. Nutrition is great! Exercise is great! But does Herzig really not see how her magazine is undermining both Kristen Bell and its own narrative when it focuses so relentlessly on weight loss?

In the Huffington Post article, Herzig calls out British tabloid OK! for its overbearing scrutiny of Kate Middleton’s post-baby body. While Redbook isn’t scorning Bell on its cover, I would argue that what it’s doing is just as bad–if not worse–because it’s far more insidious. It’s easy to dismiss blatant tabloid cruelty; it’s not as easy to spot, much less ignore, the deliberate conflation of body acceptance with 75-calorie cookies and exercises meant to imitate the effect of a torturously uncomfortable undergarment.

It’s wonderful that Redbook was excited to feature Bell, and to do so briefly after she gave birth. But next time they feature someone with an atypical magazine-cover body, I hope they’ll spend less time congratulating themselves about it and more time promoting better body image among their own readership.

The Seventh Annual Vogue Liveblog

Good morning, and welcome to the seventh annual September Vogue liveblog! I’ve been derelict as a blogger this year, but I hope subjecting myself to 902 pages of Vogue in one sitting counts as atonement. Have mercy on me, blogging deities! vogue_sept13_jenniferlawrence

First, the rules: I have not opened this issue. I have not read any of its contents online. I didn’t click a single one of the approximately 465 links to the Marissa Mayer article that showed up in my Twitter timeline. I am seeing everything except the cover for the first time live! Refresh to see updates, or if your life for some totally invalid reason involves activities other than reloading this page for the next nine hours, I’ll be tweeting, too, with the hashtag #vogueliveblog.

Take it away, Wintour!

Continue reading