I don’t know a lot about fashion magazines, but according to Dodai Stewart of Jezebel, Vogue Italia (Italian Vogue) is known as the “fashiony-est fashion magazine in the world.” Which is why their choice to include three “plus-size” fashion models on the cover of their latest issue is being heralded as a groundbreaking step for the fashion industry in its attempts to widen the scope of the “beauty” it celebrates. The June issue shows “plus-size” models Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine and Robyn Lawley posing, lingerie-clad, over a table full of food. Apparently, it’s been ten years since Vogue Italia featured a model over size 8 on its cover.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani, recently said in an interview, “We help [plus-size women] dress fashionably. We say: It’s pointless for you to buy leggings, take this because this will look good on you. We help them choose. We don’t talk about diets because they don’t want to be on a diet, but it’s not a ghetto. Why should these women slim down? Many of the women who have a few extra kilos are especially beautiful and also more feminine.”
She was also the guiding force behind Vogue Italia’s “all black” issue in 2008, and earlier this year, launched a petition against pro-anorexia websites. Dodai says that this is proof that Sozzani is “eager to embrace diversity,” but both issues seem like fairly clumsy attempts at diversity to me.
In a great post for Chicology, Lauren Caruso writes, “I know I should be happy to see these women confidently posed on a major cover, but perhaps dedicating an entire issue to the matter is a slightly off-putting move by Sozzani, as it only draws attention to the fact that they’re different.” And the fact is, although the women in the magazine are certainly beautiful, labeling them as “plus-size” simply highlights the fact that they deviate from a norm.
Considering the fact that these women’s bodies look an awful lot like mine, it’s not entirely encouraging to see models labeled “plus-size” on the covers of magazines, because even if it’s a breakthrough to have them there, their presence is accompanied by a reminder that they are out of the ordinary. Even though, compared to ordinary women, they are entirely normal.
And Sozzani’s comments are also troubling for a variety of reasons. Women shouldn’t have to be “feminine” to make it onto the covers of fashion magazines, and maybe the fact that Sozzani sees women above a size 4 as possessing “extra” kilos is exactly the problem. It’s also bizarre that the women in the magazine are posing in lingerie, despite Sozzani’s claim that fashion magazines show “plus-size” women how to dress. This seems just to show women how to pose sexily on pianos, not wear fashionable clothes.
And for goodness’ sake – why do the women need to be posed next to food? As Dodai points out, “[it] seems like we’re getting to a place where straight-size models are hired to wear clothes and plus-size models are hired to take them off.” And the presence of the food seems to indicate that “plus-size” models just want to eat.
This is not to say that it isn’t wonderful to see normal-sized women on the covers of fashion magazines, because it is. But it’s important to continue to critique the fashion industry, especially since Vogue Italia’s covers are still by no means perfect.
Photo from Pinksherbet's Flickr photostream.