I was reading the November 2007 edition of US Vogue the other day.
Normally I’m a pretty big fan of American Vogue, which along with American Glamor is the only fashion mag I bother to open these days (excluding the loo reading of the dog-eared women’s mags which circulate in this neighbourhood of broke British ex-pats, usually supplied in packs by somebody’s mum from Blighty).
Vogue, under the leadership of Anna (‘Nuclear’) Wintour kind of makes me laugh, with its ridiculously elitist interviews and fantastically high-priced garments, but it does at least take fashion seriously and its Democratic principles aren’t in doubt – it remains solidly on the side of pro-choice, pro-liberal.
But I’m disappointed with the November issue’s article on wardrobe simplifying – Why less is more.
Damn, I thought, as I read the headline. I should’ve written that. I’m all in favour of a small wardrobe and slow clothes – from the fashion perspective for the sake of efficiency in dressing, and from a political perspective because I’m fundamentally anti-consumerist. But after a promising start with an interview with a woman who’s downsized her wardrobe to just a few (read ‘couple of hundred’) items, it went on to tell you exactly how you ought to jettison everything you’ve currently got for a range of new eco-friendly and socially-aware ‘basics’ – which will, of course, last you a lifetime but which will also, of course, cost you a packet… "an investment, be it a $9 tee or a $1,900 coat that enriches her…life with a degree of self-expression and self-respect".
Well, most of us don’t need to spend $1,900 on a coat to improve our self-respect. Ethical clothing, we are informed, used to make you look like a crazy survivalist, but now that eco-friendly and organic are evidently FASHIONABLE, Vogue is getting (very belatedly) on the bandwagon.
A later article in the same issue covers 7 ‘must-haves’, from teeshirts ($44) to sweatpants ($115). Shirts at over $300? Gimme a break. Hilditch and Key or Thomas Pink will supply you quite readily with a £40 shirt that you can wear for 20 years (though mine came from a second-hand shop, so I feel doubly pleased). The latest ‘basic’ must-have jean has a waist so low that most women’s guts would cast a serious shadow on their gorgeous Repetto ballet flats ($195).
Here we go again. I haven’t got a problem with all this ‘must-have, dahling’ crap, but to dress it up as what it ain’t is a downright lie. The truth is none of us NEEDS more clothes – the average western woman’s wardrobe could probably clothe a small African village. And yes it’s fun to shop. You can see that from the strange glint that appeared in the eye of What Not To Wear victims, who, initially horrified by the descent of Trinny and Susannah, became very meek at the sight of that giant cheque. £2,000 for me? For myself? Oh, heavens… Most women are busy putting their kids, their mortgage, their bills and their husbands before themselves and the chance to splash out on a whole new wardrobe is both pleasurable and liberating, especially when it’s not your money.
But I feel cheated by this issue. At the bottom line, it is not what it pretends to be. It is simply a sneaky and underhand way of advertising Vogue’s favourite designers in the editorial pages. And of persuading women to part with yet more cash, but this time to get all touchy-feely about it, when what they should actually DO if they want to help the third world, or save the whale, is stop buying clothes altogether.