Vogue’s Age(less) issue is a complete let-down

Vogue’s August 2008 edition, aimed at women of all ages, is a big fat disappointment.

Well I promised the other day that I would review the 2008 Age(less) issue of US Vogue, so here goes. 

It is a big fat disappointment.

I have always had a lot of respect for Anna Wintour. Although I don’t think she’s a woman I’d like to work for, she’s always been very directional and keen to support new talent, but I’m starting to think lately that she’s lost the plot. 

A quick flick through the August issue shows the same old names cropping up again and again – and many of them are personal friends of Wintour and her chum Plum Sykes. It looks to me like these women need to get out more and find out what’s really happening in the world, rather than reviewing the same old coterie of friends issue after issue.

For instance, there’s Kate Moss on the cover (again), and an unreadable interview inside, which is meant to represent women in their 30s. However, in truth it’s designed solely to plug Moss’s new business and is only in there because she’s a mate of the editor’s. Shame on them – this is crappy Tatleresque pseudojournalism of the worst sort.

Also, Moss may be a beautiful woman even in spite of the bird’s nest hairdo she’s been given here, but I’ve never read any interview with her that showed her as anything more than a self-obsessed, coke-fuelled tart.

"Kate Moss…is over airports," Sykes tells us. "She’s saving up for a private jet. ‘I’m going to call it the Kate Express,’ she informs me, perched on a modernist white armchair in the black-lacquered sixth-floor London office suite of Topshop owner Sir Phillip Green. She’s sipping tea from a black Limoges teacup…"

Well excuse me, but what bloody awful writing. It sounds like a parody for God’s sake – how many names can Sykes manage to drop in one sentence? And far too many adjectives, dearie…

The fashion photo shoots aren’t much better. There’s one on textured skirt suits, for instance (with Amber Valletta looking like an alien). The textured skirt suit is a garment that Vogue claims suits all women over 40. No it DOESN’T! Textured suits add an horrendous amount of bulk to a frame, and most of us can’t tolerate that in our 40s and 50s, when the average woman gains 20 pounds. Hit your 60s and you tend to thin out again, but even so, I’d never recommend wearing texture on both halves of the body unless you want to look as wide as the Hoover Dam. The Marc Jacobs double-breasted vomit-green wool and alpaca jacket featured is particularly nasty and near-enough guaranteed to make any woman with boobs look like a menopausal Tory councillor. Just the look I want…

The other major photo spread is on androgynous fashion, shot on Giselle Bundchen. And on her, of course, it looks pretty good. Actually, come to think of it, even on her it doesn’t look pretty good. But if we were all 5ft 10 with a BMI of 17 and no tits, we might have more chance of dressing as blokes and looking fetching.

But the truth is, androgyne looks good on virtually no-one and even then, you need to be under 40 – as you get older and less ‘soft’ in the face, all it does is make you look butch. Devoting 10 pages to it in an issue aimed at older women strikes me as plain daft. In contrast, there is a teeny weeny little piece on ‘le smoking’ showing how women of all ages can look great in a well-cut, female-designed trousersuit. Thank God for St Laurent, who understood what the female body was all about.

I took issue with the article on John McCain’s mother too (representing women in their 90s), but not because it was badly written (it wasn’t) but only because I thought she was a fascist bitch, no matter how well she dresses.

Madame Chiang Kai Shek, the Shah of Iran and Lord Mountbatten were all good people who were misunderstood, according to her. What a bunch to have to dinner, ye gods – one man who attempted the military overthrow of a legally-elected government and two others who were responsible, between them, for the imprisonment, death and torture of thousands. It is such a shame, as I’d wanted to like her. 

The shots of Chrissy Evert (representing women in their 50s) are quite nice – she looks great in her white trousersuit. But I know she’s been heavily airbrushed because she was all over UK television back in July when Wimbledon was on and in real life she looks a lot more raddled than this. This is fine – it’s the price you pay for spending most of your life in the sun, playing a sport that has also given her an enviable physique. It’s just a shame they felt the need to do it.

Representing the 70-year-olds, Diahann Carroll – a sassy woman if ever there was one – is shown wearing the kind of wrapover white tie-side blouse that EVERY woman over 30 should have in her wardrobe. Coupled with what looks like black pants or a skirt and a diamond necklace (I have an identical one, but it’s fake), she looks fabulous.  

Mia Farrow, representing the 60-year-olds, comes across as an extremely commendable person. But by this time I’d begun to notice that these articles had very little in them about personal style, which is what they dealt with last year. It is great to have in-depth interviews with interesting women, and there’s not enough of it in general, but Vogue is primarily meant to be a fashion magazine, is it not? Nevertheless it was a good read, like most of the personality articles, and I liked Farrow more after it than before. 

For women in their 80s, Vogue hit on food writer Betty Fussell. Here, we do actually get an article on personal style, and Fussell is exactly how I’d like to both be and look at her age – no-nonsense, commanding face, wonderful elegant sleek clothes for country living. But we’ll never know who those clothes are by, because the main picture (of Fussell holding a goat) isn’t captioned.

What the hell is going on here? It’s not like Vogue just forgot, because the jewellery’s listed (some of it Navaho style, which is a weakness of mine). But what I really wanted to know was where Fussell got her toffee-coloured suede skirt and fabulous leather-collared zip-and-popper duster coat. Not a mention of this in the ‘In This Issue’.  

Then I turned to the beauty features, and here’s where the issue really tanked completely, leaving me so annoyed that I really wonder whether I will even bother buying the magazine again. As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I am (fervently) against cosmetic surgery, which I consider to be an assault on the body in pursuit of mere vanity. But Vogue has really taken the biscuit this time.

Nothing AT ALL to speak of in this issue on makeup or skincare (an interview with a makeup artist and a mention of a high-end spa is all). Nothing even on anti-ageing creams (which I’m frankly dubious about too, the skin being a giant lung). But three articles on invasive procedures: the running tweaks that any stylish woman – apparently – ‘must’ have, including having your nostrils fettled; an article on armpit surgery; and another one on knees. Not joints, or ageing cartilege, or any other important structural surgery, you understand – surgery on knee WRINKLES. 

Well, I dunno. I know I get on my high horse about this sort of thing and a woman’s entitled to spend her money on what she wants, but I can’t help thinking that if you’re worried about your droopy nostrils and the wrinkles in your knees and armpits, you have WAY too much free time. Get a life, for fuck’s sake.  

Speaking of knees, I couldn’t help but notice the fetishtically high shoes worn by all the Vogue assistants in their 20s, featured in the back of the mag. Ugly shoes, all of them, that place a woman’s foot virtually on point. Well, let us hope that we are all hale and hearty in our 60s, because if our daughters wear shoes like this, we’re quite likely to be pushing them around in wheelchairs after their knees and backs have collapsed under the strain.  

As a final, small point. One cover line says: ‘Vogue’s guide to looking amazing at every decade, on any budget…’. Well, let’s not kid ourselves – the budget thing is an outright lie. I have no problem with that in Vogue, but really, please don’t fib about it.  

To sum up – a poor issue, could do better. Really, I’d give it zero stars were it not for the nice photos in the Tonne Goodman/Grace Coddington pieces, the personality interviews aforementioned, and another couple of good articles – one on eco-warrior Sloan Barnett and another, quite moving piece by Andre Leon Talley in memoriam of Yves St Laurent. The rest of it, I’ll be using to line the cats’ litter tray.  

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