Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Real Beauties?

This is the cover of June edition of Vogue Italy.

The translation of the caption BELLE VERE means REAL BEAUTIES. REAL women come in all shapes and sizes and the bigger, fuller women are rarely represented in the pages of Vogue, let alone on the cover, so this is a positive step. It's not that these women are representative of all women or of bigger women. Really, they are not. But it is a sign that the size of models is not just up for discussion. Some editors, like the editor of Vogue Italy, Franca Sozzani, are willing to take risks and do something different.

I feel angry that putting these women on the cover of a magazine is seen as risky, bold, brave even! I feel sad that despite the fact that they are clearly much larger than the usual models or celebrities who grace Vogue's front cover, they are still a far cry from anything terribly 'real', if by real I mean the average woman. Is there such a thing as an average woman? According to some of the research we did for our book the 'average' size in the UK is a 16, in that sense these women are certainly more representative than their usual models. I could ask questions... Why are these women portrayed as they are, in underwear, with food?... On the inside of the magazine, some of them are topless, nude, the images are definitely sexualised. More than their usual images? I'm not sure since I don't often look at Vogue. Why are they portrayed in this way? Take a look at the rest of the images and see what you think. Despite having many questions I do think this is a good start, I welcome it.

Vogue have always maintained (I have heard the UK editor interviewed several times) that the images they portray in the magazine are aspirational. We mere mortals are not supposed to ever look like the models, we are only supposed to dream about it, to aspire to the unattainable... She accepts that for the vast majority of us the dream that Vogue sells will never be a reality for a myriad of reasons... financial, biological... and reality is not the point of the magazine. If we read it imagining for a moment that we could be those women, the ones with the perfect bodies, flawless make-up, dazzling smiles and masterpiece clothing, we are missing the point. Whether we choose to buy aspirational magazines is up to us. I don't. My aspirations aren't about clothes, body size or handbags (and there's nothing wrong with it if your aspirations do include those things! It's just not the stuff that excites me). And despite not being one of their customers, I'm very glad to see them engaging in the body size debate. This cover sparked an interesting discussion on BBC Woman's Hour. And the more we all talk about it the better.

Thank you Vogue Italy.

More please...

Vogue UK are you going to follow suit? Will we be seeing women like this on the cover soon Anna Wintour?

What do you make of these images? We'd love to hear your views.


  1. These are certainly beautiful women, why they have to be (un)dressed and posed as if they were in a lads mag I don't know. Maybe Vogue couldn't find any designer clothes to fit them, as they are so far from the usual model shape.
    Vogue is meaningless to me anyway, aspirational is one thing but I'm not delusional. I am not that shape, I don't have that money and if I did wouldn't be wasting it on clothes.

  2. I agree that I would prefer to see these women clothed and I think it's awful that magazines think that they are being aspirational in this way - it's actually very destructive to the ego to be presented with images that are so far beyond the reach of any mere mortal woman, that the magazines may as well not bother. I would like magazines (and particularly clothes catalogues) featuring a range of women of different heights, shapes, sizes etc and to throw this idea of being 'aspirational' out of the window - have they actually asked women what they aspire to? I don't aspire to be anything like the 'plastic perfect' women in magazines and I'm not impressed that magazine editors think that's what women want. I have voted with my purse and don't buy any of these magazines; maybe if more women did the same, the magazines would have to re-think their policies ...

  3. In one way a move in the right direction in that they look like women rather than young men!! However how sad that in the 21st century we still have to see women as purely sex objects. Some things seem never to change


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