Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Haute hypocrisy

We can all agree that a photo, in Vogue, of a model strutting down the catwalk is an example of high fashion. How about a shot of that same model having cigarette #50 of 500 that day, following the show, on a side-street nearby? Apparently models shot out of context count as "real people." A Newsweek article documenting the growing popularity of "real people" as opposed to the robots we are used to begins with a discussion of Scott Schuman, whose blog, The Sartorialist, is leading the way in this new trend. Real people, it seems, live only in New York, Milan, Paris, or Stockholm, and only in trendy/wealthy neighborhoods of those cities. Real people include French women who look like all other French women (or Parisian, at any rate) and thus are meant to elicit awe from us lowly American women who are so pathetic as not to be French. Other real people one might discover are children of Jane Birkin, men attending fashion shows, women with way more money than everyone else, women with more glamorous lifestyles than everyone else, and, of course, models, or those rejected from modeling agencies on account of being too skinny.

There's nothing odd about any of this. The beautiful, urban, and rich are more fashionable than everyone else, because they are the ones setting the standard. Circular much? An exceptionally well-put-together outfit from Abercrombie and Fitch, or a larger woman in plus-size Prada, will not make the cut. If it's true that "the trend of using real people to sell clothes attests to a fatigue with skinny, expressionless models in ads and on runways," the response, it seems, is photos of skinny models in their spare time. A more 'natural' look, for sure, but not in the way the Newsweek piece seems to suggest. At least with Vogue there's no pretense of the shots being anything but fantasy.

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