Vogue Editor Sends Mixed Message in Ten Minute “Educational” Video

by Adrienne Tooley

There’s no disputing the fact that the airbrushed and photoshopped images of models in fashion magazines can warp and dismantle a young girl’s self-esteem. Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, wants to clarify that the photos of models on the pages of her magazine are not realistic representations of women.

That’s why Shulman is releasing a ten-minute video detailing what actually goes on at a Vogue fashion shoot—hours of make up application, lighting design, and, of course, the extensive computer-based editing that followers.

Shulman’s video will be distributed to over 1,000 secondary schools in the U.K. and screened in an effort to show girls that the images of women splashed across the pages of magazines and advertisements are not realistic. A lesson plan that encourages discussion following the screening is included with each video.

“The idea was to try and demonstrate all of the skill and resources that go into making a fashion image, so young girls can see clearly how the model is changed by Vogue magazine.” Shulman told BBC Radio 4’s PM program.

According to BBC, when asked about the potential of changing fashion, such as the use of larger models, Shulman stated, “fashion magazines did create an artificial ideal [but] I don’t want to pretend we are going to try to change the way we portray fashion.”

She goes on to say that Vogue’s mission is to showcase the clothes of talented and innovative designers, and that the clothes—and their models—are intended to “inspire and entertain,” not to represent real life.

“The problem, if there is a problem,” Shulman said, “comes when people judge themselves and their appearance against the models they see on the pages of a magazine and then feel that in some way they fall short.”

Here, the only one who falls short for me is Shulman. It’s all fine and dandy to tell girls that airbrushed and photoshopped images are giving them unrealistic expectations for themselves, but actions speak louder than words. Shulman is clearly in no hurry to give up her magazine’s standard of beauty, nor are most of the powerful figures in the fashion and publishing world. By “educating” girls about all the work that goes into creating the perfect (yet completely unrealistic) photo, Shulman allows her publication to continue doing what it has always done, leaving the consumer to shoulder the blame for all self-esteem issues they have the potential to promote. 

The campaigns for healthier models, for limiting the use of underage models, for marking photos that have been digitally enhanced are ever-present, yet the fashion industry has remained very much the same. Girls (and women) are continuously told not to compare themselves to models and celebrities, yet those are the images that bombard them every day on television, billboards, print, and the Internet.

Women are constantly told we’re not pretty/skinny/sexy/tan enough, that our teeth aren’t white enough, our eyelashes not long enough, our hair not long/straight/sleek enough. A ten-minute video detailing all the work that goes into making a Vogue model cover-worthy is probably not going to do much to change the mind of a young girl who may now think that putting in even more time and effort with her make up application will get her closer to looking like the models on the cover.

I know I’m beating a dead horse with a blush brush here; this is an argument made by someone nearly every day. But it doesn’t make it any less true. When the Western conventional view of what is beautiful is so clearly artificial, where does that leave the very real rest of us? 

Why is the fashion industry so afraid to showcase everyday women? Why does it hide behind digital enhancement instead of embracing reality? We need a true standard of beauty revolution; one that doesn’t just transfer the blame to the consumer, while continuing to carry on the same practices that caused concern in the first place.

Judging by the number of photo editing apps on the market today, young girls are already putting effort into editing and Instagram-filtering their profile pictures and selfies. They know how the system works. Shulman’s video is not so much exposing the truth behind the shoots, the models, and the Western convention of beauty, as she is taking the blame off herself and her publication, saying “Vogue won’t change its way of thinking, but maybe you should.”


Thanks to BBC News

Images courtesy of Vogue & BBC News

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