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The Very Real Issues With Vogue UK’s ‘Real’ Issue

Image: Vogue UK

We will be needing Kitty Travers’ marigold Hermes slacks; Image: Vogue UK

In an unprecedented move towards diversity (or something like it), the November issue of British Vogue — hitting stands Thursday — won’t feature a single Hadid or Jenner. Instead, women accomplished in fields outside of modeling will showcase the latest trends, from jumpsuits to all yellow everything.

Image: Vogue UK

Jane Hutchison wears Stella McCartney in Vogue’s annoyingly titled “Real” issue; Image: Vogue UK

You’ll see architectural historian Shumi Bose posing in a tailored Max Mara jumpsuit. Ice cream aficionado Kitty Travers makes the case for crisp, banana-yellow (Hermes) coordinates. Women’s rights advocate and charity coordinator Brita Fernandez Schmidt slays in a polka dot Michael Kors blouse. Hello Love Studio creative director and Hello Beautiful founder Jane Hutchison pulls off a trio of patterns as per Stella McCartney. Tech titan Kate Unsworth stuns in a blood red Ralph Lauren gown with a plunging neckline and pleats for days. (Take note: Very deep v’s are in.)

Image: Vogue UK

Kate Unsworth in Ralph Lauren for Vogue UK’s November 2016 edition; Image: Vogue UK

“I feel strongly that women who are in positions of authority or power, or who work in professions should be able to indulge their interest in clothes and fashion without it seeming frivolous or that they don’t care about their jobs enough,” British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman said of the project. “In this country there is still a stigma attached to clearly enjoying how you look and experimenting with it if you are a woman in the public eye and not in the fashion or entertainment business.”

Schulman has made headlines as a diversity champ in the past. In 2009, she penned an open letter calling out scores of designers in Europe and America (among them Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano) for their anachronistic sample sizes.

While we admire the inclusive sentiment, we, along with our forums, believe Schulman could have chosen a better title for the edition —and cast a far more diverse group of women. Publications and ad campaigns often use the term “real women” to differentiate between models and non-models. Although it’s dubbed “The Real Issue: A Model-Free Zone,” not all “real” people can see themselves in the (from the looks of it) mostly white, younger than 50, straight-sized, cis models who were chosen to pose for Vogue. In fact, it doesn’t appear as if the issue checked off any diversity boxes apart from “profession.”

Vogue UK’s cover announcement states, “This is an issue where none of the fashion is shot on models; the month’s fashion and feature subjects are looked at with a ‘real’ filter; and the beauty team asks the question, ‘What is real anyway?’”

Good question. Why does the adjective “real” belong in this title at all? Are not all people — models and non-models, skinny, curvy, black, white, Asian, mixed, transgender, cis, etc. — “real”? The point of inclusion is to level the playing field, not perpetuate false categories and, in so doing, imply that one group is somehow inferior to the other.

Our forums were not pleased with the publication’s “mundane,” poorly worded angle.

“So models are not real women or real people? Shame on you Vogue UK! Using these ‘unreal creatures’ like Kate Moss and co doesn’t seem to be a problem when you need to sell more copies!” wrote sixtdaily.

“What does that ‘the real issue’ even mean?” questioned febylous.

“Re the ‘model-free’ tagline, I’m personally not surprised, to be honest. This concept has Alexandra written all over it. It used to be a thing many years ago (Brigitte famously ditched models for their covers, only to return to it with their tail between their legs). But it’s just such an odd idea to push in 2016, where every woman irrespective of profession are believed to have legitimacy and a voice. So it’s weird to see Vogue being so hypocritical about it,” observed Benn98.

“I buy fashion magazines because they offer a sort of alternate dimension where people can experiment with ‘appearances.’ Sometimes they sell us our own personal fantasies, other times they bring us looks we could never have imagined by ourselves. But if I want realness of any sort, it won’t be a fashion magazine that I turn to. So I get that it’s handy to have a theme, especially when promoting the issue, but I’m disappointed to hear about this one. It’s very UK Vogue to go for the mundane angle,” an unimpressed tigerrouge added.

“What a dumb tagline. The real issue? Models free zone? You’re running a fashion magazine. Models are an integral part of fashion. If someone doesn’t want to see models, maybe they shouldn’t be buying a fashion magazine in the first place. What’s next? Fashion free zone? The worst case of pandering I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something,” scoffed MyNameIs.

“Ooh, ‘The Real Issue’! A ‘Model-Free Zone!’ We’re finally doing away with tall, skinny, white and traditionally attractive models and bringing in tall, skinny, white and traditionally attractive actresses. What a breath of fresh air! I feel so much better already…” sneered StoneSkipper.

In this context, all of these women are models. Models are real people. Now, can we ditch the word “real” altogether?

[ via the Telegraph ]