Eva Mendes in Allure:
“You know those girls who say they don’t have any girlfriends? I always say, ‘Run for the hills when you hear that.’”
Aoife Barry’s hilarious post on the impractical and condescending advice on offer in fashion magazines was a pleasure to read last week. I still do purchase “Grazia”and “In Style,” because they do their job and report the trends. You’ll never catch me claiming that style empowers women, but it sure can make us feel as though we’re kitted out to cope, to muster the confidence in those moments under pressure, and it makes life easier through an appearance of compliance. Even folks who say they don’t have a style have one, and it’s usually just as affected by aesthetic whimsy as any hardcore fashionista. Hipster gals with thick rims, skinny jeans and a plaid button-down have a style progenitor to the same degree as the woman who cops to the glossy mag habit. On the same note, it’s rare for “Vogue” to wind up in my shopping bag, because there’s nothing affordable or practical in its pages, so I may pick up the September issue for a ritualistic nod. I own my habit as a resource to cut to the chase on the beauty standard expectations.
One may well argue that the glossies are a waste of money and only serve to foist harmful images as well as consumerism on a female audience. The fashion magazines do trade on what is difficult to attain in terms of body size and designer goods, but I won’t write off their value entirely. Pause for a minute to consider that femininity is compulsory for women, and that there are palpable disadvantages for women who are not complicit with the principles set for muliebrity. The novelist Erika Lopez wrote in her last installment of the Tomato Rodriguez series, that the quickest way for a woman to become invisible is to put on a brown muumuu, the least feminine or attractive garment known to humanity. Are beauty standards unfair? Hell yes. There’s still nothing that women can do about that in patriarchy. I’ve had this discussion numerous times, usually with irate men who demand to know how I can be a feminist in a dress and heels, as if I should wear my politics in sack cloth carrying a sign “kick and revile me, I’m a feminist.” The ability to change the dominant social order, the sum of human ciivilisation remains outside my meager powers. Funny how people think that some average woman should be held accountable with an indignant wave of the wine glass, when really, she’s just trying to not get bulldozed and defeated by a culture which subordinates vagina-bearers.
The glossy network does feature ridiculous tips and nonsense, no question. What is of importance in taking a clear account of their role in women’s lives is the observation that women are smart enough to figure that out as individuals. Women do not exist as vacuous sponges who refrain from critical thought in the world they inhabit. They can smell the bullshit above the stinky perfume samples a mile away. Women are smarter than even most women will credit. We can look at a Frankenstein-ish photo shoot spread and see how heavily or rather scantily the model’s body has been manipulated. We know that you cannot shred two dress sizes in a week, and real weight loss can only be achieved with a systematic approach to a sensible diet and exercise. We know when expensive crap is ugly and overpriced. We recognise the tricks of the glossy magazines.
There may be women who purchase and read the three dozen lady mags on the rack, except that I never knew such a woman. Most get one or two a month, maximum, from what I see at the market, and I’ll bet that plenty of women buy them on a seasonal-turning basis, as I often did. In a cultural climate where femininity is rewarded, and a lack of it punished outright, women turn to the magazines, to see what’s coming, how the rules have shifted, what’s expected of them. No woman wants to be the one in a room people snigger about for a look deemed passé. I remember well being a 19 year-old waiting tables when the woman who worked the door as the host had a dress in her wardrobe rotation, a one sleeved sequined number held over from the 80s Disco-era, along with a pair of harem pants she wore every two weeks. This was 1988, making those garments more than five years out of date. Every single time she wore either outfit, she was ruthlessly mocked by wait, bus, bar and kitchen staff, both by men and women. The customers probably did the same. She was a laughing stock. It was a cruel response, and though I had never joined the mocking, I also knew that I was never going to be the joke if I could help it. Culture holds women must aspire to beauty/ fashion standards and no, I’m not willing to risk being a pariah and say ‘screw culture and pass me the sackcloth.’ Instead, I maintain my two mags a month habit and scan the pages for what’s in and out.
Another reason I feel compelled to defend the glossy titles falls to the fact that women like them. And along with romantic comedies, chick lit, makeup, shopping, spa visits, or any activity or past time once tainted by the gender police, it automatically gets written off as shallow, silly, wasteful, insignificant. Meanwhile, whatever becomes associated with or gendered male becomes the most important, special, interesting and significant thing of all time.
The glossies have given me useful information over the years. I’ve learned how to pick the right colour for clothes and makeup; what to look for in stitching and details when I shop; what shapes look best on my odd mix of frog-and-pigeon frame; I’ve picked up exercise tips to strengthen my lower back; found reviews on books and films I may not have seen cited elsewhere; and gained the confidence to move away from an all-black wardrobe because the fashion mags have helped me figure out how to dress myself. Muliebrity is acquired, learned, practiced over time. The glossies can save time and assist in the countless set of choices we’re asked to negotiate over the course of our lives.
Few media outlets are perfect since we live in patriarchy, anyway, and most things reek of misogyny.
Being the unfashionable fool that I am, I gave up buying glossy ‘lady mags’ a few years ago after determining that I’d wasted enough money and brain cells on them. However, recently a friend of mine gave me a bag of old glossies and, well, it would have been rude not to read them before chucking them in the recycling bin.
While idly flicking through the 8 March issue of Grazia I saw a number of ‘tips’ that had me spluttering into my glass of vino. It turns out that all this time I had been ignoring lady mags, I had been missing out on some priceless advice for us women who worry about being fat and old all the time.
Luckily for Anti-Room readers, I’ve included some of these tips for your information. You’ll wonder how you ever survived without these gems, such as this one included in an article on the highlights of London Fashion Week:
How simple – feeling fat and worthless? Just unpick the stitches in your favourite dress and then hold it together with bulldog clips. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Such an easy way of distracting people from my hideous figure.
So, if you get sad every time you see an unused bulldog clip sitting forlornly on your desk, now you know what to do. Unpick your shirt, pop on a bulldog clip and voila! Instant, fat-covering glamour. If anyone in the office asks why you have a clip stuck to you, or sniggers as you walk past, assuming you’re the victim of the company prankster, be assured that you are in fact being extremely fashion-forward.
“All the gals were doing it at LFW, darling!” should be your reply, “Kate, Lara and even Cheryl!” Then flounce off smiling – just be careful the clips don’t ping off mid-flounce, showing rather more of your body than you had intended. Oh, the perils of high fashion.
I used to think that nail length is only indicative of whether you are a nail-biter or not, so imagine how stunned I was to discover this tip:
Silly me, thinking that nails were, well, nails, and have nothing to do with body shape. Hell no! I can’t believe that for the past 27 years I could have been disguising my shape by growing my nails to a certain length. Consider me a changed woman, Grazia. No one will guess I’m a size 12 once I’ve redone these glamorous talons!
Finally, if you’re sick of your crow’s feet but fear the frozen expression that Botox tends to afflict on its users, then worry no more. The trick, according to Grazia, is using white eyeliner. Lots of white eyeliner.
Will you look like a rabbit trapped in the proverbial headlights? You may well indeed, but everyone will be so distracted by your white eyes that they won’t be looking at your crow’s feet. And as we know thanks to Grazia, anything is worth doing if it means looking thinner and younger.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to stick bulldog clips to my arse – I’ve heard it will make it look instantly thinner! Thanks for the inspiration, Grazia.
What are your favourite tips from women’s magazines?