Fatshion, Vogue, and Anna Wintour

I watched the documentary “The September Issue” today.  It is a profile of Anna Wintour (the Editor in Chief of Vogue Magazine) as she prepares for their biggest issue of the year.

The opening scene of the film is Wintour saying “I think what I often see is that..because fashion scares them or makes them feel insecure they put it down.  On the whole, people that say demeaning things about our world, I think that’s usually because they feel in some ways excluded or not part of the cool group so as a result they just mock it.”

Dear Anna,

Feeling excluded from the world of high fashion isn’t a state of mind.  For those who don’t have the body or the wealth, it’s reality. And I think you know that since you used the phrase “Our world”.

Nobody would call me a fatsionista but my aesthetic is my own and I’m happy with it.  Basically, I like to dress up when I feel like it, but I’m not willing to be pressured into it by a world that says I should “dress to impress” somebody else.  I also find it extremely annoying that it’s such an effort to have my own style in my size.  My thin friends can easily choose if they want to be preppy, high fashion, punk, etc.  They can go to a variety of stores and easily find pieces in plenty of different styles.  My fat friends and I are stuck with whatever is in fashion at the fat girl stores this season or getting pieces custom made or ordering off the internet (and dealing with the hassle of waiting for it and then having to send back everything that doesn’t fit).

Also, this:

is obviously not a world meant for everyone.  “in some ways excluded?”  Are you serious? Considering the photoshopping that goes into every single page, it seems that in the end everyone who looks like a real human is excluded.

Also Anna, not for nothing, but if people are making fun of high fashion, you might consider that it’s because high fashion can seem a little ridiculous:

I understand that many people consider high fashion to be more art than wearable clothing and if this is your thing that’s fine, but if you dress people like this and march them down a runway, I think it’s not such a stretch to think that people are mocking  it because they think it’s funny – not because they feel excluded because they can’t wear it.

I tend to think that people who treat fashion as Wintour does are trying to make it exclusive because they want to feel like part of the cool kids club.  If she didn’t, I’ll bet she wouldn’t have glossed over eating disorders like anorexia to focus on obesity saying things like “I’d just been on a trip to Minnesota, where I can only kindly describe most of the people I saw as little houses.”  Using her hands to show how big they were.  Her creative directors wouldn’t feel comfortable telling Oprah “Miss Anna don’t like fat people.”  This one isn’t Anna directly, but if the “most important woman in fashion” really wanted fashion to be accessible then perhaps the women on the Vogue Italia “Curvy”  homepage would actually be plus-sized (as in –  they could find clothes that fit them at Lane Bryant) and not laboring under a tired euphemism.

So we fatties probably have every right to be bitter that Anna Wintour is at the helm of fashion, creating a whole world that purposefully and systematically excludes us.  But we can’t walk around clothed in our bitterness so if we want a fatshion revolution we’ll have to figure it out.  Decide who we want to be and how we want to dress and then find a way to make it happen.

By the way, I seriously love comments, but any comment disparaging the thin models will be altered or deleted.  On this blog we respect bodies of all shapes and sizes and we never ever make assumptions about someone’s health, or eating and exercise habits.  For more on this, feel free to check out Things I’ve Heard About Thin Women.

25 thoughts on “Fatshion, Vogue, and Anna Wintour

  1. Great post –

    When I was within culturally acceptable size ranges (14 or less, when I could walk into fashionable shops & buy clothes off the rack), I maintained that weight with 1300 cal/day + 3 mi of daily running & weight training… It’s just not worth it to me anymore to stay Y2K compliant.

    1. I totally understand. I tried quite hard for a very long time to make my body fit the mold and it’s just not what my body looks like when it’s healthy. It works great for some people but making it the mold for everyone is definitely a mistake as far as I’m concerned.

  2. You know, I used to make fun of fashion only because, like you and so many others, I find it truly absurd. Truly, truly absurd. I mean, if I want to look like some sort of space alien then I’ll just wear a tin-foil hat, thankyouverymuch. I don’t even bother these days. It’s such an easy target, and I have bigger and better things to do with my time. Heck, I didn’t even realize that scarves were in fashion right now when I started crocheting them for friends and family this past season. I just happen to love scarves and, well, as the song says, “baby, it’s cold outside.”

    I’m not going to say anything about the models. Like you, I feel that people have the right to choose how they live their lives, and these girls (and some boys, let’s not leave them out) have made their choice. What does bother me is when someone makes a choice and then goes off and complains constantly about it. You have to make up your mind. Either you’re going to make a choice and it will be the right choice for you, and you can be happy with it, or you’re going to make a choice, realize it’s not for you, and do something to freaking change it. Don’t sit there and piss on me and tell me it’s raining. I’m not gonna buy it. Sure, we all have made poor choices in our lives, but most of us realize they’re poor choices and then go about finding a way to change it, or fix what we have done to make our world, and sometimes the world of those around us, better.

    I think I would rather enjoy the big ol’ crockpot of beef stew that is cooking, my cup of coffee (with creamer!) and the occasional cookie, rather than run around like a chicken with its head cut off worrying about calorie intake and excess adipose (which still makes me think of Dr. Who). If you don’t want to enjoy it with me, then that’s your choice, but please don’t complain to me that you can’t enjoy those things simply because of the calories. I will have to kick you repeatedly.

    1. First, major points for the Dr. Who reference! (I love that episode, I want one – they are so cute!)

      Of course not all models (or thin people) have to limit their food intake or take part in unhealthy behaviors to maintain that body type but I do agree that if people are choosing to restrict their food/calories I would prefer not to have to hear the Food Restrictor’s Lament 🙂

      1. Oh yeah, Dr. Who is big in my house. Heck, my 8 yr old Autistic son chose Dr. Who over his usual kiddie shows yesterday to watch for his TV time. Makes a mother proud!

        Oh I understand that not all of them have to restrict their diet, but many do, and when they do a good handful of them fully go into the Food Resstrictor’s Lament (I swear I need to write a song called this, too funny!)

  3. High fashion is ridiculous for the same reason politics often is: Yes men. The richer and more powerful a person becomes, the less likely anyone is to tell them their ideas are ridiculous, and the more likely people are to tell them their ridiculous ideas are brilliant.

    At least, that’s my theory.

    And though it’s hard for me to imagine anyone truly happy if they don’t enjoy their food, I know that people are different and some people probably just don’t like food that much. Or they are willing to sacrifice for a career or something else that’s more important to them, and that’s admirable. But I do feel sorry for people stuck in the guilt cycle, especially since I have so recently emerged from it.

    1. I hadn’t thought of men being to blame because in my personal experience it’s been women who perpetuate the exclusivity, judgment and body-shaming that gets attached to fashion for me.

      Of course we can’t assume that these models don’t enjoy their food (just as we can’t assume that I as a fat person enjoy my food too much). I do know models who have developed a disordered relationship with food and I do hate to see that.

      1. She didn’t mean “Men”, I believe she meant “Yes Men” or people who always tell someone “yes” no matter how stupid their idea.

        I read it the same way the first time.

    2. Lane pointed out that I read this wrong – I do absolutely agree with the yes men theory. It seems that in fashion the herd decides who’s cool and then people just go with what they say to try to stay a cool kid.

      1. Thanks for making that clear. I wonder if “yes-men” would have been better? Oh well. It’s easy to blame men, but they are as much victims of this cultural “norm” as women are. I didn’t mean to imply that all thin people don’t enjoy their food. People are different and have different relationships with food that are not connected to their size.

  4. Maybe we should gather together a group of fat women and just create clothing for us that looks good and fits. Not blown up skinny clothes that look ridiculous.

    xo Susie

    1. Susie, I am by no means a clothing designer (unless you count my crocheting of scarves recently), but I would totally be willing to be a model. 😀

  5. Ragen, I love love love your blog. So true that most women, nevermind just plus-sized women, feel like outsiders in the world of fashion. I’ve come to regard it more as modern art in that I am more likely to want to hang most pieces on my wall rather than on my body.

    There is one standout in the fashion world, and that is Ashley Falcon, Marie Claire’s “full-figured fashionista” (their description – she is genuinely plus-sized). She’s only got one page in that magazine, and when I had a free subscription, I’d pretty much just flip to her page, then read a few of the more substantial articles and then toss it out. Her page made me realize how much I crave seeing *real* bodies in fashion magazines – something that literally does not exist right now. I wince at her occasional “slimming looks” comments but at least it is never about trying to actually get slim, which seems nothing short of a miracle in a fashion magazine.

    That said, one page in all the magazines that exist isn’t enough. I wish there were more, but there aren’t. So for now, I continue to make my own fashion.

    1. I’m glad that you like the blog! I also like the idea of fashion as art rather than clothing. Thanks for talking about Ashley Falcon, I don’t take Marie Claire, it’s very cool that she has a page! I agree, all women deserve to be represented in the world around them. Thanks! ~Ragen

  6. If by calling us Minnesotans “little houses,” Anna Wintour means that we’re warm, dependable, beautifully maintained and welcoming–then she’s right!

  7. High fashion isn’t about “marching this stuff down the runway for people to wear.” It isn’t about creating a consumer product for everyday use. At its best, it’s about seeing clothing in a new way — a way that may be beautiful, but is just as often disturbing or jarring or weird. Judging high fashion in terms of “Where would I wear that?” is just as obtuse as looking at modern painting or photography in terms of “That doesn’t match my couch.”

    I’m saying this because I think your attitude on this is getting in the way a more interesting point you could be making, which is that, by embracing models with a wider range of body types, fashion designers could be doing something even fresher, even newer, even more unexpected, with their art (just as, say, the movement into atonality opened up new sound worlds for composers in the early 20th century). But a good high fashion designer who used plus-sized models still wouldn’t (necessarily) be designing the kinds of clothes you’d wear to work. She’d just be including more women’s bodies in the larger aesthetic conversation.

    1. Thank you for sharing a different perspective on what high fashion is and another interesting point that could be made.

      For my part I often wonder if high fashion is done on a dare to see if they can convince people that it’s art and not folly. I feel much the same way about a lot of modern art. As a music major I despised my 20th century music analysis class and the atonality and ridiculousness that.

      It’s not that I feel that anyone is right or wrong, it’s all subjective. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. I guess what I’m getting at is that, while I understand that you consider it a more interesting point, and while I think it’s a point worth making, it’s not really a point that I could be making.

      My point in this respect was that Anna said that people mock fashion because they feel excluded and I think it’s completely likely that they mock it because they think it’s ridiculous. While I don’t mock fashion because I understand that art is subjective, I personally do find it pretty ridiculous most of the time and wouldn’t think it was any less ridiculous on a larger woman.

  8. I guess to me, fashion has two lives. There is RTW (ready to wear) and there is art fashion. There are designers split right down the middle. Either way, fatties are on the fringe.

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