In my teens, I subscribed to a popular fashion magazine, Seventeen Magazine, and later in my 20’s, to Glamour. It was always a thrill to receive the latest issue and pour over the images that inspired, and the stories that made us aspire, to a better life, to what we could hope for: perfect hair, perfect makeup, and the latest perfect outfit.
Gloria Steinem & Glamour Magazine
There were also profiles of girls and women who lived glamorous lives. For a long time, I held onto one issue of Glamour Magazine that featured a new up-and-coming editor named Gloria Steinem. I kept that one because I, too, hoped to one day write for magazines. So Gloria became a kind of talisman (or maybe now I have to say taliswoman?) for me.
The article showed Gloria at a New Year’s Eve party (staged, of course, as the photoshoot had happened months before) where hip people in the publishing industry rang in the New Year, and just like us ordinary “folks,” ate a working-class spread of hot dogs and champagne. It described Gloria’s black boot-cut slacks as perfectly tailored, “Within an inch of their life.” Language for fashion was a bit quaint then. But that became my standard for how I wanted my own boot cut pants tailored: “Within an inch of their life.”
In the past ten years, I have become friends with a magnificent woman who graced the covers of some of the most celebrated fashion publications back then. She is now 75. Striking, and with aquiline features, she was something of an anomaly in fashion. But she was a darling of Diana Vreeland, the daring and experimental editor of Vogue and then Bazaar, who was the first fashion editor to make bold artistic statements through her images. It was also the time when Beverly Johnson became the first woman of color to grace the cover of any American fashion magazine. Boundaries were starting to break.
An Unexpected Side Effect
For a long time, the industry has seriously missed the mark when it comes to inclusion. So the more recent emphasis on magazines featuring models and celebrities of different ethnicities, ages, and sizes seemed like a welcome and much-needed change. But in the last few years, something has tagged along with the rush to amend for the industry’s past sins of omission. There is a spirit of meanness, anger, and divisiveness in all of these publications, and it permeates nearly every article, editorial, and image. It has the energetic imprint of political combat. It probably excites passions, but something important has been lost in the process: Art.
Today’s Fashion Magazines
What made the fashion magazines charming and inspiring was that they pushed boundaries, but they educated the eye. Pick up any fashion magazine today and you will get a lecture, a dozen or more images of very angry women (“fierce” is the new buzzword), and a smattering of advertiser-pushed articles featuring questionable “best of” products. It’s an industry dying by suicide.
So, how much importance do we really put into fashion and fashion magazines now? Or are we just going to be relegated to wearing the loungewear and athleisure that takes up the majority of space in nearly every catalog as we stay sequestered for… how much longer now?
Do We Care As Much Now?
Maybe the better question is: do we care as much as we once did? That’s not a question having to do with our chronological age. I think by now most of us agree that the desire to present ourselves as attractively as possible, regardless of age, persists over time. The question is more rhetorical. What do we care about now, after a year when most of us have lost loved ones, many have lost any semblance of economic security, and the future doesn’t seem to fit any pattern we have known. And do we really want to be “fierce?” (What does that even mean?)
What we still care about is what humans have cared about from the beginning of time: beauty. There is a reason that we still go to museums, that we walk through lush parks, forests, and along beaches. And that we make a special effort to create delicious and attractive meals. It’s the same reason that we care about how we look and what we wear. Beauty feeds us. It feeds our souls and elevates our mundane lives. It connects us with a higher power, a joyous, harmonious, and generous higher power.
Beauty Is Everywhere
Surrounding ourselves, and adorning ourselves with beauty celebrates the gift of just being alive. And it is always there if we take the time to look for it. It just takes a little effort. Maybe it means that instead of throwing on your sweats, you decide to wear that pink sweater that you’ve been saving for the day when you can celebrate with friends and family again. Or maybe it means polishing a favorite but slightly worn-looking pair of shoes before you go out to do errands. Or maybe it means combining some of your favorite wardrobe items in a new way.
When doing any of those bring you joy, it gives you better fashion feedback than any celebrity or fashion editor ever could. It’s the joy that comes from what my old kinesiology professor used to call “internal locus of control.” That’s a fancy way of saying, “giving your power back to yourself.”
Share Your Beauty
As for the state of the fashion industry, and fashion magazines in general (in whatever form they will exist), at some point the pendulum will swing – at least I hope it will – closer to what has been for millennia the original purpose of adorning ourselves. That purpose is to express and share our individual beauty: our coloring, our unique features, our unique bodies, but to do it joyfully and with good cheer. I don’t think there is any better way to be more inclusive or more fashionable than this.
How do you feel about the state of Fashion Magazines and the Fashion Industry today? Tell us in the comments at the bottom of this page.
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of two books: the Amazon best-seller Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Perfect Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50 and She’s Got Good Jeans – a guide for how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.
She does in-person and online wardrobe and shopping consultations for women worldwide and blogs at Shopping for the Real You. Her free course, Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe is available on GoHighbrow. Andrea hosts two video series: Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition. She interviews women in the areas of fashion, beauty and wellness on her Shopping for the Real You YouTube channel. She is a regular contributor to several national and international publications for women over 50 and is presenting an online class this November through the American Institute of Image Consultants.
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