When I recently advised a client to study a few fashion magazines to get ideas for the upcoming season, she flatly declined.
“I HATE those things!” she told me fiercely. “Skinny girls, expensive clothes-what’s that got to do with my life? Nothing! ”
Since this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this argument, I realised she missed the point of the exercise—much like the women who tell me VOGUE or W are “their bibles.” In this corner we have someone who is way too absorbed in her reality; in the other, we have someone who is far too absorbed in someone else’s. Let’s all be a little more centred and learn how to read these things properly, shall we? We all dress a lot better for it.
Let’s start with a little dissection first and then move on to the “how-to” part of the lesson.
In general, fashion magazines tend to put young, skinny, attractive people on their pages for the same reason grocers polish their apples and car dealers tend to test clean cars: because it sells more. It’s that simple. Fashion Marketing 101. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not; it works very well.
So good that somewhere along the line, many women, trying to determine if the clothes on display would work well on their bodies, started complaining that their bodies didn’t resemble the mannequins. Let me tell you a little secret: those girls don’t look like this every day either. They have an army of people to get the hair, makeup, clothes, and lighting just right. If that doesn’t work, they airbrush the photos to get the right look. And if the model gains a few pounds or starts to show signs of aging, it will be replaced. There’s nothing like being a “has been” at age 30, right?
What a shame that so many teenage girls and women have allowed slick marketing to confuse their thinking and tarnish their self-esteem. Don’t be one of them. Look at the clothing and the atmosphere that the photo evokes; don’t compare yourself to the mannequins.
In fashion magazines, you often see a beautiful girl in nice clothes in an enviable environment, surrounded by handsome men. When you’re alone, right? Well, that’s part of the marketing. The technique is called projecting, and if you’ve ever imagined switching places with the girl in the picture, the marketers have done their job. It’s a setup. A complete fabrication. A list. Remember, the next time you see a picture, you will want to run out and buy the clothes you see so you can be just like the girl in the picture.
Have you ever wondered why you see so many high-end designers advertising in fashion magazines and why the fashion magazines in turn feature so many of those same designers in their editorial photos? It’s no coincidence. Those one-page ads are VERY expensive, often costing tens of thousands (or more) depending on the run of the magazine. So the fashion houses don’t spend all their advertising dollars in one place. Oh no.
They spend part of their budget on advertising, part on lending clothes to magazines for photo shoots, and part on making celebrity clothes for the red carpet and other media events. This is how they spread brand awareness. It’s smart-and expensive. But it works. If you like labels and you see a look you like in a few fashion magazines or on a favourite celebrity, wouldn’t you be more inclined to buy it if you had the money? Many are. A look through the society pages will tell you so much.
So now that we’ve covered the models, ads, and editorial spreads, here’s what you SHOULD be looking for if you’re reading a fashion magazine (and yes, it’s okay to tear out pages and put them in a file for future reference — but only if you own the magazine!):
Fashion magazines call them “must-have” items, but look sceptically at trends to see if they fit your body, clothing personality, and lifestyle. Don’t worry about the price. When you find something you like and want to wear, buy an inexpensive version of the trend at your favourite discount or outlet store. Buy it cheap, wear it often, and throw it away when the trend is over.
The updated classics
Most women recognise that classic styles are good value for money, and fashion magazines know this too. They are trendy new ways to wear classic styles and give you lots of ideas during the show process . All you need to do is take a moment to break it down to see how you can apply it to your closet.
If you’re into designer labels, high-end fashion magazines (Vogue, W, Marie Claire, Town & Country) are a great place to learn about the different fashion houses’ philosophies. Even if you can’t afford those brand names, don’t worry. If you find a look you like, you’ll probably be able to find it a little later in the season in a budget-friendly copycat version.
Styling refers to the way the clothes and accessories are presented in a photo. Look at how the clothes are layered, draped, or packaged. Watch how the jewellery is worn. Look at what they did with the bag and shoes. Look at the hair and other accessories. If you see something you like, try creating a similar look with pieces from your closet. You’ll be amazed at how you can breathe new life into your old standbys just by wearing them differently.
“Hair and makeup”
Are you in a hair and makeup rut? Browse a few fashion magazines to see what’s hot this season. Not only will you have a new look, but you may also find that a new ‘do’ may be all you need to look “au currant” this year.
Fashion magazines are a great way to learn all about what’s going on in fashion, IF you remember that they were made to sell clothes and accessories. Forget the styles and the price tags and focus instead on the clothes, trends and styling ideas that can work for you. Then copy or adapt them to your budget and lifestyle. Before you know it, you’ll look like you’ve stepped out of a fashion magazine — regardless of your age, shape, size, or budget.