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Tyrades! Fashion Magazines No Longer In "Vogue"?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Maybe we're all supposed to pull together during this recession, but I take a bit of pleasure in one industry's comeuppance.

According to the Wall Street Journal, fashion advertisers are slashing their budgets, so the fashion magazines' much-anticipated September issues will be about one-third slimmer than last year's batch.

I have long been skeptical of the wretched excess of magazines such as Vogue, InStyle, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar, and wonder why it has taken the advertisers so long to catch on. Fighting for attention has gotten as bad as in NASCAR, where the sponsor decals sometimes weigh more than the car. In a world where viewers bellyache about commercial interruptions, Vogue actually BRAGGED that its September 2007 issue was 840 pages (727 of them ad pages!), apparently because it's a good thing for seekers of beauty to be bleary-eyed and hunchbacked.

Let's face it: a large percentage of the must-have fashions are downright hideous, and I lay much of the blame on the CSI craze. ("Tell me, officer, what would a French prostitute NOT be caught dead in? And what do you call that lovely shade of head trauma?") I sometimes think the magazine staffs are rolling in the floor laughing as they think up hoops for the readers to jump through. Read between the lines of the "Do's and Don'ts" articles. ("Do let Prince Albert out of the can. Don't hesitate to stomp that burning sack on your front porch.")

I resent the self-righteous way the fashion magazines pretend to be riding to the rescue of their poor helpless readers with their breathless "What's Hot and What's Not" articles. They're the ones keeping everything stirred up with ever-changing ideals of perfection! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess the magazines would take a perverse pride in the fast food industry lacing burgers with tapeworms and then offering nourishment tips to the famished.

I can't stand the way the magazines glorify the so-called fashion designers. Is there really anything left to design? Couldn't we just hire a monkey to pick one component from column A and one component from column B and slap them together? (At least the monkey's entourage could do something useful like picking bugs off of him, instead of merely fawning.)

If you think I'm being too harsh, the "Debt Defier" blog declares fashion magazines to be "evil, pure and simple" because they promote ridiculously expensive things that alter your perception of what is affordable. Good thing we didn't have such glossy mags during the Revolutionary War. We might still be British subjects if Nathan Hale had said, "I only regret that I have but one pair of $800 shoes to wear with my $550 sweater."

As the fashion industry ratchets up competition for the 21st Century, we see ads loaded with themes of bondage, rape, and other disturbing images. And this stuff is eaten up by schoolgirls. Imagine the job interviews involved in magazines that are swapped on the playground. ("Well, Mr. Hell's Angel, your resumé looks impressive, but we've decided to go with a Nazi prison camp guard for our photo shoot.")

Don't get the impression that the fashion magazines are in need of "end of life counseling." They'll survive. But at least we get to kick them while they're down. Oooo, what's that lovely shade of bruise?

Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at tyreetyrades@aol.com.