A strange thing is happening in the fashion world. If the word “fashion” makes you think of angry skinny women, I am of the same opinion, so give me a chance and read on.
This month’s Vogue UK does not feature a single model. Instead, the women modelling the clothes and being interviewed about their health and beauty routines include a tech firm founder, a barrister and an academic. In her Editor’s Letter, Alexandra Shulman says that “fashion should be for everybody” and since the UK now has a Prime Minister who clearly enjoys fashion, this issue is meant to show that you can have a busy life, a non-model figure and a deep longing for the Burberry military jacket.
While Vogue has traditionally set the zeitgeist, this is not so anymore. In fact, this issue is just catching up with what many women actually want when it comes to fashion and shopping. Yes, we enjoy looking at pretty people wearing pretty clothes, but we also want to be able to relate to them. This is why Instagram and YouTube is making girls taking photos on their phones into stars. A lot of the time, these self-made fashionistas do not have the Vogue budget, but look fabulous in Zara and even in Primark. Why does this matter? Because their followers do not have the Vogue budget either and they can actually buy what their fashion hero is wearing, rather than wanting something out of reach.
However, it gets even more democratic than that! We are now looking for what people like us think about products and use that to make a decision whether to buy something or not. This has been true of Amazon reviews for toasters for a while, but is now heavily influencing fashion. The greatest examples usually come from new brands, which have had to innovate to do well from the start, rather than traditional retailers (think the now defunct BHS in the UK and Macy’s in the US, which is closing 100 stores.) Modcloth, an indie online retailer, has a fantastic section where their customers upload pictures of themselves wearing Modcloth dresses and show how they style them. ASOS As Seen on Me is also a hugely popular example of actual customers showing off their ASOS purchases. I dare you not to get stuck on these pages.
It is not just the social media revolution that has driven this change, but also women progressing at work and in education. This progress has meant more money in women’s pockets and a rising expectation of acceptance as multi-faceted human beings, rather than just pretty things. Just look at women’s outrage on social media when the talented Amal Clooney is referred to as the wife of a movie star, rather than a human rights lawyer.
So back to Vogue. The women in the November issue are still aspirational, but for things other than the thigh gap. Being a successful artist, an entrepreneur or a Cambridge scientist are no easy feats, but at least they are achievable even if you’ve been born with short legs. I would recommend buying this issue, but don’t subscribe just yet. The magazine might just climb back into its ivory tower, but fashion bloggers are just a few taps away.