When I recently advised a client to study a few fashion magazines to get ideas for the
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 realized 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 get a little more centered 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 feature young, skinny, attractive people on their pages for the
same reason that grocers polish their apples and car dealers tend to
test you clean cars: because it sells more. It’s that simple. Fashion Marketing 101.
Whether you agree or not doesn’t matter; it works very well.
So good that somewhere along the line many women went from trying to determine if the clothes on display would work well on their bodies to complaining that their bodies don’t look like the mannequins. Let me tell you a 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 is replaced. There’s nothing like being a “has been” by age 30, right?
What a shame that so many teenage girls and women have allowed slick marketing to confuse their thinking and affect their self-esteem. Don’t be one of them. Look at the clothes and the atmosphere that the photo evokes; don’t compare yourself to the mannequins.
In fashion magazines, you often see a beautiful girl in beautiful clothes in an enviable
the setting, surrounded by handsome men. If alone, right? Well, that’s part of the marketing. It’s
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 photo, you’ll want to rush out and buy the
clothes you see so you can be just like the girl in the photo.
Have you ever wondered why you see so many high-end designers advertise in fashion magazines and
why the fashion magazines in turn feature so many of those same designers in their editorial photo spread? 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
photoshoots, 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 and on a favorite 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!):
1. The trends
Fashion magazines will call them “must-have” items, but look skeptical 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, shop for an inexpensive version of the trend at your favorite discount or outlet store. Buy cheap, wear often and throw away when the trend is over.
2. The Updated Classics
Most women recognize that classic styles are good value, and fashion magazines know this. So
they will be trendy new ways to wear classic styles and give you plenty of ideas in the showing
process. All you need to do is take a moment to break it down to see how you can apply this to
3. The designers
If you have a thing for designer labels, high-end fashion magazines (Vogue, W, Marie Claire,
Town and Country) are a great place to learn about the different fashion house 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 copy-cat version.
4. Styling Ideas
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 jewelry is worn. Look 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.
5. Hair and Makeup
Are you in a hair and makeup rut? Scroll through a few fashion magazines to see what’s hot this
season. Not only will you be sporting some new looks, 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 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 might 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.