Politics are now in vogue as activism is no longer just filling our streets, but our magazine spreads.
Various publications are devoting increased attention to political issues. Perhaps spearheading this change is the political coverage done by Teen Vogue. Instead of simply publishing on fashion and beauty, Teen Vogue has realigned itself as a celebrated political outlet with a distinct focus on the issues that affect young women.
Teen Vogue Editor-in-chief, Elaine Welteroth, addressed this conscious change in content when speaking with “Nightline,” as quoted in an article by ABC News.
“[Teen Vogue] has become this community of civic-minded, really socially conscious, politically active, curious, ambitious, young people who crave the truth — who aren’t afraid to speak truth,” Welteroth said.
Teen Vogue specifically took a political stance in clear support of the #MeToo Movement when it featured a video made by actress Ashley Judd, an outspoken leader of the movement, in which she offered advice and talked about her experiences for the audience.
Mary Oliver, a first-year student in CAS, believes that fashion magazines should be involved in politics because fashion and politics are deeply intertwined, especially in times when fashion can be a tool for political activism.
“A lot of things that have to do with fashion can definitely be tied to politics,” Oliver said. “For example, when all of the celebrities wore black to [The Golden Globes] for the Time’s Up Movement, I think that is a great use of fashion. It has a political statement.”
In addition to Teen Vogue, many other magazines that have traditionally focused on women’s fashion, including Glamour, Elle and Marie Claire, are becoming more civic-minded and are considering the whole range of issues that are pertinent to young women. Wendy Naugle, an executive at Glamour, feels that the barriers between fashion and politics are disintegrating, as quoted in a Fashionista article.
“Maybe a decade ago you’d think, ‘Oh, I’m going to read my politics and then my fashion news and then my health news,'” Naugle said in the article. “Now, people see how those all go hand-in-hand. Something that’s decided in public policy could affect any of those areas.”
SPS first-year Grace Apple agrees that fashion and politics are connected and believes that fashion magazines should continue to cover political topics.
“Politics and fashion are really interrelated,” said Apple. “If [fashion magazines] weren’t to address things going on politics, like things going on currently in the news and stuff, I think that there’d be backlash. You can’t have fashion without politics.”
However, this foray into the world of politics has not always been smooth. Some publications have misstepped in ways that have been perceived as politically insensitive. Vogue has been a repeat offender. Most notably, in its promising diversity issue of 2017, the magazine earned criticism for cultural appropriation rather than acclaims for its photos of model Karlie Kloss. In the photos, Kloss is dressed as a geisha with a wig and powdery makeup, standing in front of a teahouse and with a sumo wrestler in some shots. Critics accused the magazine and Kloss of being racially insensitive, using “yellow-face” and furthering cultural stereotypes.
While fashion magazines have clearly made important steps toward political representation, the Vogue controversy underlines the importance of careful consideration of political issues. The difficult reality is that there is a fine line between representation and appropriation that publications must be wary of as they continue to wade into political waters.
Email Faith Marnecheck at [email protected].