How to Read a Fashion Magazine
When I recently advised a client to study a few
fashion magazines to glean some ideas for the upcoming season,
she flatly refused.
"I HATE those things!" she told me
vehemently. "Skinny girls, expensive clothes - what does
that have to do with my life? Nothing!"
Now since this isn't the first time I've heard this
argument, I realized that she was missing the point of the
exercise - much like the women who tell me that
Vogue or W are "their bibles." In
this corner, we have someone who's way too caught up in her own
reality; in the other, we have someone who's much too caught up
in someone else's. Let's all move a bit more to the center and
learn how to read these things properly, shall we? We'll all
dress a lot better for it.
Let's start with a little dissection first, then move on to
the "how to" part of the lesson.
Overall, fashion magazines tend to show young, thin,
attractive people in their pages for the exact same reason that
grocers polish their apples and car dealers have you test drive
clean cars: because it sells more. It's as simple as that.
Fashion Marketing 101. Whether you agree with it or not is
beside the point; it works -- VERY well.
So well, in fact, that somewhere along the line, many women
went from trying to determine whether the clothing being shown
would work well on their bodies to bemoaning the fact that
their bodies don't look like the mannequins. Let me let you in
on a secret: those girls don't look like that 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
packs on a few pounds or starts to show signs of aging, she's
replaced. Nothing like being a "has been" by the age of 30,
What a shame that so many teenage girls and women have
allowed the slick marketing to muddle their thinking and impact
their self esteem. Don't be one of them. Look at the clothes
and the mood that the picture evokes; don't compare yourselves
to the mannequins.
In fashion magazines, you'll often see a
beautiful girl in gorgeous clothes in an
enviable setting surrounded by handsome men. If
only, right? Well, that's part of the
marketing. It's called projecting, and if
you've ever envisioned yourself swapping places
with the gal in the picture, the marketers have
done their job. It's a set up. A complete
fabrication. A ruse. Remember that the next
time you see a shot that makes you want to rush
right out and buy the clothes you see so you
can be just like the girl in the picture.
Ever wonder why you see so many high end designers
advertising in fashion magazines and why the fashion magazines,
in turn, show so many of those same designers in their
editorial photo spreads? It's no coincidence. Those one-page
ads are VERY expensive, often costing tens of thousands (or
more), depending on the magazine's circulation. So the fashion
houses don't spend all their advertising dollars in one place.
They'll put a portion of their budget into ads, a portion
into lending clothes to magazines for photo shoots, and a
portion into creating clothes for celebrities for red carpet
and other media events. That way, they spread the name
recognition around. It's clever - and expensive. But it works.
If you love labels and see a look you like in a couple of
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 as much.
So now that we've addressed the models, ads, and editorial
spreads, here's what you SHOULD be looking for when you read a
fashion magazine (and yes, it's okay to rip out pages and put
them in a file for future reference - but only if you own the
1. The Trends
Fashion magazines will call them "must have" items, but
look at trends skeptically to see whether they fit your
body, clothing personality, and lifestyle. Don't worry
about the price. If you find something you like and want to
wear, look for an inexpensive version of the trend at your
favorite discount or outlet store. Buy cheap, wear often,
and discard when then trend is over.
2. The Updated Classics
Most women recognize that classic styles are a good
value, and fashion magazines know this. So they'll show
trendy new ways to wear classic styles and give you plenty
of ideas in the process. All you have to do is take a
moment to break it down to see how you can apply this to
your own closet.
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 fret. If
you find a look you really like, you'll probably be able to
find it a little later in the season in a budget-friendly
4. Styling Ideas
Styling refers to the way the clothing and accessories
are presented in a picture. Look at how the clothes are
layered, draped, or wrapped. Look at how the jewelry is
worn. See 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 own
closet. You'll be surprised how you can breathe new life
into your old standbys just by wearing them a different
5. Hair and Makeup
Are you in a hair and makeup rut? Peruse a few
fashion magazines to see what's hot for the season. Not
only will you glean some new looks, you may discover
that a new 'do may be all you need to look "au currant"
Fashion magazines are a great way to learn all about what's
happening in fashion AS LONG AS you remember that they're
created to sell clothes and accessories. Forget about the
models 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 own budget and lifestyle. Before you
know it, you may look like you stepped out of a fashion
magazine - whatever your age, shape, size, or
|Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a
wardrobe and image consultant and author of
"Wardrobe Magic," an ebook
that shows women how to transform their unruly
closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit
her online at
Other "Fashion Fun" Articles You Might
More Fashion Articles