Shrink to Fit
Vogue Italia April 2010
Ph: Steven Meisel
Styling: Karl Templer
Other Models: Abbey Lee Kershaw, Amber Valletta, Angela Lindvall, Geidre Dukauskaite, Gwen Loos, Monika "Jac" Jagaciak, Joan Smalls, Lara Stone
Here is an editorial where the concept and casting completely win me over. In what could have been a predictable and boring studio edit, Vogue Italia and Meisel give us something quite enchanting, whimsical and beautiful. The idea of doing a shoot where the clothes are too small, even for the models, is hilariously ironic. Perhaps a slight nod to the model size debate that seems to wage on endlessly without accomplishing any sort of institutional or ideological change?
If you've been following along, all the different camps like to point their fingers of blame at each other with no one group willing to take on even the slightest bit of responsibility. Designers say that agencies send them girls who are too thin. Agencies say that designers make sample clothes so tiny that they need thinner and thinner girls to fit into them. Both say that the general public does not want to see bigger girls in magazines and advertisements; for fashion is about fantasy and aspiration, and not reality and the truth. Who's to blame? Everyone? No one? Me? You?
I feel like Meisel is kind of thumbing his nose at the whole issue here, poking fun of things in a subtle but subversive way. Ok, so maybe "thumbing his nose" isn't the right phrase. Whatever he's doing, I feel like he's trying to say something about the debate, but I'm just not sure what. Or perhaps he was merely inspired by the debate and took it as a jumping off point for this story. Regardless, when I see this editorial in its entirety, I start thinking about the eternal conundrum, "what came first, the chicken or the egg?" Or in this case, "what came first, thin models or small sample sizes?" Try wrapping your head around that one.
At first glance, this editorial looks very similar to the one Meisel did for the March issue of Vogue US (also featuring Freja). Same studio setup and plain, drab background. But upon further inspection you begin to notice that the two stories couldn't be more dissimilar. The execution and underlying motivation of each really shows you how different Vogue US and Vogue Italia really are as publications in terms of creative freedom and expressive risk-taking. One's purpose is to showcase clothes for general mass consumption. The other's is to contribute to a larger, relevant fashion discourse and make you see and think about clothes in a new way. Amazing how all the same elements can result in such two different outcomes, for the context and the words "US" and "Italia" really do have that much of an impact on what an editorial by Meisel will look like.
Anyway, I really do enjoy the casting here. It's a little bit unpredictable, but at the same time it feels comfortable. I like seeing new girls get their chance, and if any older model needs a comeback it's definitely Amber. The styling is rather ingenious with no detail overlooked, even down to the models' too small shoes. (In Freja's last shot you can see her heel jutting out over the edge of her loafer. So brilliant.) I know that the hair styles have gotten a lot of flack and most people find them to be too distracting. But for me, the hair contributes another degree of charm to the whole story. I can just picture all the models getting pushed into the wash, and here they have all just emerged with their hair wet and disheveled, and their clothes shrunk.
Kind of makes you wonder, what size are those clothes if they look too small even for models? Quadruple zero? Size negative (does that even exist) ? Just another testament to the great styling and an overall great editorial concept. These images might not strike most people as being beautiful, but that doesn't mean that they aren't. For me they posses a beauty that goes beyond surface appearances down to ideas and the intellectual statement. And the way they challenge conventional fashion norms is also a beauty in and of itself.
Agree? Disagree? Did you get another reading? Let me hear it! :)
Image Credits: Scanned by tFS member Diciassette (17) @ tFS