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Anatomy of a Fashion Cover


By David Boyer

Judge a book by its cover? Never. But a magazine? It seems only fair. There's a fine line between most magazine covers and their tables of contents. Read the op-ed pages. Talk to mass media academics. They'll all give you an earful about the malevolent forces at work on the glossy facades of today's fashion magazines. Probably true, definitely hyperbolic. Still, a lot of muss and fuss goes into their construction. Surely the covers of Vogue, Elle, etc. tell us something about the state of the world--and the place of women and fashion therein.

  1. Let's Get Political: With this exclusive story, Vogue gives voice to one of the 20th century's most polarizing female icons--Hillary. Unfortunately, she's not dishing about the failed health care revolution or offering hot stock tips but talking about her vacation with daughter Chelsea. Readers are surreptitiously treated to what will become fall's fashion craze--African tribal wear.

  2. All About Beauty: More like "All About Selling Magazines" by dropping names and urban-centric geography. The article informs readers that San Franciscans like their women smart. New Yorkers prefer brunettes. And Des Moines? Not included--apparently they don't read, let alone buy magazines or beauty products.

  3. Desperately Seeking Da Vinci: The cover suggests a cut-and-dry how-to, but the article inside delivers a first-person narrative which "lifts" plastic surgery to the level of art by including verbiage from Warhol and a lot of talk about aesthetics.

  4. Power to the People: And the advertisers. Most of the 150 secrets have brand names attached. And potentially big advertising dollars.

  5. Uma: Remember the old days when fashion magazines put fashion models on the cover? The great celebrity parasite finds another host. Or, as newsstand sales reflect, the birth of a symbiotic relationship.

  6. Pretty Sneaky: Writer Julia Reed condemns, but the teaser on the cover promotes. Who's the parasite now?

This "article" will appear in an upcoming issue of the fashion/culture magazine Easy.

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From the August 1997 issue of the Metropolitan.

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