Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while are familiar with my disappointment over the lack of reality exhibited within the pages of women’s glossy magazines. Browse any shelf of monthly publications and you’ll see images of beautiful people (often enhanced), be told to buy trendy unnecessary items like $400 sequin sneakers, and look at fashions that only look good on thin 18-year olds. Most of these magazines include articles about how a young starlet is struggling to manage her film project in Rio and still find time to work with her personal trainer, or about women who have chucked away their careers to climb mountains or volunteer in a third-world country.
These are fine if you want to flip through pages of fantasy land. But rarely do I find anything that a Real Woman can truly relate to. This was once again put to the test when I was facing a wall of magazines while traveling recently. I was willing to buy some fluff to pass the time in the airport, so I chose People Magazine’s Style Watch issue.
Lo and behold, I was pleasantly surprised. First, they did a smart thing and avoided feature articles all together. They had goals for this issue, and literary substance was not one of them… and that is fine. Best not to pretend to be what you aren’t. The focus truly was on style – but what I was happy to see was that they included some very realistic style ideas and products that a normal woman could actually wear and buy. Featured on the pages were a wide variety of products in a range of looks and prices. They highlighted where to find the products, and actually included “normal” places like Target, JCrew, and Kohl’s. There was one page devoted to trendy watches ranging in price from $20 – $100. There was a page of “best buy cheapies” for cosmetics. A couple “articles” showed how to mimic celebrity looks for less. One handy spread explained how to find a new scent in perfume. Shockingly, I actually turned down a couple of pages for reference and decided not to leave the issue behind at the airport.
I will, however, stop just short of glowing high praise. The cover model was flawless as always, and there were, naturally, a number of pages that left me thinking “huh?”. I beg to differ with their statement that baseball jackets are now a fun fashion statement – I don’t know any woman (over the age of 12) who looks good in those, even if you do make them out of silk and put flowers on them. On another page, I was told I should wear orange lipstick. On this face? I don’t think so. And, for all of the lower-price-point products they listed, there were just as many at the unrealistic level – like a “must-have” tote for a mere $1800.
Ah well….I suppose they couldn’t move completely to my Real Woman level. What amused me most, naturally, were the ads. I have spent many years in marketing, and I am consistently entertained by what some agencies believe will sell. My favorite from this issue is the ad I have pictured here, of a beautiful, very young, woman standing in the surf in just jeans. (And to think I grew up in the days when it was shocking for Brooke Shields to tell us that nothing came between her and her Calvins!). I still don’t know what this ad is trying to sell me. Torn jeans? Hair products? Sun screen? A time-share in the islands?
When I took a second look at this ad, I was also struck by the woman herself. There was a news story this week about how in Israel, models can not be underweight, and digital/graphic enhancement is scorned. I hope that trend extends to this country. Because look at this image – particularly at the distance between her shoulders and her butt. She is about 8 feet long. That “just ain’t right.”
So to the folks at People magazine, I say nice job, good try. Maybe some day we really will get to the point where at least one magazine in the sea of publications will speak to the real us. In the meantime, I appreciate the effort by some…. even if they are baby steps.