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A Fevered Dictation
I grew up reading fashion magazines -- as, I expect, did many if not most women. As I've mentioned before, I'm fascinated by the way people write about fashion and beauty, how we conceptualize it, how we imagine it fitting into our lives. Also, I like to bitch about writing. Hence, a new series.
Lucky is put down as a "magalog", something less worthy than the ordinary run of women's magazines, but honestly, all women's magazines push product after product, they are beholden to advertisers after all, and I don't want to read much of what's in the ordinary run of women's magazines. I don't want to learn about new parts of my body that need "sculpting". I don't want to read sex tips aimed at barely post-virginal 18-year-olds (guess what, you can do it in more than one position!), learn what 21-year-old Mike from Oklahoma thinks about jealousy, or take quizzes for which the "correct" answers are both painfully obvious and stiflingly normative. More fashion-oriented magazines, like Vogue, have more appeal, but I tend to want to read about clothes I might actually, conceivably wear, they occasionally seem to fetishize the extremely long, lean bodies of their models, and the pretentiousness can get wearing; trends that last all of six months are not art nor do they signal major shifts in cultural consciousness.
No, when I buy a fashion magazine I want to look at pretty things I can't afford but might conceivably want, and Lucky provides that. To me, Lucky is the magazine equivalent of "fun" makeup lines like Tarte, Too Faced, BeneFit, and even MAC -- it presents fashion and beauty as pleasures, without the focus on shaming and correction that comes with more "traditional" lines and magazines. (My mother has and has always had beautiful skin, but decades ago a cosmetics saleswoman reduced her to tears by corralling her and pointing out "flaws" and "aging" she didn't know she had. I am pretty confident that this will never happen to me, and thank goodness.)
And I will say, if you like the Lucky aesthetic, the magazine does a very good job.
Above, from the May 2009 issue, an example of the Lucky beauty aesthetic. Lucky very seldom strays from this look: tousled hair, minimal or "natural" makeup. Even when promoting bright colours, Lucky sticks to its script. From the April issue: "Since full-throttle red [lipstick] is best on a practically bare face, you can skip other makeup almost entirely."
Fine, but this is not the only way to wear red lipstick, not to mention that red lipstick tends to necessitate at least some concealer and brow definition.
Leaving aside the mild absurdity of explaining how to wear drawstring pants and flip-flops (oh no, am I doing it wrong?), I do like the way Lucky lays out their fashion spreads; it's tremendously appealing eye candy. I don't want to look at models, I want to look at clothes, and it appears a lot of women feel the same way. The Lucky fashion aesthetic, however, is somewhat frustrating. The magazine tends to promote very loose, baggy clothing, often bizarrely layered; as Erin at Dress A Day once put it, "their stylists are colorblind pranksters hellbent on playing 'exquisite corpse,' only with innocent clothes." The Lucky editors flock to anything oversized, especially if it's unflattering. I'm sorry, no adult woman should wear a romper, and I refuse to pretend that clothes that obscure the waist or radically enlarge the hips -- harem pants, giant blousons, oversized shift dresses -- are anything but awful on the vast majority of us.
Then there are the verbal tics. I would love to see a Lucky issue that didn't abuse any of the following words: "so", "perfect", "Parisian", "French-girl", "British", "twist", "timeless", "so, so", "universally flattering", "chic", "brilliant[ly]", and I'm sure there are half a dozen I've missed. Virtually synonymous with this silliness (everything is not Parisian!) is the name of Jean Godfrey-June, Lucky's beauty director.
"Tinier and chicer than even an iPod, this throw-it-in-your-bag-and-you're-suddenly-10,000-times-more-fabulous sunscreen is bound to increase 'compliance' (as dermatologists like to say) by about six trillion percent."
Writing about beauty can be really challenging, and must be especially so when one has advertisers to please and is therefore duty-bound to say something nice. But Jean Godfrey-June's flights of vaguely positive fancy are particularly transparent and therefore particularly annoying. For example, here's her mini-review of Chanel's UV Essentiel sunscreen, again, from the April 2009 issue:
What I get from this is that for $48 USD, you get a tiny amount of product so unremarkable that she couldn't even be bothered to mention anything but the packaging. Great. Also, the reason I don't tend to reapply sunscreen as often as I should has nothing to do with the absence of "fabulous" packaging and everything to do with the fact that I don't relish the idea of walking around with multiple layers of grease and powder on my face, nor do I want to re-do my makeup in the middle of the day. In conclusion, what the hell.
And yet I continue to buy the magazine, when I buy fashion magazines at all, which these days is pretty rare. I think it's because of what I noted above; I might not like the Lucky aesthetic or vocabulary, but I like the basic attitude, and it's rare that I can say that about a mainstream fashion magazine.
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