Vogue’s “Diversity Cover” – The View from the First Floor

By Catia Malaquias

Vogue’s March 2017 cover celebrates ‘125 Years of Vogue’ with an image purporting to represent ‘diversity’– by featuring seven similarly aged women in the same basic pose with very similar clothes and hair styles.  But many just aren’t buying it – literally or figuratively.

The extent of ‘diversity’ in the image is limited to some racial variability in facial features, slight differences in skin tones and one ‘plus-size model’ whose arm, according to critics who have been slamming the cover on social media, is seemingly positioned to minimise her ‘plus-size’ thigh.

Across this ‘celebration of diversity’ are the words:

“The Beauty Revolution: No Norm is the New Norm”.

But the image is far from revolutionary and, if anything, largely confirms the narrow ‘high-fashion’ norm in representing women.

There is no real representation of ‘body-shape diversity’, no ‘age diversity’ and even the representation of ‘racial/ethnic diversity’ falls within fairly conventional beauty ideals.  Just as glaring for me is the fact that the cover makes no attempt to represent what seems to be the least acknowledged part of human diversity – ‘disability’.  People with disability represent 1 in 5 of us – the largest minority group in society – and they are consumers of fashion too but, again, they are overlooked.

The Vogue cover disappointingly reflects the narrow prism through which ‘high-fashion’, and much of the fashion and advertising worlds, continue to see and reflect ‘human diversity’, which seems increasingly at odds with what many consumers would like to see reflected even on the glossy pages of fashion magazines.

In endeavouring to photograph for us a view of ‘no norm’ diversity, I wish Vogue would have been brave enough to take the elevator to the top floor of the diversity tower rather than the (inaccessible) stairs to the first floor.

[Cover photo © Vogue]

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