If you've read my earlier blogs, you'll know that I find suicide apalling, something definitely not to be treated lightly. So naturally I was revolted by the Vice fashion spread recreating women writers' suicides. In an issue paying tribute to women writers. Didn't anyone realize how tasteless it was, not to mention potentially dangerous? The danger is in promoting the association of suicide with being a great writer. For a frustrated and depressed unpublished writer, that may be just the excuse they need to do the same.
I'm not going to share these images which turned my stomach. I fail to see how anyone can look at them and admire the clothes. Why didn't they ask women police officers and journalists if they ever notice what victims of violence are wearing when they arrive at a death scene, if they didn't have the commonsense to figure out nobody's going to want to look at a mutilated corpse twice to admire its attire?! Even if we know the violent death is a fiction.
I'd rather dwell on the beautiful tasteful fashion spreads of the old magazine Victoria, which very often paid tribute to women writers and their works. They would reimagine a writer like Edith Wharton or Colette sitting at her glamorous secretary desk in deliciously lacy attire or recreate scenes from classic novels using currently available fashions. All alongside appropriate quotes. And this before the Internet made it easy to search for appropriate literary allusions.
I understand that Vice has an edgier image, but there were ways they could have had an appropriate fashion spread with edge without going too far. Here are some I would have liked.
1. Women writers at the moment of inspiration.
I can imagine the teenage Edna St. Vincent Millay, lying in the grass in an innocent yet sexy white summer dress as she dreamed up the lines of "Renascence." Or Anne Morrow Lindbergh in vintage style beach clothes penning A Gift from the Sea. And how about Dorothy Parker musing over a single rose presented by an anonymous man? You could even have Amy Tan cleaning under the bed with her hair tied back with a designer scarf (cleaning was what helped her begin her second novel).
2. Recreation of dramatic scenes from women's writing--ones where glamor is appropriate. Want someone with a gun in hand? How about the protagonist of Amy Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife with gun in hand, threatening her abusive husband in a ladykiller 40's style dress.
3. Offbeat clothing from women's fiction recreated.
How about showing a stylish version of Sethe's makeshift wedding dress from Beloved for instance?Though they'd have to credit pillowcase suppliers rather than clothes designers.
Angela Carter's dark tale "The Bloody Chamber" is full of descriptions of clothes, from a fine black silk dress as a wedding gift, to a white muslin evening gown and choker of rubies worn by the protagonist to the opera, her navy travling suit with an apricot blouse and a fur coat and her "neglige of antique lace." This story alone could provide enough for a single fashion spread fitting for Vice.
4. Recreations of famous bookcovers.
My personal favorites are the covers of the Mary Russell books that show the protagonist in a Holmesian pose. Then there's A.S. Byatt's The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye. Think of all the accessories that can be displayed on the model. The cover of Gatsby's Girl is nice too. And there's an old bookcover of Jacob I Have Loved showing the protagonist in a pretty old-fashioned white sundress which I always liked.
5. The other selves of the authors. Anne Lindbergh in a flight jacket. Isak Dinesen on safari. Edith Wharton driving an ambulance. Sneaking the stylishclothes in may be a challenge, but not impossible.
And of course there are representations of iconic characters from the authors' works. You can't say it's been done. They haven't all been done, and a true artist can see many possible fresh takes on what has been done. That's where being artistic and creative comes in. It doesn't have to go so far as to be shocking.