Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

Real Women to Fill Pages of Top German Glossy

The backlash against too-thin models is spreading. German glossy Brigitte will no longer be featuring models in its pages as of 2010, opting instead to focus on “real” women.

Andreas Lebert, Brigitte’s editor-in-chief, told the Guardian that the magazine, the top-selling glossy in Germany with a circulation of 700,000, is sick of having to digitally add some meat to the bones of too-thin models. “For years we’ve had to use Photoshop to fatten the girls up,” he said. “Especially their thighs, and decolletage. But this is disturbing and perverse and what has it got to do with our real reader?”

Lebert told the Guardian that readers have complained that they don’t connect with women who are so thin their bones are protruding.

The magazine will instead feature German women, from prominent figures such as politicians and actresses, to virtually unknown women. “We’re looking for women who have their own identity, whether it be the 18-year-old A-level student, the company chairwoman, the musician, or the footballer.”

According to the Guardian article, modelling agencies don’t think it’s going to work. Louisa von Minckwitz, owner of German modelling agency Louisa Models, says women buy magazines because they “want to see clothes on beautiful, aesthetically pleasing people.” Um, really?

I have an entirely different view: People are starved for images of real women. Women buy feminist magazines such as BUST, Venus Zine, Ms., and Bitch because they are seeking a realistic portrayal of women, because they are looking for something that is more real, something that has more substance.

And what of the success of Style Clicker, Copenhagen Street Style, and other street style blogs? The best street style blogs create a visual narrative that celebrates the beauty in realism; it appeals to people who want to be able to relate to the fashion world. I would dare anyone to show me a Vogue spread that is more stunning than a collection of images of real people.

Nevertheless, there’s no denying Brigitte is gambling with their future. While there are many proponents of bringing reality back to the fashion world, there’s a sense that there’s a whole lot of talk and not enough action.

In 2006 Spain took the most forceful action by passing a law that banned too-thin models from the catwalks, but the impact of a twice-yearly event is not the same thing as regularly being inundated with images of emaciated bodies.

More recently, the Times reported Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, sent a critical letter to fashion houses in Europe and America saying designers force magazines to feature models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” by providing “miniscule” samples that would not fit healthier models.”We have now reached the point where many of the sample sizes don’t comfortably fit even the established star models,” Shulman went on to say in the letter.

Of course, designers responded by saying the entire industry would have to change. Which prompts the question: So why doesn’t it? Why don’t designers refuse to work with unhealthily thin models? (And why don’t we just skip over the PR bullshit and call it like it is: A total cop out.)

Glamour is also making an effort to change the unrealistic representations of the body in magazines. They published a small picture of size-12 model Lizzi Miller in their September issue, and due to reader demand, they’re following that success up with a full story on plus-size models in the November issue, along with a commitment to “featuring a greater range of body types in our pages, including in fashion and beauty stories (traditionally the toughest areas for even the top “plus-size” models to crack),” Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive writes.

But Glamour’s commitment is still a far cry from a mandate to effectively ban skin-and-bones models. Brigitte’s move is gutsy, and I sincerely hope it pays off.

For anyone fluent in German, check out this video of Brigitte’s editor talking about the move to images of “real” women.

(From The Sandwich Theorem)