The Closet Feminist is on Holidays!

We made it through our first year, yay! Time for us to take a break and enjoy the holidays. There will be no new posts Dec.23 until Jan. 6th. We might tweet or post on our FB page if something comes up, and encourage you to send in your post or article ideas in the meantime as The Closet Feminist welcomes relevant submissions from anyone!

We hope you have a fun and safe holiday season, see you all in 2014!

Covers & Content 2013 Yearbook

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Above: That’s a wrap! We went through 35 magazines with as many cover stars and 72 editorials to come up with three videos with a total run time of nearly a half-hour!!

Thank-you for watching and supporting our three newest videos focused on the year-end summaries for our Covers & Content column! Below you will find tables side by side for each magazine, as well as some fun, yearbook-esque trivia from the editors’ perspectives.

ELLE CANADA TABLE SUMMARY

Elle Canada 2013 Table

FASHION TABLE SUMMARY

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FLARE TABLE SUMMARY

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NEW CLOSET FEMINIST TERMINOLOGY

Whiteout Issue: an issue of a fashion magazine where neither the cover star nor models booked/used for any of the major editorials are people of colour.

Token Diversity Spread: When a fashion magazine books/uses an ensemble of models, including some models of colour or models representing other minorities in the fashion world (i.e., plus size models or visibly older models), but are careful not to allow the minorities chosen to make up the majority of the spread or the majority of models chosen.

Most Covers Featuring a Person of Colour

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Flare, with 5/12 covers featuring a woman of colour! Elle Canada was close behind with 4 covers featuring a woman of colour.

Fewest Covers Featuring a Person of Colour

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Fashion, with 2/11 covers featuring a woman of colour.

Most Editorials Featuring [a] models of colour(s)

Flare had the most, with four editorials this year exclusively starring a model of colour, which was sadly just a fraction more than their competitors (see below).

Fewest Editorials Featuring  [a] models of colour(s)

Fashion and Elle Canada tie for last place, having just three editorials each this year which starred a model of colour exclusively (see above).

Fewest Whiteout Issues (see definition of a “whiteout issue” above)

Flare and Fashion tie for ‘fewest’ whiteout issues having 5 whiteout issues this past year each.

Most Whiteout Issues

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Elle Canada was slightly worse off than their competitors, having 6 whiteout issues in 2013, but it looks like all three magazines need to work on having fewer/no whiteout issues!

Almost an A+

Fashion is the only magazine of the three to have an issue published in 2013 that has a cover star of colour and an editorial that stars a model of colour exclusively (effectively the opposite of a whiteout issue)–their August issue! The August issue of Flare is similar, having Arlenis Sosa as the cover star and the only model of the sole editorial for that issue, however, it’s clear that Fashion really went the extra mile for their issue.

Fewest Token Diversity Spreads (see definition of “token diversity spread” above)

Elle Canada had just one token diversity spread this year.

Most Token Diversity Spreads

FL Apr Ed 2

Above: A Token Diversity Spread from Flare April 2013. Model Shiya Zhao (middle) is probably wondering why she is the only POC in this pic…

Fashion and Flare had slightly more token diversity spreads than Elle Canada, having two each in 2013.

Highlight of the Year

Elle Canada really blew us away this year–their June, July, and November issues were so noteworthy for their solid, feminist articles that we did a post dedicated worshipping each issue–way to go, Elle Canada!

Flare did really well this year, too, with their July and November issues being especially progressive and feminist.

Biggest Fail of the Year

Fashion‘s yellow-face spread in April. Seriously can’t believe more people aren’t freaking out about this one…hello, they did a yellow-face spread, people!

Flare‘s March issue, which was heavily reliant on cultural appropriation, Orientalism, and stereotyping of Japanese culture.

Most Improved

Flare‘s layout and content makeover in September was a great idea, making it much for hip and relevant.

That being said, Flare watch your heels–if Elle Canada follows the spirit of their diverse and progressive reporting, they could take the title next year!

Most Inspiring Editorials

Money and luxury does not equal something stylish or inspiring. Unfortunately, Canadian fashion magazines let their styling (which is overall okay compared to say, American fashion magazines) be overshadowed by the idea that money= style, or obscured by crap photography–too dark to see clothing details or frequently use this blue tinge to the lighting that makes models look sickly (see below).

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Above: A classic example of what makes us go “wtf?” when we open a Canadian fashion magazine: this shoot from Elle Canada‘s October issue had relatively great styling, hair, and makeup, and a beautiful model–but the godawful lighting obscures the details of the outfit and makes the model look like she’s suffering from scurvy or is undead or something…

We rarely see editorials in these magazines that make us want to emulate the looks shown, like we do when we read blogs or other magazines, which is really a shame since editorials are kind of the whole point of a fashion magazine. That being said, when something is actually inspiring sartorially, it’s usually found in Flare or Elle Canada.

Biggest “Hmmm?” Moment

Why Grace Mahary didn’t get an interview printed in the May issue of Elle Canada though she was the cover star.

Fashion‘s puzzling October editorial which was declared to be “experimental”, but we think means that there was some issue with time/money/people, and they spliced three different editorials together into one.

Why Flare chose Paulina Gretzky for their Feb. cover–nothing against her personally, but she just doesn’t seem like a relevant celeb, which was discussed in the last video.

Cover Queens

Here are the best cover stories for each magazine:

Fashion-Demi Lovato hands down!

Elle Canada– Couldn’t choose between Shay Mitchell (July) and Janelle Monaé (February)

Flare-Couldn’t choose between Kerry Washington (October) and Alexa Chung (November).

Editorial Overachiever

Elle Canada had the most editorials this year of the three magazines, putting out a total of 27!!

Feminism FTW!

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Above: Janelle Monaé in Elle Canada Feb. 2013

We’re pretty pleased to see that even as they have their screw-ups (Elle Canada printing three Whiteout Issues in a row; Flare‘s atrocious March issue) now and then, Elle Canada and Flare could really be considered as having feminist content regularly or even just being feminist magazines–a big deal for a major fashion magazine! They have lots of smaller articles and interviews with lots of interesting women and present them that way–focusing on the talents of female artists, musicians, writers, reporters, models, designers, entrepreneurs, etc is a big deal, because by and large women in these fields are underrepresented in Canadian media and in general. Clearly, Elle Canada and Flare are seeking to rectify that!

Covers & Content Annual Review, Part 3: Flare

By: Emily Yakashiro

Welcome to the last instalment of our year-end series of Covers & Content! Did you miss Part 1 on Elle Canada? Check it out here. Part 2 on Fashion can be found here.

This last video focuses on all of the 2013 issues of Flare, which I suggest is the most explicitly feminist Canadian fashion magazine currently. As Flare is the last of the three major Canadian fashion magazines to be reviewed, I will be comparing it to Elle Canada and Fashion, finding out which magazine is the most diverse!

Complete Transcript: “Closet Feminist Covers & Content Part 3: Flare

Curious what Canada’s most diverse fashion magazine is? Today we find out!

Welcome the third and final video for our first-ever annual wrap up of our Covers & Content column! This video is the culmination of a project that The Closet Feminist does all year. The purpose is to look at each issue published in 2013 by the three major Canadian fashion magazines-Elle Canada, Fashion, and Flare, and determine how diverse the issue is based on the cover star and the models used in the editorials.

We’ve based our summaries on three questions:

  1. Does the cover feature a person of colour?
  2. Do any of the major editorials feature models of colour?
  3. Do any of the major editorials feature a “plus-size” model?

As I mentioned in the first video of this series, when I say person/model/woman of colour, I mean someone who does not appear to have white privilege at first glance. And when I say a “plus-size” model, I mean someone who does not appear to have thin privilege at first glance.

For this last video, we’ll be looking at the diversity Flare magazine. I’ll end the video by comparing it to Elle Canada and Fashion, and we’ll see which Canadian fashion magazine has the best representation of minorities. Flare printed 12 issues this year, all of which had editorials.

Flare had a positive start to the year with a woman of colour on the cover–Lea Michele from Glee.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Star Style” in Flare January 2013. Pics by Chris Nicholls, styling by Elizabeth Cabral. Model, Ashtyn Franklin (Sutherland Models).]

The rest of the issue was fairly status quo: one horoscope-inspired editorial starring one thin, white model.

February had Paulina Gretzky on the cover, which I personally found to be an interesting choice. Canadian media has a fascination with her for obvious reasons, which is interesting since she’s American and a staunch Republican at that. In terms of fame, she seems to be famous just for her familial connection.

Given this, I wish Flare had gone with a more relevant or diverse celebrity, like Ellen Wong, the Canadian star of The Carrie Diaries, who they did a small interview with at the back of this issue.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “The Patti Smith Experience” in Flare February 2013. Pics by Max Abadian, styling by Elizabeth Cabral. Model, Anaïs Pouliot.]

Overall, the February issue was a Whiteout Issue, which I defined in the last video. It had just one editorial, featuring a thin and white model.

Flare’s March issue was definitely the low point of the year for me personally. It was a whiteout issue, featuring Charlotte Free on the cover shortly after she made some highly offensive comments about violence against women.

FL Mar extras 1

Above: The mood board page from Flare‘s highly problematic March issue.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Japanese Wave” in Flare March 2013. Pics by Chris Nicholls, styling by Elizabeth Cabral. Model, Ciara (Next Los Angeles).]

The rest of the issue I found to be quite racist and problematic, as it relied heavily on cultural appropriation and Orientalism, evidently attempting to draw upon Japanese culture as an overall theme of sorts for this issue.

When this issue of Flare hit newstands in March, The Closet Feminist did an article critiquing the issue as a whole, however, it’s not the only Canadian fashion magazine to feature some seriously problematic content.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Tokyo Pop” in Fashion April 2013. Styled by George Antonopoulos, pics by Gabor Jurina. Model, Karina Gubanova (though she is not credited in the spread).]

Indeed, as I pointed out in the last video, Fashion committed a similar faux pas with a yellow face spread which they printed in their April issue.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Freestyling the Blues” in Flare March 2013. Pics by Max Abadian, styling by Fiona Green. Model, Charlotte Free AND “A Fine Mess”. Pics by Mark Peckmezian, styling by Elizabeth Cabral. Model, Ashtyn (Sutherland).]

Beyond this, there were three editorials including Free’s cover story, none of them had models of colour or plus-size models.

The April issue of Flare had Diane Kruger on the cover, and had two editorials which were actually relatively diverse.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Five Easy Pieces” in Flare April 2013. Pics by Peter Ash Lee, styling by caroline Belhumeur. Model, Mackenzie Hamilton (Richards Models).]

The first editorial starred a model of colour exclusively for the first time in Flare’s 2013 publishing year.

FL Apr Ed 2

Above: From Flare‘s April 2013 editorial. This is a good example of a Token Diversity Spread.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Garden Variety”. Pics by Owen Bruce, styling by Corey Ng. Models, Cate Chant and Shiya Zhao (Sutherland) and Emily van Ray (Anita Norris Models).]

The second editorial was a Token Diversity Spread, which I defined in the previous video. It starred three models, but only one of them was a model of colour. None of the editorials featured plus-sized models.

May starred Christina Hendricks on the cover–the first and only magazine out of the three magazines we discuss in this project to feature a cover star who might be considered plus-size!

[Editorial Picture Credits: “The Cool Inheritance” in Flare May 2013. Styling by Fiona Green, pics by Andnrew Soule. Models, Kirsten and Billie Rose Owen.]

Other than that, May is a whiteout issue. The first editorial stars model Kirsten Owen and her daughter Billie Rose.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “pulp fashion” in Flare May 2013. Styling by Elizabeth Cabral, pics by Chris Nicholls. Model, Catrina Stella (Next Los Angeles).]

The second editorial for the May issue stars one thin, white model.

June was also a whiteout issue, starring Greta Gerwig on the cover.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Summer of the Suit” in Flare June 2013. Styling by Fiona Green, pics by Max Abadian. Model, Hannah Holman (Ford Models) AND “Artists in Residence” pics by Norman Wong, styling by Rita Liefhebber. Model, Anna Edwards (Next).]

There were two editorials both typical and status quo, as they both starred thin, white models.

July starred Flare’s second cover star of colour–Olivia Munn! This issue was actually particularly diverse and noteworthy overall, we even wrote a piece about it, praising what we considered to be especially progressive.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Cruel Summer” in Flare July 2013. Pics by Andrew Soule, styling by Rita Liefhebber. Model, unknown]

There was so much good stuff in this issue, yet it’s too bad that this influence didn’t spread to the editorial, which featured one thin white model.

In August, for the second month in a row, Flare chose a woman of colour for their cover: supermodel Arlenis Sosa.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Every Day is a Luxury” in Flare August 2013. Styling, Fiona Green, pics by Jason Kim. Model, Arlenis Sosa]

Sosa starred in the only editorial for the August issue, which was Flare’s smallest issue of the year.

September was a big month for Flare. They debuted their new layout, catching the eye of major fashion news sources everywhere, though not necessarily for good reasons: Amber Heard was on the cover, and the cover was mocked widely for featuring such a boring picture of her.

FL Sept Ed 2

Above: From one of Flare‘s September editorials.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “New Look Ahead” in Flare September 2013. Styling, Rita Liefhebber, pics by Andrew Soule. Model, Julia Dunstall (Marilyn Model Agency) AND “Into the Wild”, styling by Martha Violante, pics by Andrew Yee. Model, Li Xiao Xing (Women Management NYC).]

September’s editorials were pretty good, one starring a model of colour exclusively, the other starring one thin, white model.

October saw Kerry Washington on the cover, another woman of colour which was definitely encouraging.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “You’re Not From Around These Parts” in Flare October 2013. Styling by Rita Liefhebber, pics by Andrew Soule. Model, Julia Dunstall (Marilyn Model Agency).]

This issue had two editorials, the first  starring a thin white model.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “In the Mix” in October Flare 2013. Styling by Tiyana Grulovic, pics by Miguel Jacob. Models, Vita Chambers, Carmen Elle, Devon Sproule, Basia Bulat, Elise Legrow, Shi Wisdom.]

The other was a Token Diversity Spread starring six Toronto-based musicians. Of these six, just two were women of colour, and only one of these women could be considered ‘plus size’.

November also starred a woman of colour-Alexa Chung! Like Elle Canada, November’s issue of Flare was particularly noteworthy, and again, we wrote a whole article dedicated to its awesomeness.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “Schooled by Alexa” in Flare November 2013. Styling, Kemal Harris, pics by Jason Kim. Model, Alexa Chung AND “Pastels Take Shape”, styling by Corey Ng, pics by Petra Collins. Model, Romane Villeneuve (Dulcedo Model Management) AND “Moving Pieces” styled by Tiyana Grulovic, pics by Norman Wong. Model, Marie-Eve (Next Models).]

The editorials were less diverse–of the three printed, only Chung’s cover story could be an editorial featuring a woman of colour. None of them had a plus-size model.

Flare closed out their year with a whiteout issue, which is really too bad since we love cover star Kristen Bell and the general girl-power feel of the whole issue.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “This Modern Lust” in Flare December 2013. Styling by Rita Liefhebber, pics by Autumn de Wilde. Model, Lizzy Caplan]

There were two editorials in the December issue–one starring comedienne Lizzy Caplan who is a Closet Feminist favourite.

[Editorial Picture Credits: “New Order” in Flare December 2013. Styling by Tiyana Grulovic, pics by Andrew Yee. Models, Masha (Folio) and Britt B. (Elmer Olsen Models).]

The second editorial featured two thin, white models.

Okay, so let’s recap:

Flare, during 2013 put out 12 issues. Of these 12, 5 featured cover stars of colour.

They had a total of 22 editorials, six of which featured models of colour. Since two of these were Token Diversity Spreads, however, there was only 4 editorials from Flare this year that starred a model of colour exclusively. There was just one issue of Flare that featured one plus-size model for one page, the same as Elle Canada.

Overall, I will say that personally, Flare is definitely my favourite Canadian fashion magazine. Their makeover that took place in September was a smart move, and even before that it was clear to me that Flare is a feminist fashion magazine.

Looking back on all the issues of all three magazines, I would say Elle Canada is also quite feminist. They both had double the amount of cover stars of colour than Fashion, and clearly make efforts in their reporting to recognize the work of women of all backgrounds. There’s always room for improvement though, and until I see the erasure of Whiteout Issues and Token Diversity Spreads entirely from all three magazines, I can’t say that I’ll be completely at ease with the work they are doing.

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Elle Canada 2013 Table

Above: A review of all three magazines for comparison.

So that wraps up our first annual summary of our Covers & Content column. Diversity in Canadian fashion magazines is really important, and The Closet Feminist will continue to monitor the progress of Elle Canada, Fashion, and Flare in the coming year. Join us every month for a summary of each magazine on theclosetfeminist.ca

TERMINOLOGY

Whiteout Issue: an issue of a fashion magazine where neither the cover star nor models booked/used for any of the major editorials are people of colour.

Token Diversity Spread: When a fashion magazine books/uses an ensemble of models, including some models of colour or models representing other minorities in the fashion world (i.e., plus size models or visibly older models), but are careful not to allow the minorities chosen to make up the majority of the spread or the majority of models chosen.

 

 

Fashion Blogging is not Dead. Our Conversations are.

By: Arij Riahi

With each passing season, a new writer adds a nail to the fashion blog coffin. The critiques are plural, but they seem to be articulated around two major ideas.

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Image above on R29 via NY Times here.

First, there are the likes of fashion journalist Suzy Menkes who, with a hint of elitist nostalgia describes the fashion blogosphere as a “circus of people who are famous for being famous.”

Second, there is the thoughtful ex-blogger who’s been on the scene since its pioneering year of 2006, and who now laments the directionlessness and sterility of the current fashion blogoscape.

Historically, an increased frequency in the use of the “… is dead” expression signals not a death, but the transformation of a cultural phenomenon. Nietzsche and paperless gurus are a testimony to that. To put it plainly, fashion blogging – like religion and the paperback – is not dead, but evolving. Devolving, maybe. But it is changing.

Speaking on this change, Jennine Jacob, fashion blogger and founder of the Independent Fashion Bloggers network, writes :

Whatever it was, I noticed there was a trend of general decline in interest in personal style blogging. People aren’t leaving as many comments, and the commenting on the big ones are mostly blogger-spammers promoting their own sites. Content on personal style blogs had become minimal, some just listing their clothes. Others just talking about what they ate for breakfast, or how they were so excited to work with this brand or that brand. Bloggers who “make it” aren’t just cute anymore, they have business plans, niches, a specific purpose other than broadcasting their own vanity.

And therein might lie the main difference in fashion blogging from its early days (think LiveJournal and MyStyleDiary, circa 2005). There is a definite move away from conversation and towards strict consumerism. The average personal style blog is a list of purchased items and retail locations. Fashion blogging in general has been commodified, and the success of a blog is measured through entrepreneurial lenses.

A good example of this is the evolution of fat-fashion blogging, from the early Fatshionista conversations to its current days. An article aptly titled  “Fatshion Police : How Plus-Size Blogging Left Its Radical Roots Behind” discusses the idea at length. In a nutshell, “…while fat fashion blogging has cracked into the rarified world of the trend piece, fat activism is struggling.”

I’ve noticed a similar evolution in “do-it-yourself” fashion blogs. I see some of them selling DIY kits to create an item at a price comparable to the retail value of the item…new. The idea of spoofing this by creating a step-by-step DIY-DIY-kit did run through my mind. I also saw a blogger feature a completed DIY project they created on their site, but linked to a paid publication to view the full step-by-step tutorial. The point here is not to ask DIY-ers to be faithful to the punk origins of the notion. I question, though, how an idea that grew out of a rejection of mainstream capitalist consumerism could turn so easily into mainstream capitalist consumerism.

I understand the reasons for monetizing a blog. The choice of compensation (why and how) is a personal one. I also understand how access to high-profile gigs and fashion job prospects might ease some frustrations about acceptance and representation in the industry.

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Above: Picture by Gunnar Larson, found on R29 here.

What I don’t understand is how or why it erases critical thought about that industry. I worry about the trend of fashion bloggers who were initially nurtured by a political community or driven by radical incentives, but end up turning their back on it once they “make it.” In this context, it seems unsurprising that the most important/popular fashion blogs are painfully straight, white, and upper-middle-class: why is it that fashion is “just fashion” only to those who feel included in the industry?

Scholar Jo Reger notes in an essay* how contemporary feminists use a, “consciously constructed look as a way to live out, on an everyday basis, their politics and ideologies.” Examining the ways in which young feminists construct fashion, she adds that the, “body becomes the location where larger issues are played out.”

I do find that there are a lot of larger, political issues in fashion– I like your camouflage coat, but I’d also like a conversation about the ethics of wearing military apparel. I don’t mind your luxury items, but I want to find out if it is craft(hu)manship or branding. I prefer a full tutorial, because I enjoy the agency that comes with wearing my own skirt. I have questions about second-hand clothing and the effect it has on African textile markets. I want to have these conversations, but I can’t find many spaces for them online.

I think that by narrowing down our fashion conversations, we miss the opportunity of reclaiming the body -the individual and the collective one- and highlighting how its presence, movement, and adornment is as an act of political resistance– not a commodity.

*Reger, Jo. “DIY Fashion and Going Bust: Wearing Feminist Politics in the Twenty-First Century.” Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style. Ed. Shira Tarrant and Marjorie Jolles. SUNY Press, 2012.

Arij (Twitter: @arijactually) is a writer based in Montreal, Quebec. Favourite topics include law, colonialism, and pugilism. 

Well Dressed, Well Read: Sei Shonagon’s “The Pillow Book”

His Excellency’s wife wore several layers of white over two robes of stiff glossed scarlet, and a formal train in the style of a gentlewoman over this ensemble, but as she was seated further in, on the inner side of the room, facing east, I couldn’t make out much more than this.

The Shigeisa was further to the northern end of the room, facing south towards me. She was dressed in layer upon layer of gowns in lighter and darker shades of plum-pink, with over this a rich damask gown. Her formal over-robe was of a reddish maroon figured silk, and the uppermost layer was a heavy brocade in a spring-shoot green, which produced a beautifully youthful impression. I was deeply impressed with the way she sat throughout with her fan shielding her face, and I must say I found her utterly splendid and wonderful.

-from The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon

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