Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I’m A‘muse’d

While there has been a growing trend towards a more democratic inclusion of diverse ethnicities, races, body types, and ages with regards to the definition of beauty, runways and fashion magazines are still the province of those impossibly genetically blessed creatures that seem to inhabit a different world than us mere mortals. And next month, they will be celebrated in all their muse - like glory, in an exhibit, “The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion, mounted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, www.metmuseum.org, May 6 – August 9th, 2009.

For sure, the attending gala, which is long considered to be the Party of the Year and will be co-chaired on May 4th by Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Justin Timberlake, and Kate Moss, is always filled to the rafter with divine looking A list celebrities, megastars, social fixtures, fashion designers, and models. As for the latter, I would imagine they will be out in record droves since they are the focal point of the exhibit itself (organized by Harold Koda and guest co-curated by Kohle Yohannan), which seeks to explore the relationship between “high fashion and evolving ideas of beauty”, with a focus on “iconic models of the twentieth century and their roles in projecting and sometimes inspiring, the fashion of their respective eras.” Indeed, in addition to Kate Moss, other models that will be featured include such icons as Suzy Parker, Dovima, Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy, Jerry Hall, Gisele Bundchen, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Veruschka, and Lisa Fonssagrives. Unsurprisingly, supermodels past and present are being celebrated in the May issue of Vogue, which also features a select group of 9 “Faces of the Moment” on its cover.

We live in a youth obsessed, beauty obsessed, and thin obsessed culture. And while thankfully, certain things have changed, even within the hallowed (or should I say, hollowed) walls of the fashion world, where those very traits have traditionally been revered and worshipped, things haven’t changed that much. On the job front, while there is no substitution for talent and ability, looks can get one through the door, especially in fashion, where one’s outward appearance undeniably plays a big part.

On a personal level, early on, as a young fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, I was made very aware of the premium put on one’s looks, and felt that I was always being scrutinized and ‘judged’ on those merits. Obviously, looking attractive, being well groomed and stylishly dressed was a factor in my initial hiring, and it was always rather obvious upon meeting a fashion designer (and I’m referring to bold faced iconic names who I had the privilege of covering), that I was literally being scrutinized from head to toe . I could literally follow their eyes as they ‘sized’ me up, and felt their approval of my entire package, was tantamount in winning their acceptance and trust. I’m not saying this is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; it is human nature, very understandable, and I am simply telling it like it is. I’d venture to say that most of us are guilty of ignoring the sage old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.“

But all that apparently changed last week (well, temporarily anyway). Why? In two words: Susan Boyle, the pudgy, ugly duckling, unfashionable, 47 year old Scottish spinster who admits she has never been on a date, has never been kissed, and had everyone chuckling in disbelief when she walked onstage before her audition for ‘Britains Got Talent’. As soon as she opened her mouth to sing, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, her talent and beauty from within was undeniable.

And so, if you have been living in a cave these past few weeks, or have not had a chance to view the complete performance yourself, where you also get to see the smirks on the faces of the judges and those in the audience quickly turn to wide eyed disbelief and adoration, here is the link: Click to play video. Keep it in mind and perhaps you will be less harsh on yourself as you look in the mirror and find yourself having a bad hair day, discovering a few more gray hairs and wrinkles, and feel down because you can’t seem to lose those extra pounds. It is what’s inside that counts and beauty is truly from within.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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