New York Fashion Cool-Aid™: The Crowning of Caitlyn

Bruce who? “Call me Caitlyn” proclaims the Annie Leibovitz-shot Vanity Fair cover currently titillating the Twitterverse. When an InTouch Weekly January cover featuring a crudely mocked up Bruce Jenner sloppily superimposed with garish “makeup” over Dynasty actress Stephanie Beacham’s face appeared early this year, we could not have possibly foreseen this result a mere six months later. The Virginia Slims Cigarettes 1968 slogan “You’ve come a long way baby” unfortunately springs to mind, please excuse the “sexist” connotations and political incorrectness by today’s standards. Interestingly, all those images of femininity that were foist upon us by Madison Avenue in the 1960’s and ’70s (Shelly Hack as the cross dressing “Charlie” girl, Cybill Shepherd as the Hollywood “Breck Girl,” Lauren Hutton as yesteryear’s Cara Delevingne) no doubt had an effect on the young Bruce Jenner, much as they did on yours truly and many other girls of the era.

As Bruce (when he was still Bruce) acknowledged during his TV special with Diane Sawyer which aired just a few short weeks ago, his was the real “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” story. Fittingly, he completely knocked the wind out of the sails of the Kimye second pregnancy reveal, when the VF cover story hit the internet less than 24 hours after his stepdaughter’s long awaited brood expansion news. Just as speculation over whether there would be a little South East or even a SXSW music festival nomenclature Caitlyn appeared and directional names became so 15 minutes ago. While I don’t watch KUWTK, judging just from the snippets I’d seen It occurred to me that Kim was trying to co-opt the role of spokesperson for the infertile (see, we’re just like any couple with fertility issues), much as Bruce seemed to be claiming that role for the LGBT community with his Diane Sawyer special and upcoming reality show. One online commenter said that Caitlyn (with a C, not a K, so take that Kardashians) was now the Beyonce of the family; she was now the requisite attention whore. It’s amazing to think how much it must have rankled Bruce that he was basically ignored and made to look foolish for all those years as he played with his toy helicopters and moaned about the absence of any photos of him in the family portrait gallery in the hallway.

And speaking of photos, what of the big reveal? Well, let’s just say, it doesn’t disappoint. Although obviously amply photo-shopped, what woman on a major magazine cover isn’t? Yes, her jaw is still too big, arms not quite believably feminized hidden behind her back in a chest thrusting pose. Her wonky left eye is more heavily lidded than the right, something I noticed in the Diane Sawyer interview and wonder why the plastic surgery could not correct. Otherwise, the hair extensions /makeup /wardrobe is no more than what would be supplied for any native born female actress or model. It is, of course, a highly glamorized/idealized version of her look and we shouldn’t expect to see Jenner on any given Tuesday looking like a pinup unless she has employed a Kardashian-esque glam squad and a special lighting crew to accompany her on supermarket runs. Many comments suggested that Caitlyn looked more feminine than his most recent ex-wife Kris.

Other online buzz about the transformation compares Caitlyn to everyone from Geena Davis, an older Lana Del Rey, Jessica Lange, Cindy Crawford, Rene Russo and Gina Gershon–not bad company to keep if you’re going the distance. Some women of a certain age have complained that Caitlyn looks way better than the average 65-year-old woman and that is indeed the point. She is not representing an actual woman but rather one that has been under the best of the plastic surgeons knives. After all, why would you go through all of this torture only to emerge as a haggard looking female? Caitlyn represents the best fantasy image, although knowing what she started with does add another level to the physical trauma. Bruce/Caitlyn has waited this long for his/her transformation; clearly she would not want to settle for less than ideal results and to the actual physical aspects of aging: a turkey neck, saggy skin, crow’s feet, not to mention less than perky D-cup breasts.

Inside the pages of Vanity Fair, Jenner wears seven different looks including a gold lame plunging Halston gown, a cowl-backed Badgley Mischka, Agent Provocateur lacy lingerie, a black Herve Leger while lounging on the couch, a sexy red-off-the-shoulder Donna Karan dress and sunglasses as well as a $7k Zac Posen. Read here about the cloak-and-dagger secrecy and behind the scenes of VF’s stylist Jessica Diehl on Caitlin’s emerging style and the classic silhouettes that she prefers (article). The article also discusses how the $200 bustier and matching panties from Trashy Lingerie (a store that the Kardashian women also frequent for everyday and costume wear) became the cover image.

Naturally, celeb Tweets were encouraging and complimentary. Jenner is to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY’s. Perhaps this award will earn a place of pride on the shelf alongside his Olympic gold medal. It seems that this honor may represent an even harder challenge.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

1 Comment
  1. This post extremely disappointed me. The way you pick apart her appearance and call her arms "not believably feminized" is offensive and also not the point of the Vanity Fair piece. In this world, there are all types of women, women with wide jaws and strong arms and Caitlyn is one of us. Don't delegitimize her womanhood just because she does not fit your prescribed definition of beauty. Furthermore, it angers me when you ask "why would you go through all of this torture [plastic surgery] only to emerge as a haggard looking female?", insinuating that the only purpose of transitioning is to become more pretty. People decide to transition in order to more fully be themselves, and that does not necessarily include living up to beauty and gender standards!

    I have unsubscribed from this blog as this post and the values and lack of acceptance in it thoroughly disgusted me.
    -Taft Weber-Kilpack

    P.S. Hello, Caitlyn Jenner. Your courage inspires me and I aspire to be as brave and strong as you.

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