Fashion Spreads: Word and Image in Fashion Photography since 1980

By Paul Jobling | Go to book overview

Introductionto Part 3

The body is the irreducible difference, and at the same time it is the principle of all structuration.

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes, 1977.

Let us begin with something of a truism: the body is the central trope of the fashion system; there would not be any fashion without bodies. Yet, however obvious this may seem, it does not necessarily follow that the relationship between fashion and the body is always a straightforward or unproblematic affair. For bodies not only wear clothing, but, as the history of fashion and dress demonstrates, in any given period fashion has also generated, or at least bolstered, particular somatic ideals of size and weight based on sex and gender, class and race. 1 Within such a regime of ideals, the fashion periodical has undoubtedly had a major part to play in the dissemination and promotion of body image – all 455 fashion spreads listed in Appendix I, for example, represent bodies of one type or another. Yet as we have already identified in earlier chapters, the fashion spread, as much as the catwalk show itself, does not simply exist to replicate the intentions of the designer, but to form a symbolic link with the desires and expectations of the spectator as well. Indeed, more often than not fashion itself seems to become subordinate to the context in which it appears in magazines, and frequently it is the gender, sexuality and/or ethnicity of the models depicted that appear to be the prime focus of interest. As Elizabeth Wilson appositely attests: ‘fashion magazines come on rather like pornography; they indulge the desire of the ‘reader’ who looks at pictures, to be each perfect being reflected in the pages, while simultaneously engaging erotically with a femininity (and increasingly a masculinity) that is constantly being redefined.’ 2

The redefinition of gender referred to by Wilson subtends, for instance, the entire content of the September 1984 issue of The Face, the cover of which featured a portrait of Prince, ‘The Cool Ruler’. At the time, Prince had gained a certain notoriety for deconstructing the binaries of black/white and straight/gay, melding the thrusting machismo of his music and an overtly camp fashion sense into an incongruous whole. 3 A similar deconstructive

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Fashion Spreads: Word and Image in Fashion Photography since 1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • List of Figures xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes *
  • Part 1 - Back to the Future: Fashion Publishing since 1980 15
  • Introductionto Part 1 17
  • Notes *
  • 1 - Vogue 19
  • Notes *
  • 2 - The Face 35
  • Notes *
  • 3 - Arena 49
  • Notes *
  • Conclusion - To Part 1 59
  • Notes *
  • Part 2 - Written Clothing and Image- Clothing: Roland Barthes' ‘the Fashion System' in Perspective 63
  • Introductionto Part 2 65
  • Notes *
  • 4 - ‘the Fashion System’: a Synopsis 69
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Going beyond ‘the Fashion System’: a Critique 83
  • Notes *
  • Conclusion - To Part 2 101
  • Notes *
  • Part 3 - Bodylines: Identity and Othernessin Fashion Photography since 1980 105
  • Introductionto Part 3 107
  • Notes *
  • 6 - Who's That Girl? Alex and Kate: a Tale of Two Bodies in Contemporary Fashion Photography 111
  • Notes 136
  • 7 - ‘statue Men’: the Phallic Body, Identity and Ambiguity in Fashion Photography 143
  • Notes 180
  • Appendix 1 - Directoryof Fashion Photographers, Stylistsand Magazine Features 1980–1996 189
  • Appendix 2 - Photographersfor British ‘vogue’1980–1995 211
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 235
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