March 31 2014
Vogue magazine has long been left-leaning, and as the ill-fated Joan Juliet Buck hilariously demonstrated, not a particularly great venue for picking up one’s political opinions.
Still, Vogue has always been undeniably elegant…until now. The latest cover features Kim Kardashian. I find myself wondering if Vogue’s legendary editor Diana Vreeland is seeing red from that great runway in the hereafter. This, folks, is a moment.
Culture has been replaced by Kulture: Vogue has put Kim Kardashian on the cover of its April issue. The decision marks a monumental reversal for the magazine, which had long avoided the risqué shticks published in other publications catered to women.
That’s sad, both for the magazine’s loyal readers (me included) and for American culture as a whole. At its best, fashion is not only an aesthetic choice but a moral one: It’s an expression of values.
We don’t usually do fashion on the Inkwell, but the decline of Vogue is a cultural phenomenon worth noting. It happened over the last decade. Even so, until recently, it did some very good stuff, and it was never trashy. But there were bloopers such as Buck’s gushing over the murderous Assad family in 2011. Melchior observes:
The choice of Kim Kardashian goes one step further. Anna Wintour’s editorial letter becomes an anticipatory defense: “Part of the pleasure of editing Vogue, one that lies in a long tradition of this magazine, is being able to feature those who define the culture at any given moment, who stir things up, whose presence in the world shapes the way it looks and influences the way we see it. I think we can all agree on the fact that that role is currently being played by Kim and Kanye to a T.” Rather than influencing culture, Vogue is now following behind, picking up the scraps.
For those who aren’t keeping up with the Kardashians: Their reality show pretends to be about a family, but has really found a Walmart variation of mass appeal because of the gorgeous if insipid Kim, a former Paris Hilton groupie who rose to fame after a leaked sex tape. Her only genius has been channeling her tawdry prominence into cold, hard cash, which is in turn spent in the flashiest and trashiest of ways. In the matriarch’s home, Vogue reports, “family pictures abound — [Kim’s mother] Kris even has some framed images of her underwear-clad daughters from the 2011 Kardashian Kollection for [a] Sears campaign.”
I honestly can’t remember if Kim and her baby daddy Kanye West, also on the cover, have gotten marred since the birth of baby North. Because I recently published a book on trashy behavior, however, I do know that Kim’s previous marriage to Kris Humphries lasted something like 72 hours (or was that minutes?). But that wasn’t the point: Kim made $$$$ by doing a reality show about the wedding. Mr. Humphries himself called the wedding a “a sham” that was just a publicity ploy.
The author of Vogue’s Kardashian gusher is Hamish Bowles, the Brit fashion writer who has been a Vogue star since the early 1990s. The snippets Melchior quoted from the story indicate the Kim and Kanye, however acceptable to Vogue they are, have significant struggles with the English language.
Perhaps this cover and the accompanying article will be remembered as a milestone in the timeline for the Death of Elegance.