September means different things to different people. For parents and children, it means back to school. For farmers, it means the beginning of the harvest season. For retirees, it means peak vacation time is over and they can finally go on their RV trips without being bothered by tourists.
For me, September means a subtle yet swift mood shift from satisfied to sour. It means the rapid onset of the September blues, which I try to stave off with indulgent behaviour, materialism and self-importance.
And there is no better aid in this admirable fight than the September Issue of Vogue magazine, which extols consumerism and vanity as the highest virtues, and pedals luxury and fantasy in an affordable paper format. So if you’re like me, and you find September trying, pour yourself a glass of wine — in fact, best take the bottle with you — slip on your most fashionable piece of loungewear and delve in. Here’s how I’d suggest you proceed:
Front Cover: Take a sip of wine and remember that Vogue isn’t about easy-to-assemble, I-bought-it-at-the-mall fashion. It offers daring, inspiring, outrageous style for women who know better. Feel conflicted about Lady Gaga’s fuchsia patchwork dress. The fuchsia really is fabulous, but the exaggerated hip may not work for you or most regular-sized women. Decide that legendary editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, knows best and determine to give the exaggerated-hip look a try. Read through the subheadings, pause on “HAIR IS THE NEW MAKEUP” and wonder what sort of makeup Lady Gaga’s hairdo would be equivalent to. Regret your own boring hairstyle and resolve to do something about it.
Pages 1-76: All fashion plebs flip through the first couple hundred pages of the September Issue and comment, witheringly, on the fact that it’s all ads. Those people are idiots. What they fail to understand is that the ads matter — more than any article and possibly more than some of the editorials. Advertisements allow you — the select few who get it — an opportunity to see each designer’s collection as they intended it to be seen. They have chosen the models, photographers and stylists who best express their style message — be it cast-off-your-unglamorous-morality-and-buy-a-fur-coat or skinny-girls-look-great-in-mesh-dresses. Admire mixed prints and Irish Setters in the Ralph Lauren campaign; large hats and chunky eyeglasses in Louis Vuitton; Monica Bellucci in Dolce and Gabbana. Covet Monica’s see-through lace dress. Vow to work out more so you can wear see-through lace dresses. Toast the wanton fabulousness of the fashion world with a considerable slosh of wine.
Pages 76-194: Another thing about the September Issue is that you must keep a keen eye open for those sporadic reminders that you are actually reading Vogue. The table of contents is the first of those reminders. You will find it spread throughout the next hundred or so pages. Don’t waste too much time reading it though, because you’ve still got plenty of ads to flip through. Get fussy about bad celebrity model choices (Ashley Green for DKNY?!), then get giddy about good celebrity model choices (Isabella Rossellini for Bulgari!!). Note Canadian superstar model Coco Rocha riding a bike in the Longchamp campaign. Feel proud. Recognize that Valentino’s campaign acts as a strong reminder that greased and tanned old men still make prettier dresses than hip, young designers with cool-dude haircuts. Stare at naked Natalia Vodianova for any number of very good reasons.
Pages 262-302: Next, the Letter from the Editor, or the letter from Anna, as you call it. Read about Grace Coddington and Marc Jacobs working on a dress for Lady Gaga — about how Grace, arguably the best creative director alive, sent Marc cakes to energize him toward the end of the project. Laugh fondly to yourself as if you were reading about old friends. Take a sip of wine and hiccup/giggle a little onto the front of your shirt.
Pages 343-362: A surprisingly engaging Target campaign makes bargain shopping seem like a very good fashion idea. But pull yourself together. This is Vogue for heaven’s sake, not a fucking billboard at the bus stop. Dig through the bag of nail polishes you keep under your bathroom sink to find your fiercest color. Paint your toenails and re-establish your sense of superiority.
Pages 440-508: Here comes the text, starting with an article about losing a beloved dog. Do not read the articles. Instead, read meaning into Etro’s prints and Moschino’s accessories. Curse Topshop for having the presumption to advertise in Vogue. Drain the wine from your glass and search for clips of Fashion File on YouTube. Linger over a Nina Ricci slip dress. Maybe the ’90s will come back?
Pages 518-540: Memorable images from Vogue‘s 120-year history as curated by various current and former editors. Pour yourself another glass of wine and put on some French pop music from the ’60s. This is where you should start reading in earnest, but only the image captions. See how many of the six-pack of supermodels you can name (Nicki, Nadia, Claudia, Naomi, Linda and the former First Lady of France). Lovingly caress the Lacroix dress on Natalia Vodianova. Ogle Rooney Mara and let your girl crush consume you.
Pages 550-760: Ugh. The deplorable midsection of Vogue, where the words proliferate and all the brands that can’t afford to advertise in the first third of the magazine end up. Flip through this section very quickly, but focus mainly on finishing the wine in your glass. Pause only to pick your favorite dress from the Neiman Marcus spread — apple green Tom Ford velvet panel dress, hands down.
Pages 764-801: Now that you’ve reached the editorials, you need to start thinking about self-improvement because, even though you’re pretty fantastic, you could be better. Look for style ideas that you can incorporate into your look. As an example, the first three spreads are chock full of inspiration for your radical new hairdo: Stella Tennant makes severe, crayon-coloured bobs seem plausible; editor Tonne Goodman offers greasy bedhead as a possibility; and a futuristic Karen Elson spread makes you think you might be able pull off an androgynous pompadour.
Pages 802-809: So many hats to covet in the Lady Gaga feature. But let’s be honest, if wearing an enormous fur or feather hat was a feasible day-to-day option, you’d have purchased one already. But you haven’t, and you won’t, so don’t spend too much time on it.
Pages 810-827: Finally: the Grace Coddington spread, based on the lovely life of Edith Wharton. Top off your wine and wave your hands gleefully because this may be the best part of the whole magazine. Envy Edith Wharton. Determine to read more Edith Wharton. Become jealous of Edith Wharton. Decide to become Edith Wharton. Pause to admire a vintage Ralph Lauren Collection blouse on Mamie Gummer (Meryl’s daughter!). Linger on a Louis Vuitton sequined jacket. Note the various minor celebrities: Jonathan Safran Foer (he wrote books that you’ve read!). James Corden (he’s on shows that you’ve watched!).
Pages 828-835: Chelsea Clinton article. Maybe some other time.
Pages 836-the end: Demand that your spouse bring you more wine. When he tells you there is no more wine, demand that he bring you the mini bottle of Bailey’s that you’ve had since Christmas. Pour a tiny sploosh of milk into Baileys, add ice et le voila: a glamorous cocktail, like the stylish people drink. Swoon over a picture of Florence Welch riding a black horse. Spend at least five minutes fawning over Dolce and Gabbana’s first ever couture collection — mostly pretty, ballerina-princess dresses, like the kind you used to draw when you were nine. Finish your delicious cocktail and drown in more and more and more wonderful fashion. You’re probably a bit tired by now, so lay your face down on the Karlie Kloss officewear spread. You will absorb style by osmosis. You will become more fashionable as you nap. You are a winner, a style maven, a woman in the know. You will conquer September in spike-heeled boots and a peplum skirt….
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Mikael Bingham is the Deputy Editor of Ballast.