VOGUE’s Best-Dressed List Is Not Racist
2:30 pm, November 15th | by Carmen Shardae Jobson
The fashion industry has long had problems with institutionalized racism, to the point where it can come to seem normal, even expected, to find fashion houses and magazines regularly offending their audiences. It seems like every season, in Fashion Weeks across New York and Europe, reports flood blogs and print publications from peeved observers who are angry that one of the most visible and influential industries continues to “white wash” its shows and routinely practice cultural appropriation (look no further than the recent Victoria’s Secret fashion show for examples of both).
In 2012, it’s still a near momentous occassion when a woman of color graces girly glossies like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and even SELF, as well as avant garde bibles like V. VOGUE is still the most recognizable of the fashion magazines, and in recent years has been featuring more black women in its pages: fashion icon Rihanna recently covered an issue, Halle Berry was chosen for a cover in 2010, and Anna Wintour sat next too a confetti-on-acid dressed Nicki Minaj at a NYFW show this year.
However — one writer is still not satisfied with the storied mag’s annual Best Dressed List. This year Emma Stone was chosen as the chicest of them all, and the list does include six other white women as style mavens to look up to. Apparently, for the past few years, VOGUE has given the top spot to a white woman (who is also usually blonde). Now, Stone’s natural color may be blonde, but she chooses to rock a fiery red most of the time. The bigger question, though, is this: who cares? This year’s list alone is inargubably the most diverse in memory — not just for the inclusion of Azealia Banks, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Obama, and Solange Knowles, but for their entire class of style icons that showcases a variety of aesthetics, ranging from kooky provocation (Lady Gaga) to gothic elegance (Kristen Stewart).
The issue with BuzzFeed’s idea that VOGUE is once again being racist or negligent of people of color in their fashion coverage is that, while that is typical of the fashion industry much of the time, in this case it’s a reach. Interestingly enough, the complaint isn’t emanating from a disgruntled “angry black woman,” but from a white journalist. Kudos to her for noticing the pattern of Wintour and Co. essentially favoring a white blonde woman for the top of the list, but I think the criticism this year is uncalled for and catty.
From the other side of the argument, while black women have long voiced disappointment in being left out of the fashion industry altogether, is possible that we’re sometimes asking too much of the industry to play nice and acknowledge us? There are plenty of well-documented injustices, like Miuccia Prada not hiring one black model for ten years straight until Jourdan Dunn bewitched her with a strut, or that W Magazine’s current 40th anniversary didn’t feature one person color on any of their four separate commemorative covers. These decisions certainly hurtful, but the strides that have been made in other areas should be acknowledged in order to encourage further progress.
There is nothing wrong with the Best Dressed List this year, and the entire list showcases fun women who have a blast with fashion. Not to mention, Stone has a spunky personality and style and is not a typical, wooden Hollywood blonde. We should take a moment to note the pleasing diversity of the list this year, and encourage VOGUE to keep up the good work.