Vogue Recalls How Famous Female Journalist Just Couldn't Find Clothes


If you flip through April’s “Shape” issue of Vogue—a.k.a. the KIMYE edition—you’ll find a piece titled “Headlines and Hemlines” (which isn’t available on the website). The subtitle: “In 1954, the great American reporter Dorothy Thompson challenged the fashion world to find a working wardrobe for a busy size 20 journalist.”

Even after you’re dead they won’t lay off!

The piece is about a woman who was extremely well-known in her time, an important figure in the history of women in journalism. But this is Vogue‘s lead:

“Dorothy Thompson was, in her own words—’on the further side of 50′ and ‘a size 20’—hardly a spring chicken and hardly waifish in 1954 when ‘the first lady of American journalism,’ as she was fondly called by America’s press, sat down and wrote one of her syndicated columns, On the Record, subtitled ‘I Wish They’d Remember Me.’ In it she lamented the difficulty of finding flattering, fashionable clothes that could go from work to evenings out, and to formal and semiformal occasions, for anyone of her age and physical stature.”

The magazine’s editors accepted her challenge and took her shopping at Bergdorf’s, in search of clothing that was functional, age appropriate and flattering. The author of the piece, Janine di Giovanni, cites Thompson as one of her personal heroes, then frames Thompson’s willingness to put herself in the hands of Vogue as an act of great bravery:

“What strikes me the most about this story is not so much the price of the clothes… or even the fact that ‘slim-hipped’ women were a size 12, as the pluck that it must have demanded for Thompson to take this leap of faith and put herself in the hands of sittings editors, risking her reputation as a serious professional woman in a man’s world to turn herself into a Vogue fashion subject.”

Sure, it’s a relevant hook for a fashion magazine. But it’s also bullshit. This woman was the first American journalist kicked out of Nazi Germany, thanks to unflattering coverage of Hitler. That isn’t mentioned until the second page. When Thompson’s many accomplishments are outlined, they’re sprinkled with lines like this: “Despite all her professional accomplishments, Thompson failed in one arena: She still could not find the perfect dress.”

The horror!

It’s nice to see ink dedicated to a woman who isn’t remembered as widely as she deserves, but it’s maddening that it’s packaged in terms of oh-no-broad-hips—not to mention condescending. And it’s especially aggravating when you consider that this is the magazine that can barely be arsed to put Adele on the cover. While a 1954 20 is very different from a 2014 20, it hasn’t gotten all that much easier for a statuesque woman to find the kind of wardrobe Thompson wanted, and Vogue certainly wouldn’t be much help. Pity fashion didn’t actually listen to her 1954 plea.

Photo via Getty.

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