I don’t normally read Reveal magazine, but I was tipped off last week that I was quoted in it, so I made a point of picking up a copy. Inside, I found their take on the new collection of clothes at high street store Dorothy Perkins, apparently designed by – and certainly promoted by – the Kardashian sisters, who are stars of a US reality TV series. It was a photo of Kim Kardashian in her underwear which graced the cover of that edition of Zoo magazine earlier this year, about which I said that it represented “almost everything that is wrong with Western society today”, combining as it did the toxic elements of our celebrity and sexualised culture. These comments zipped around the world, indicating through the controversy that they generated just how challenged we are by these pressures on young people.
This clothing collection – or Kollection (Kollektion, even?) – has received extensive press coverage over the past couple of weeks, which is the sign of a successful PR campaign on the part of Dorothy Perkins. Meantime, the appearance of the collection raises further questions about role models for girls and women, and whether or not we are in a healthy place on this one. It is interesting to read the statements of the Kardashian sisters, reported in several media, stressing that they are all different shapes and sizes, and that their collection therefore reflects this, and is suitable for ‘real women’. If you look at the clothes themselves, you may disagree – “tarty” (not my words) is how they have been described. In fact, it is hard not to feel that young women are simply being hoodwinked further into buying clothes – a commercial activity from which the Kardashian sisters and their backers will undoubtedly benefit.
Not all is lost, however. The editor of Reveal magazine, Jane Ennis, begins her editorial with the words: “Do not believe the Kardashian hype”. She points out that rather than lauding Kim Kardashian as an “ambassador for normal-shaped women”, we should remember that there is “nothing normal about this woman, her family or her body”. She points to her personal £22 million fortune and her unusual shape: “Most people with her sized bottom don’t have her tiny waist, long toned legs, perfect bust and chiselled features”.
A word of warning for us all lies in Ms Ennis’ final words: “Don’t be fooled. Whatever Kim or her publicity machine says, she is just another unattainable icon being dangled before us who we have no chance of emulating. Buy her dresses if they suit you. Why not? But please realise that she is the champion of clever marketing – not plus-size girls.”
This is Positive Image month. Let the wool fall from over our eyes. And if the editor of one of our women’s magazines is telling us this too, then maybe there is hope for all of us yet.