Media and Society

Vogue: Defining Beauty

A short exploration of the Vogue Empire as a globalized frontier, a discussion of the universally acknowledged magazine as an influence on both beauty and lifestyle standards – paying particularly close attention to youth culture and predisposed ideologies as to what beauty actually is, and how we are prompted to define it:


Not only a fashion empire but an adjective, Vogue, has become a part of us all. The high end fashion publication is well known for its glossy pages, iconic cover girls, and lustrous beauty and lifestyle articles. Since the late 1800’s, its place on the newsstand has been predisposing our beauty standards and dishing us up piled-high-plates of what is hot and what is NOT. Vogue sets the bar high for all fashion print: the mothership of all glossy pages and haute couture. The magazine acts as a spectacular example of what high fashion is and collaborates only with artists and designers who demonstrate equally as spectacular pieces of work whilst demonstrating shifting cultural landscapes and international icons.

When we think about globalization we instantly envision global trade, increased emissions, mass migration and large advancements in medicine and technology but these are merely the tangible elements of the process. Globalization can be simply defined as the process by which all the worlds people are incorporated into one single, global society.

The magazine has so far been published in 17 different countries including; the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Spain and even Taiwan. These 17 different countries of publication allow the fashion magazine to reach four of the world’s seven continents, one of them being Asia which accounts for 60% of the worlds overall landmass and acts as the Earth’s largest and most populous continent. Such large scale publication allows processes such as westernisation to be catalysed. As a way of targeting the specific audiences of the countries that the magazine is published in, certain changes are made in order to remain relatable to the regions inhabitants. Cultural factors in each of the countries that Vogue reaches contribute to the content that is published within the magazines pages. For example, journalist Esther Honig recently published a viral series of images depicting a portrait of herself in which she sent to 27 re-touchers around the world to enhance according to their countries cultural preferences and standards of beauty. China, especially, made drastic changes to the image, making Honig’s portrait much thinner than the original image and more so even than 25 of the other images. Other alterations were made including changes to skin tone and facial features such as the eyes which were made smaller and more alike to Chinese characteristics.


As a result, through studies such as this one, it becomes evident that beauty standards alter dependent on the region and cultural factors within these civilisations. Vogue alters the content of the magazines they allow to be published in each of these countries according to the audience database that they will be received by. By correctly isolating individual trends and cultural landscapes within foreign climates the fashion publication allows itself to successfully target their audiences and, therefore, set examples of what ‘beauty’ does and should mean to men and women within these different nationalities.


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Progressively, as a publication that has been present in society since the 1800’s, generations upon generations of people have witnessed the influential cover girls and content. When one generation becomes influenced by such content they subconsciously set examples for their children and their children’s children based upon what internationally acknowledged publications such as Vogue have taught them regarding what is beautiful and what is not and this all contributes to the shaping of societal values. It could be argued that Vogue produces unrealistic or even dangerous displays of beauty. Speaking at Harvard University in 2012, Franca Sozzani, the Editor-in-chief for Vogue Italia since 1988 said during a talk to students about body image that the fashion industry relies on excess imagery that glorifies beauty in extreme thinness. She went on to claim that fashion becomes one of the causes of illnesses such as anorexia and went on to explain that ‘one of the reasons why a girl rts a too-strict diet is the necessity to correspond to an aesthetic standard which rewards thinness’ (2012).

At a time where media convergence has progressed to the point where Vogue is not exclusively available via print but also through devices such as smartphones, youth culture can be easily influenced by such easily accessed imagery. Growing up in the Mediatope means that materials and standards such as global examples of beauty are easily accessible and somewhat triggering; even constant enough in readers’ everyday lives that they become culturally shaping not just in the clothes and efforts such individuals themselves follow in order to feel ‘beautiful’ but also influential and shaping in the way that they view others.