I’m glad we’re not playing that game where you’re expected to take a shot every time Lena Dunham’s February Vogue cover is mentioned because you’d probably find yourself too inebriated to read this dispatch, which I’ll call the lucky number 101st nod to the aforementioned.
The rumors were true — she does cover the February issue and on it, she wears a buttoned-to-the-collar polka dot jacket. Eyes big and brown, she appears ready to attempt to explain why Charlie left Marnie over grilled pizza.
The spread features Dunham’s Girls co-star, a stoic Adam Driver, in three of the five shot-by Annie Leibovitz photos. In one, Dunham wears a pigeon above her head. Is it livestock? Or is it Maison Michel? A similar question arises when considering her Rochas feathered yellow footwear (are the shoes the victim of a recent Sesame Street amputation, or simply made by the anterior designer?). She looks spectacular — arguably better — in Céline than Philo’s own models do. This is an enormous coup as far as I’m concerned, but then again, were we to expect anything less than an aspirationally beautiful and put-together Lena Dunham from a seminal Vogue spread?
My real point of difficulty begins when considering the implications tethered to her cover.
Vogue is a magazine that unapologetically and in a streamlined, predictable-in-all-the-right-ways manner sells a lifestyle. Reading Vogue is not a pick-up-what-you-like-discard-what-you-don’t experience. It is an all-encompassing account that appeals to over one million readers (as evidenced by its current circulation of 1.25 million copies sold monthly) who have been carefully and strategically fed the concept of the Vogue Woman.
This woman experiences fashion not through the lens of a shopper who simply listens and puts into practice what she is told, but as an intellectual with the ideals of an individual who regards her body and that which she uses to cloak it as a critical detail that paints her projected personality. That her understanding of fashion allows her to cultivate a projected personality is another function of her character. She is independent, learned and curious outside the margins of fashion. Ask for her political opinion and she should retort with the same candor and passion that she might when discussing Jil Sander’s departure from her fashion house. Ostensibly too, she maintains the figure of a first class model.
What the traditional Vogue Woman is not is particularly funny. She’s not likely to be a flaming narcissist either, but if so there’s some self-awareness and attempts at course-correction. She’s not a bad friend, she doesn’t traipse through Brooklyn in dirty grey t-shirts long enough to be dresses, and she’d never have missed her first book’s deadline. Therein lies the disconnect.
Of course, the antithesis of a Vogue Woman described above isn’t Lena Dunham — it’s the character she created and embodies on Girls, Hannah Horvath. But divorcing one from the other isn’t as easy as a set of annulment papers. As the leading lady in her breakout series, Lena and Hannah have become so publicly intertwined (why, after all, would Driver be featured as a prop in the spread otherwise?) that it’s difficult to see the artist outside of her art.
Which is probably why long form articles like Vogue’s are so engrossing — we get a better sense of Ms. Dunham (just in time, too; Hannah’s becoming intolerable). And what’s more, a sense that she could, in fact, be the next iteration of the Vogue Woman. One who is equally as aware and inspirational in the realms of art, fashion and culture, but is also funny, human and vulnerable.
February’s Vogue cover makes me wonder: which side of the coin will this affect more comprehensively — the magazine or the lady?
Edited by Kate Barnett