All week long, British Vogue dropped interviews and essays from its hallowed September issue, typically considered by industry backslappers to be the most important edition of the year.
The glossy is always hotly-anticipated, but perhaps no more so than it has been this year, as its guest editor is none other than Meghan Markle. On Thursday afternoon, the full issue was available to download ahead of its newsstand appearance on August 2.
The average Vogue reader might pick up a copy of the 400-page glossy to see what $900 sweater they will be able to afford when it has been marked down this year.
But Meghan, who spent half a million dollars on her wardrobe last year, served up quite the steaming hot take, to go with all the cups of mint tea she also writes about drinking. In short: Clothes are Bad!
“This issue hits stands in August, just as readers gear up for the September fashion shows, where judgement can become clouded and focus skewed toward the superficial,” Meghan writes.
With many of the features shot in black-and-white photography, so you know the issues are serious, Markle posits how her editorship will be different.
“Throughout these pages you’ll find Commonwealth designers, ethical and sustainable brands, as well as features with designers not about clothes but about heritage, history, and heirloom. You’ll also find a beauty section that puts its energy towards internal beauty, celebrating the power of breathing and meditation, and a favorite workout that urges you to use your heart as much as your core.”
Yes, speaking with designers about the clothes they make would be dismissive. So instead of that, let’s Vogue-splain how to breathe in seven paragraphs!
In that rather Goop-y “exploration” into the age-old question: “Is how you inhale and exhale the key to well-being?,” the writer Kathleen Baird-Murray consulted Augusto Vegas, who runs “breathing sessions for stressed urbanites.”
According to Vegas and Vogue, “The easiest way to improve breathing is to be more aware of it.” To make sure you breathe properly, Vogue suggests pretending that you are about to give birth in the back of a cab.
“Try holding your breath until it’s uncomfortable, noting how long this takes. After resting a few seconds, take 20 deep, forceful breaths, as if hyperventilating. Then hold your breath again, paying attention to how it feels.”
You might notice that neither depriving yourself of oxygen nor raucous wheezing feels good. Then back to how you were breathing before you read the article, and scene.
Another suspect life tip, courtesy of the (“inner”) beauty pages: “Hyper-real skin and chunky eyelashes make a fresh pairing. Layer two different mascaras until your eyelids feel heavy.” Please note that struggling to keep your eyes open as if you are about to faint because you have just attempted to asphyxiate yourself, per Meghan’s instructions, is very in for fall.
“How to Feel Good,” an item that promises “Holistic approaches for complete health and wellbeing,” name-drops a few London spas Meghan has visited, like the wellness store Ilapothecary Spa, which offers “restorative and healing” Gong Bathing sound meditation sessions.
Meghan did not write the piece promoting Ilapothecary, but she was seen attending the "herbal boutique" in April, when she was in the midst of planning her issue. A longtime palace rule forbids members of the royal family from accepting free services or clothes, though complimentary perks have long been enjoyed by fashion editors.
To show that you are ultra-privileged, instead of picking just yoga, pilates, or barre, why not show that you are a woman who can have it all at Heartcore Rituals. The backdrop of the class provides a smorgasbord of appropriation, from “the scene of palo santo, tribal beats, and ambient lighting.”
Vogue also champions “wild swimming,” or what happens when you run out of hot water for your shower and are instead submerged in an ice cold steam. Shivers aside, “cold water immersion” has a host of benefits “for mind and body” like “reducing anxiety, depression, and chronic ailments.” So pay £300 a night for a private Italian treehouse where “cold dips” do wonders for your skin and mood.
Meghan’s hand-picked “Forces for Change” have been the focus of much discussion. The duchess and British Vogue have picked very worthy subjects to spotlight, such as actress Laverne Cox, climate activist Greta Thunberg, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward, who eloquently wishes for a day when “The next mixed-race or black female principal dancer... doesn’t have to be asked [about race].”
These women are all fascinating, and deserving of more than just the 200-or-so-word blurbs Vogue allotted them.
Their black-and-white portraits, shot by Peter Lindbergh, are evocative. But to be Important, Meghan suggests, they must be stripped of all uniqueness, garbed in oversized sweaters or white mock-necks. At best, they look like members of a modern dance company in their flowing black dresses, at worst they look like they were caught during a soundcheck, pre-hair and makeup.
It’s true that beauty standards for women—particularly in the pages of Vogue—are insane. Glamour should not inherently mean six-inch stilettos and diamond necklaces, but we equally shouldn’t have to reject style to find substance. The 15 “Forces for Change” forged gloriously varying paths—yet here they are in a drab color scheme as if posing for senior year portraits.
At a time when Kamala Harris can campaign in rainbow sequins and Billy Porter symbolically flaunts red carpet convention in a series of stunning skirts, it is patently false to suggest that clothing lacks gravitas.
Ezra Miller and his like-minded compadres’ embrace of lipstick will truly shift conventions, while Markle and the Vogue set are off hyperventilating in pursuit of good vibes.
By Markle's own admission, her plans for the September issue were “lofty.” There is no arguing that the duchess put her all into this venture, but she missed the mark by refusing to let a little fun sneak into her Very Serious Project.