I was all set to write this post about the ways in which models are stylistically infantilized. And how that’s so messed up! Except that then I decided I actually kind of like it. I don’t think it’s necessarily attractive, but I think it’s endlessly intriguing. I should also draw a line in the sand. There is a clear artistic delineation between what the brilliant minds of stylists like Benjamin Sturgill and photographers like Damon Heath do with the cherubim faces of young models and what say, American Apparel, does with them.
That girl wearing the Commes Des Garcons coat that I would kill all the firstborns for (please don’t send me any emails about how I want to murder babies– it’s a Biblical reference, so calm down) is Lindsey Wixon, from Wichita, Kansas. Lindsey was born in 1994, just a few days after Kurt Cobain died! Isn’t that depressing?? Maybe you didn’t do the math, or maybe you don’t know that Kurt Cobain died on April 5, 1994– I didn’t know that either, but Wikipedia did and that’s what matters– but that makes Ms. Wixon 16 years old (soon to be 17).
This photo from the amazing book Wander Bird was the first photo I came across as I was looking for evidence for the ways in which models are infantilized and how that’s so messed up, man. I stared at this image for fifteen minutes off and on. I couldn’t figure out how old she was. Was this person in her mid-twenties, her early teens, or twelve? Was she even BORN yet??? The contrast between her weird Regan/Damien face and the sophisticated, worldly ensemble she’s sporting made me want to keep coming back to the image. I was unsettled. It wasn’t an easy read. And that’s smart.
More Lindsey from Wander Bird:
Some weeks ago the New York Times published an article entitled Pushing Fashion Boundaries in an Era Without Any. The article, among many things, addressed how designers have begun to use gender and sexuality taboos to get people to pay attention to a fashion industry that is increasingly being drowned out by the information, image, and persona deluge of the internet.
Which circles back to why it might be smart to use young models or models with extremely “young” features– it creates a dissonant experience for the viewer (when done well) and that dissonance can keep them coming back to an image over and over again.
A parade of dissonance:
Karlie Kloss has a face that is particularly confusing. Sometimes she looks like she should be in bed by 10pm and sometimes she looks 35. The design she’s wearing is always interesting enough, but I stay because I can’t figure out what the hell is going on with her face.
Speaking of how Karlie Kloss looks like she will kill you, the best way to create visual dissonance is to place an innocent, beautiful little face in a sinister setting and/or in bizarre clothes. Horror movies have known about this since forever, but look at how well it plays out in fashion!
Bizarre “look alikes” are another great way to hold a gaze:
The thing about all of these odd face/setting/couture juxtapositions, the reason they’re not really messed up man, is that none of them are actually sexualized. In fact, most of them are vaguely off-putting. Intriguing. Off-putting. INTRIGUING. There’s no creepy skeezefest fantasy playing out. No Catholic schoolgirl gone bad.
Question: Who even thinks a bad-ass Catholic school girl thing is hot?
So magazine editors feel that fashion no longer has anything significant to say! But arguably neither does anyone else. The only winners in a brave new world defined by cacophony are those who can figure out how to create pause. And Alexis Krauss.