Pictures of Dead Women Sell Magazines

Posted: April 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

This spread for Bello Mag as featured in Oh La La, continues that eerie theme shown to be popular in women’s fashion photography in particular at the moment: the corpse look.

I don’t know why this is, apart from the general feeling of ‘end of times’ that pervades our visual culture these days. Vampires, zombies, ghosts,  mannequins, they all convey the ‘post-human’ atmosphere that I think we all experience when we go to the mall, watch television, look at clothes, see films, go to pop concerts.

But also, I wonder if these corpse-like bodies represent the death of women’s fashion in particular, the death of ‘femininity’ as we know it. As the metrosexual man continues his rampage through the (post)modern landscape, isn’t the ‘female body’ just one more thing that he has destroyed and discarded?

I’m looking forwards to a fashion shoot featuring a woman’s carcass being picked at by vultures next.

And you think I’m joking.

  1. 2020 says:

    This doesn’t surprise me at really, I’ve always felt that the fashion world and by extension advertising in general is more messed up and deranged than any scenario that pornography could dream up. I feel it’s because unlike porn which has to be very careful about what it shows hence it give the moral crusaders on the left and right an excuse to shut them down for good, with advertisers its right out there in the open they have free rein to pump whatever unhealthy messages they like about our bodies and our autonomy over them (especially women’s in my opinion) right into the public consciousness. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them evil but you know there’s something not right about it all.

    Maybe this will sever as some kind of warning to the metrosexual men out there it’s all fun now but when its them being depicted as a lifeless corpse’s to sell clothes it won’t be so much fun*.

    *I don’t have anything against metrosexuals by the way (I think it’s great that men are now free to take an interest in how they look) I’m just saying everything comes with a price.

  2. Tim says:

    Maybe fashion people have an unhealthy obsession with death or corpses or something ?

    I mean this is nothing new, just look at all those size -1 models that are walking up and down on catwalks. They sometimes do resemble corpses more than a living and breathing being.

  3. elflojo84 says:

    I don’t especailly see it as indicative of some darker malaise, but I do struggle to comprehend the point behind it. Who is this appealing to, and more confusingly why? Is it just a general sense of debaucherie / nihilism taken to it’s logical extreme? Very confusing. Maybe theyou’re right about the whole “end of times” / nuclear holocaust-type motif you se quite a lot, taken to the nth degree.

  4. HI all – you all make pertinent comments. I don’t really know why these corpse-like figures have appeared in the fashion world. But it is definitely a phenomenon.

  5. arctic_jay says:

    Virginia Postrel’s analysis of what separates the concepts of glamour and charisma helps to explain why high fashion might be gravitating towards this theme. Glamour is about coldness, mystery, and detachment, while charisma is about warmth, intimacy, and closeness. High fashion, as opposed to mainstream pop culture, is about projecting a faultless, unperturbed facade of glamour. Death and corpses (beautiful ones of course) are perfect themes and objects for amping up the glamour, as what’s more cold, mysterious, and detached? I don’t think the use of death is all that new in high fashion and other avant garde genres, but if it’s more prominent nowadays, I think that can just be chalked up to competition. Marketing agencies are simply try to grab more attention for their clients, and that can lead to some uncomfortable imagery.

  6. elissa says:

    That sounds and even feels right, Jay. Death is more glamorous, and it has always been more profitable for fashion to hitch on to that train.

    The etymology of the word glamour references mystery, enchantment, and learning – though that was before the etymology got fucked in the armpit by the fashion industry.

  7. I remember seeing a Playboy parody called Playdead in either National Lampoon or Cracked magazine from way back in the day….

  8. arctic_jay says:

    These photos still fail pretty badly because they make the death/glamour connection way too literally. Models should look spectral, other-dimensional, not lifeless in a straight-foward, prosaic way.

    It’s probably self-indulgent for me to point this out, but the ultimate manifestation of death-as-glamour is the vampire, which is why it has been a popular figure in the cultural imagination for so long. But vampires are not lifeless or inert.

    • I think you are spot on a-jay. Mark Simpson talks about the ‘vampiric’ nature of fashion/modelling/celebrity culture these days. Also see all the vampire programmes: true blood/skins etc. I think men are cast as vampiric more than women, women are presented as the ‘victims’ of that vampiric culture. Which as I said above, in a sense they are. Just not how the feminists see ‘victimhood’!


  9. arctic_jay says:

    It would be logically impossible for men to make up the majority of vampires while women make up the majority of their victims as every victim of a vampire becomes a vampire herself 😉

    Pedantry aside, male vampires always are heavily androgynous, which is part of their glamour. According, to Paglia, all glamour is feminine (whether exhibited by men or women), with the exception of the male godhead.

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