Lesley at Fatshionista is posting scanned pages from her epic archive of MODE magazine, a fat fashion magazine from the late ’90s. MODE’s run corresponds almost precisely with my time in college, and my dorm had a subscription for a while (thanks to FJ, I believe). I remember almost nothing about the written content of the magazine; I assume it was on par with your standard women’s magazine, but with fewer diet tips (which is no small feat, I acknowledge). It wasn’t quite aimed at me, demographically speaking — I didn’t have the same “My people!” feeling I did the first time I read BUST, for example — but I loved reading it anyway. Because what I do remember about MODE is simple: Kate Dillon.
Kate Dillon amazed me. She was so lovely, and she was all over MODE:
On the cover:
In the fashion spreads:
And even in the ads:
I had never seen anyone like her in magazines: she had a rack bigger than mine, for one thing, and she had substantial thighs and upper arms and somehow she was still allowed to be in magazines because that’s how damn pretty she was. I found her completely entrancing and I had a huge crush on her and even now, ten years later, she’s all I remember about MODE.
I say this not to diss MODE — I don’t remember enough of the content to know if it would pass my feminist sniff test now — but to illustrate how much of an impact diverse media images can have on individuals. There is a line between me gaping at Kate Dillon’s hotness in MODE and me writing here. It’s not a very direct line (it has to pass through Susan Bordo and BUST and several weight changes and LJ fatshionista first!), but it’s there.
I think this may be why people are so fucking delighted when they see an image they relate to in a magazine or a movie or tv show or what have you. We are bombarded by images every day, and almost all of them portray people who look nothing like us, whether because of size, shape, race, ability, gender presentation, class markers, or just plain photoshopping. This, I imagine, is why many people seem blown away by actresses or models like Christina Hendricks, who is clearly conventionally stunning but whose hourglass figure hasn’t been (or maybe can’t be) dieted away. Most of us don’t look anything like Hendricks — but we might look more like her than like Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston or the model in the billboard across the street.
When Glamour recently ran an image of a white blonde woman in her skivvies who is conventionally beautiful in every way except for a few stretch marks and a bit of a pooch, readers fell all over themselves to thank them. The model in the Glamour photo, Lizzi Miller, says of the reader response:
“When I read them I got teary-eyed!” she says. “I’ve been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn’t find it I would start to think there’s something wrong with the way that I looked.
Seeing Lesley’s MODE scans brought me back, momentarily, to being that girl myself: sitting on the couch in my dorm living room, flipping through magazines, and seeing Kate Dillon looking back at me, looking just a little bit more like me than anyone else I’d ever seen in a magazine.