Both Lena Dunham in her star-is-born New York cover and Gretchen Mol in her star-is-reborn Town & Country cover sported this season’s Louis Vuitton broderie anglaise collar. How can two starlets at such dramatically different points in their careers–the profile of Ms. Dunham hinges upon her stratospheric success in running her own show, HBO’s Girls, while the profile of Ms. Mol takes a break from discussing her supporting role on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire to describe her recording a failed audition for a Janet Leigh biopic on her iPhone–be well-served by the same garment?
The Louis Vuitton dress would seem to depict a certain innocence, a modish naivete thanks to its almost cartoonish girlishness. On a model, it looks like a perversely complicated school uniform. If we presume that photo departments are working with and not against editorial, we begin to see the art of counterpoint at work. Emily Nussbaum’s New York profile of Ms. Dunham casts her as wise beyond her years, uniquely able to convey the female experience. She is also possessed of what Ms. Nussbaum calls a “short and pear-shaped” body. Placing Ms. Dunham in little-girl Communion-dress drag emphasizes her youth and precocity. While placing a young and unconventional-looking showrunner in the season’s big look is a reward for all of the viewers who will be living vicariously through Ms. Dunham as soon as Girls premieres, this is perhaps the one runway look from the past season that wouldn’t evoke jealousy in its viewer. Ms. Dunham doesn’t look like she’s glammed-up. If there’s a schoolgirlishness to the collar, it’s that of the schoolgirl a bit too eager to please the teacher.
Ms. Mol, on the other hand, has her every career failure dredged up in Meredith Blake’s profile (not yet online); the white collar seems an attempt to reclaim the unblemished promise Ms. Dunham inhabits so easily. Ms. Mol, former Vanity Fair covergirl and thereafter a laughingstock, should know a thing or two about the risks inherent in presenting oneself as a dish on a magazine cover (she wore a white slip, nipples protruding–no collar). Here, her big white collar makes her look counterfactually youthful and unconcerned with how she presents herself. It’s just what one wears while sitting by a big cactus, as Ms. Dunham wears it in the park. Is the broderie anglaise collar–it’s simple, like a blouse, but fancy and embroidered, in a couturish way–the official garment of women seeking to portray an attitude of diegetic control without the fustiness of the designer gown?
Or maybe it’s just a popular dress by an influential designer–but no garment previously worn on a magazine cover by Lana Del Rey could be so semiotically empty.
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