Dear Marie Claire magazine,
Hi, I’m sorry, I am your audience. At least I thought I was. But month after month I go through the same cycle of emotion when you show up amongst my pile of bills. It starts with excitement (Fall fashion!) and ends with depression ($900 boots?). Along the way there are pit stops at outrage, confusion, envy, lust, hopefulness and resignation.
You know the women in your magazine? I don’t know these women. For once I’m not complaining about impossibly skinny models with airbrushed faces. I actually do know plenty of slender ladies with gorgeous skin. No, I speak instead of your “respondents” to various polls in various articles. The women who have questionable job titles, are 24 years old, and who cannot live without $1200 studded belts and $200 face cream. To some extent, I understand – magazines are not about reality, they are about fantasy. They set themselves as a fashion compass and we can choose to follow to the extent that we are able. It’s sort of like runway vs. the real world – no, you won’t be wearing the 8-inch spiked heels, but you might spring for the 4-inch. But still. I read each issue cover to cover and finish feeling anxious, overstimulated and woefully left behind. Sometimes I do wonder if my peers are lounging out in their mid-century modern lofts admiring their newest Birkin. But I also find it hard to believe.
Here in suburbia I can pinpoint where my friend’s new cardigan came from because I have the same one in teal. We didn’t get them at Bendels; we got them at Old Navy. We shop the Target clearance rack like its a second job. Our shoes are from Macy’s, but sometimes they’re from DSW or if we’re really lucky, they’re from Target clearance. Did I mention we like Target? Our face cream comes from Walgreens, but on payday it comes from Sephora. It almost never comes from Neiman’s.
No offense to those who do, but I don’t live in West Virginia. I can (and do) drive to NYC in under two hours. While I don’t live in the most happening metro area, it’s not quite east of nowhere. I have a few friends who live and work in the city. They shop at Target. We also like Marshalls and Forever 21 and when we’re feeling edgy, we really love H&M. At Target we scoop us $13 sundresses and $8 tank tops and $10 braided flat sandals. We compare notes and compete and try to figure out who paid the least. We walk down the back of the aisles for end cap sales, because everyone knows that walking down the center of the aisle is pointless.
That’s not to say we don’t splurge. I used to work for a luxury handbag retailer, and you’d be hard pressed to find a bag in my closet worth less than $200 – but remember I bought them all for half price with my discount. I couldn’t help but notice that in this month’s “Look Luxe for Less” feature, you offered a $998 Tommy Hilfiger coat as the cheaper alternative that would help to keep you from “straining your wallet.” Seriously? Our splurges are $168 dresses from White House Black Market. I own exactly one $300 Theory blazer (it was a gift) that I’m almost frightened to wear. And yes, $998 would most certainly be a strain for my wallet.
So what do we want? A little perspective, maybe. It’s like in the HBO series Girls, the one where the characters are real. They’re real and they’re likeable and they’re messed up and they probably shop at Target. It’s so easy to relate. We watched Sex & the City when it was cool (before it was a movie) and we loved it but we also scratched our heads and wondered if these women really existed. Someone finally figured it out – real women with budgets are out there, not with closets full of Manolos, but with mortgages and student loan debt and half priced gift cards to Applebees. This is your audience.
So about that Chanel watch – I won’t be calling to inquire for the “price upon request.” I’ll be at Target. Thanks, though.