In their upcoming book The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide To The Media, writers Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett are fairly clear on their opinion of women's magazines. They're bad. They make women feel rubbish. Reading them is stupid.But am I the only one who doesn't get this? My experience of 18 years' women's mag fandom has been brilliant and influenced me in a positive way.
1. They're pure escapism. The beautiful dresses, the glamorous parties, the way people can get away with actually wearing Philip Treacy hats - God, everything in mags like Vogue, Tatler and Harper's Bazaar just always seems so brilliant. They document a fizzy existence, ushering you directly to the most champagne-y places in the world. Hurrah! Is there no value in that window to something dreamier than the mundane, shuffling everyday? Who cares if your job's rubbish? So what if you can only afford Topshop? You can forget bills, bad news and boredom when reading a good glossy.
2. They start or make conversations better. My friends and I still do it when talking about men, jobs, houses, everything. One of us pours out all our woes about an idiot boyfriend or boss, and another one pipes up with, "well, I read in Glamour/Cosmopolitan/Grazia..." You can always count on women's mags to have a relatable story that makes you believe a) things might turn out okay or b) things could be so much worse. Also, there was nothing more fun as a teenager than shrieking at the crazy sex stories in More with friends or flicking through Cosmopolitan and vowing you'd never, NEVER, give a guy a blow job anyway.
3. They genuinely provide style and beauty inspiration (even when you've got no money and a terrible wardrobe). Look, learning how to dress perfectly is a lifelong process. At university, my friends and I would browse Glamour and Elle and then go seek out cheaper versions of the looks in their pages. When I was planning my wedding, I spent six months lugging around at least three mammoth copies of Brides. Sometimes I've nailed looks copied from magazines, other times I've ended up looking completely absurd. I blame a particularly amazing Glamour shoot in 2003 for thinking it was a good idea to cut stupidly short fringe. Some things, you accept, only look good on the spectacularly beautiful.
4. They make you give yourself a break. Like, literally sit down. 18 years into my life as a magazine obsessive, I still believe there is nothing lovelier than buying a fresh glossy and reading it cover to cover. If I wasn't reading that copy of Vogue, Elle or Glamour, I'd be working. Or doing the dishes (okay, thinking about doing the dishes).
5. They have features I actually want to read. Women's mags are consistently overlooked when it comes to the standard of their content. Yes, they have list-y style features around lipstick and dating and celebrity style spreads, but they also have brilliant columns and essays that are just as good as anything you'll find in a broadsheet. The best thing published during everyone's 2013 obsession with The Great Gatsby? Cressida Connolly's incredible feature on Zelda Fitzgerald in Vogue. Also, Avril Mair's Beauty Extremist column in Elle was so brilliant and honest it made me feel like I actually understood why and how women have cosmetic procedures. Compelling words and beautiful pictures - a brilliant combination, if you ask me.