I should probably admit right off the bat that I actually quite like Vanity Fair. I'm not saying I buy it or anything but if I see a copy lying round the office I will most likely pick it up and read it. Maybe sneak it home if it's looking to be a quiet night. Whilst it's kind of earnest and hung up on the past, they do always seem to be the first to pick up on the entertainment value of the likes of Ryan Lochte and their sprawling, fluffy Hollywood spreads are perfect for reading in the bath (basically you can get through the whole feature before your skin goes all wrinkly).
Unfortunately every year they publish a best dressed list and every year it makes me want to bash my head against the wall. Not because of fashion snobbery or anything but just because it literally doesn't make any sense. The one they released last week is a perfect case in point. Usually when a magazine compiles such a list they do so based on who has looked the best that year at various glamorous events, and whilst the winners have rarely chosen their own outfits it doesn't really matter. Emma Stone in a succession of brave and beautiful Lanvin gowns is an undeniable sartorial hit, whether it's the work of a stylist or not. She deserves to top a best-dressed list.
What is strange about the Vanity Fair list, is that they don't appear to have used that, or any method whatsoever into compiling their line-up. With one very obvious (and notable) exception, they appear to be have been picked completely at random. New York Magazine's fashion section The Cut likened it to throwing spaghetti at a wall.
Let's have a look. H.R. H Crown Princess Mary of Denmark is unrecognisable to most people and whilst appearing very well groomed, dresses in the Quality Street-hued evening dresses of a British Soap Awards attendee. Plus a tiara of course. Presumably that counts for a lot. Léa Seydoux is a very pretty elfin French actress (last seen walking off into the sunset with Owen Wilson in Midnight In Paris) but her minimal time in the spotlight makes her a strange choice ahead of equally well-dressed contemporaries Clemence Posey and Josephine de la Baume.
Charlotte Casiraghi is one of those Monaco royals who claims to not really care about clothes. Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing wears the couture pieces no one else will because they're impossible for real life. Alicia Keys should be a welcome addition because Vanity Fair is often put under criticism for not including enough black or Asian people, but hasn't made a ripple on the right side of the style pages in years (when the likes of Zoe Saldana and Solange Knowles constantly look spectacular), and Diane Kruger always looks fashion-forward yet somehow accessible, but then the law of averages meant they had to get one legitimate player in there somewhere.
The obvious exception I mentioned earlier is of course H.R.H The Duchess of Cambridge. Her inclusion was inevitable, and whilst I'm not about to start arguing that the former Kate Middleton isn't well-dressed (she always looks lovely and that McQueen wedding dress was iconic), the point is, that's not why we love her. Women don't run out and buy whatever she happens to be photographed in because they like what she is wearing. They do it because (and I say this without irony) she is so pretty and she seems so lovely and we were all dazzled by her and William's love story. If the Duchess was pictured poring over a copy of Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto, sales of that would rocket. She does choose her wardrobe wisely, but take away the potency of her persona, and it's all pretty average. Similarly, Prince Harry makes the best dressed men list. Yes, the man is a national treasure, but he lives in crumpled chinos and was recently pictured proudly sporting an angry birds hat.
Let's be Fair (oh dear), there is good stuff to be found in the list - L'Uomo Vogue's colourfully rakish editor Robert Rabensteiner makes an appearance, as does the beautifully theatrical front-row fixture Michelle Harper, but you have to dig right down to find them. What I'm saying really, is the term 'Best Dressed List' actually accurate in any way for this compilation, would it not be more apt to title it 'People we would most like to be' or 'Future feature subjects we're hoping to score'.
I know in the grander scheme of world affairs these things are embarrassingly insignificant, but even within the fashion industry, are Best Dressed Lists themselves, in these days of super stylists and still warm from the runway red-carpet dressing even relevant? That, I think, is a bigger argument all together...