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Do Judge a Vogue by its Cover

22/01/2014 17:29 GMT | Updated 24/03/2014 09:59 GMT

So they airbrushed Lena Dunham. What did we expect? Putting her face on the cover is the real triumph.

I buy Vogue. Religiously. I buy it because, firstly, it looks so appealing. Like really shiny horse hair or a piece of Mary Berry's lemon drizzle. I buy it knowing its contents are different to that of The Spectator, or Rolling Stone, or any National Newspaper. I say that because I also buy Vogue with routine disillusionment, high on the gloss and the fine sheen (that'll be the horse hair), hopeful of discovering subjects of the fashion world that I can genuinely engage with. Nine times out of ten I don't even read it. Most of it is adverts and there's a sense that Vogue is essentially targeted at bona fide fashion people, or young women who want to be Alexa (Chung) or Cara (Delevingne.) I'm about to turn 31 having discovered it's unlikely I'll grow up to be either of them. I might as well hang up my Mary Janes and order that subscription to Woman's Own. Except, I want to buy Vogue.

So, what of other women who feel Vogue is no longer, or has never been, 'for them'? And what of the next generation? With its seemingly relentless paper trail of cosmetic and designer ads featuring endlessly leggy (endleggsy?) size zero models and unspeakably beautiful actresses, for the amount of pages, Vogue doesn't contain very many words. To your everyday woman, perhaps not accustomed to a life of airbrushed perfection, it can be just a fairly dispiriting, potentially bruising, high gloss, fashion mag. But, I'm convinced that it's supposed to represent more than that.

Step forward Lena Dunham.

Creator, writer, director and star of the award winning television show 'Girls', the woman behind lines such as "I don't want to freak you out, but I think I may be the voice of my generation", Lena Dunham has proved exactly that. And it seems that's a voice Vogue needs.

According to fashion sources Dunham's Vogue cover has been in the offing for a while. Editress Anna Wintour allegedly courted the HBO star with the promise of a cover that would bend the unwieldy rulebook at Vogue Towers. Dunham must, it seems, be given special dispensation to appear on a Vogue Cover, because, said a source from the magazine, she does not "conform to the body type that Vogue has featured for most of its history", but that Wintour had been "willing to violate a lot of Vogue traditions to do it." Violate, really?

Unmistakably, Vogue has its own brand and in-turn its own standards to uphold, but "violate traditions"? How about swapping that prefix for, say, update? Redefine, even? Surely there is less cause for a violation of traditions and more an embracing of a new manifesto, and potentially a new readership.

Seeing Lena Dunham's face - complete with vulnerable, angsty expression - fill the cover of Vogue fills me with joy and hopefulness. At last! A cover star who stands for the fears and neuroses and downright beautiful complexities of real women. Not only that, but an article inside the magazine that I want to read! No more sad marking of page corners for some leather trousers that I literally don't know how to wear, or a pair of shoes that I could only afford if I sold a kidney. It's a feature with words about - and uttered by - brilliant Lena Dunham who truly understands women! It's a heady turn of events.

People who have never bought Vogue will buy this issue, if only to frame the cover and salute a little piece of revolution, because Lena Dunham is a representative who can finally shout their corner in the world of fashion.

24 hours after the Vogue spread goes viral and the online backlash reaches its peak when feminist blog Jezebel - 'Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing' - puts out a $10,000 bounty on the pre-production photos of Lena Dunham, citing that Vogue tamper too heavily with their images and that the very real Lena Dunham is not, for their (reward) money, to be tampered with.

http://jezebel.com/were-offering-10-000-for-unretouched-images-of-lena-d-1502000514

Having already expressed her approval of the Vogue article via Twitter, Lena Dunham's next tweet is swift to follow the Jezebel brouhaha. It says, simply, "Some shit is just too ridiculous to engage. Let's use our energy wisely, 2014." By Lena Dunham's standards, what is worth engaging with is the continuing discussion about gender, parity and the socially accepted version of contemporary women. Currently in the process of setting up a production company alongside her creative partner Jenni Konner, Dunham aims to make more work around the subject of "the challenges and triumphs of modern womanhood." Vogue, too, is no stranger to charting feminism and the role of women: from French Vogue paying homage to the women who contributed to the Second World War effort, in the first published edition post war in 1945http://fashionabecedaire.tumblr.com/post/2109466925/magazine-history-and-vogue-created-paris-vogue

to Beyoncé refusing to call herself a feminist in an interview with British Vogue in May last year.http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/beyonce-pens-open-feminist-essay-we-need-to-stop-buying-into-the-myth-of-gender-equality-9056148.html

Other commenters have taken issue with the fact the cover is only a headshot and that real victory over the magazine would be a cover featuring Dunham's body. But here's the thing, it's all about the face. Like it or not, putting Lena Dunham's face on the cover of Vogue confirms the magazine as a platform for social discourse and confirms her as a role model in what the Times recently called "the age of accomplishment."

It might 'only' be a head. But it's a talking head, with really good words to say.

Who knew Vogue had it in her?

Read the full Vogue article here: http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/lena-dunham-the-new-queen-of-comedys-first-vogue-cover/#6