Vogue has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. This is a first for the New York-based glossy — and a smart move by the so-called fashion Bible.
In an unsigned letter posted on the magazine’s website and published in the November print edition, the editors explain: “We understand that Clinton has not always been a perfect candidate, yet her fierce intelligence and considerable experience are reflected in policies and positions that are clear, sound, and hopeful.”
The endorsement is accompanied by a 1993 Annie Leibovitz portrait of Clinton that, in the Vogue manner, wraps her in a glow so golden that she practically looks gilded.
And while actress Emma Stone is on the November cover — not Clinton — the word “vote” has been incorporated into a patriotic red, white and blue version of the Vogue logo.
For anyone who follows fashion or politics, this endorsement probably comes as no surprise: Anna Wintour, the magazine’s editor in chief, has been vocal in her support of Clinton, as well as financially generous to her campaign. Indeed, she is co-hosting a fundraiser for her, alongside designer Diane von Furstenberg and top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, in Washington on Nov. 3.
But this is the first time that the magazine, as an entity, has endorsed a candidate. The reason for stepping into the political fray? A spokesperson says it’s because of the unique nature of this campaign: It is a spectacle of historic proportion. The country has the potential to elect a woman as president. And the race has been a fraught circus of insults, accusations and falsehoods. The magazine did not want to stand silent.
In speaking to its 1.2 million subscribers, Vogue may well be preaching to the choir, a largely affluent, educated and female readership. But as all those songbirds who crack their hymnals at church every Sunday know, a sermon is hardly pointless. The words can be affirming and reassuring: a reminder to go out and do what you know is right.
Other fashion magazines are deeply engaged in politics
. The politicians who sit down for interviews with Elle or Glamour or Cosmopolitan know it’s an opportunity to reach out beyond an audience of political junkies, to get their points across in an environment that is noncombative. The downside, of course, is that sometimes the resulting stories are so soft-focus that thoughtful criticism and challenging questioning go missing. But it’s better that they’re having an overly polite conversation than none at all.
Newspapers have a long history of endorsing candidates, and those opinions often have a profound effect on less-watched races — school board elections, for example. But the impact on presidential elections is arguably far more diffuse. With information coming at voters from all directions, can one newspaper endorsement truly tip the scale?
Still, there’s something very high school civics class about reading an endorsement in a local newspaper. The endorsement in Vogue, however, is much more like an opinion shared at the meeting of an exclusive club. The audience is not broad; on some level, its readers have bought into the Vogue point of view, the Vogue lifestyle, the Vogue message. So perhaps the magazine’s endorsement will serve as a reminder to its faithful to go out and do what they know is right.
Vogue regularly highlights the stories of female lawmakers and business leaders. It does not sling arrows; it champions. Those stories tend to be flattering and the accompanying portraits serve as a more glamorized version of their workday selves. But by stepping into the current political brawl, Vogue is not just attempting to inform its readers, but to mobilize them to act. Vogue may be able to deliver shoppers to the Chanel makeup counter; now it is trying to deliver votes.
In its endorsement, Vogue isn’t just speaking as a magazine that publishes features about political leaders; it’s speaking as a publication that does all of that alongside stories about fashion trends, beauty news, designer profiles and fanciful photography. It is, in a sense, declaring that all of these subjects can coexist. Vogue lends an air of glamour and panache to whatever appears in its pages. So perhaps it can put a bit of the shine back on the act of voting at a time when so many see their choices as one of two evils.
Vogue does not speak for the entire American fashion industry, but it has outsize influence. Its endorsement reflects the many ways this multibillion-dollar industry has supported Clinton — whether in fundraising, merchandise design or social messaging.
Fashion magazines are often marginalized or dismissed as superficial — much in the same way that women’s avocations, concerns and issues are so often pushed to the periphery. Vogue is helping to put girl stuff, women’s stuff — all of it — at the center of a serious conversation. The frippery doesn’t have to detract from the substance. It can make the substance more enticing.