Vivien Lash tours a century of Vogue and wonders whether heroin chic has been superseded by Dr Stossier’s stale bread regime
The theory that fashion magazines spawn eating disorders is exposed to ridicule by the fat ladies poring over the pictures at Vogue 100 in London’s National Portrait Gallery (until 22nd May 2016), a show celebrating a century of UK Vogue.
Conde Nast bought Vogue for his wife but while the marriage ended in divorce the magazine is still expanding with sexy young readers in China who compensate for the ageing readers in England.
Incredibly given how gorgeous I am, I’ve always hated looking at pictures of myself; but I love visual memories of decades that I lived through and ones I’ve only imagined.
Patrician models from the 1930s, like my great-grandmothers with their wasp-waists and tailored clothes; the pushy glamour of 1980s creation Princess Diana facing Juergen Teller’s 1990s portrait of young David and Victoria before betrayal and botox; and the war years in a room painted Vreeland red as a backdrop to the magnetic photography of Lee Miller, Clifford Coffin and Cecil Beaton tell the story of Vogue in a dazzling visual history.
Garbo’s mate Beaton restored his reputation with glamorous images of the blitz after being sacked by American Vogue for captioning a picture ‘kike’.
Hitler’s burning house is photographed at such close range I can’t help but wonder if Lee Miller started the fire herself. And her seductive picture of the Burgermeister of Leipzig’s daughter, Regina Lisso, taken just after she suicided, contains a demented poetry visible to former Vogue model Miller whose own ethereal beauty conceals a lifetime of suffering syphilis contracted during childhood abuse.
Like holding a magnifying glass to the past, the camera sometimes lies with its subjective eye but no more than body dysmorphia in a full length mirror.
Corinne Day who, like Bette Davis in Dark Victory, died of a brain tumour – one of many things that sounds more glamorous than it is – turned teenage Kate Moss into a junkie Lolita in those famous heroin chic pictures Under Exposure; launching the age of the waif but almost finishing her own career as a fashion photographer.
But the images in the display cabinet that suburban sisters are leaning in close, to kiss or sniff, contradict my memory of thinster Kate posing in her pants as I read Vogue secretly in school.
Moss’s Belsen ribcage lures your eye away from her mama hips but her thick thighs shocked me into swallowing some emergency Viva Mayr poo potion.
In real life my waist is 2 inches smaller than Kate’s and I’ve been the same dress size so long that vintage is just a walk to the back of my closet.
But when Maddie woke me from a fat nightmare shouting, ‘Vivvy the Piggy’, hoping to instill an anorexic vocation in a daughter who lacks the commitment to starve; I started to worry.
Did Vivvy really stay the same size; or did the dresses get bigger? Am I a size 4 masquerading as a size 2?!
The best presents are the ones you give yourself.
My size zero bestie Crazy Kiki’s favourite diet is a trip to the nuthouse for a stint in a straitjacket; mine is stale bread and fresh air at the Viva Mayr clinic in the Alps.
Normally I can’t stand quacks but I pure love Dr Ingrid at Viva Mayr even if the kinesiology test to determine food intolerances is a bit silly.
‘I can do a stool test if you prefer,’ Dr Ingrid threatens, while testing my tolerance of tomatoes and koo milk (cow to you) and gluten by getting me to shove her while holding the potentially toxic substances.
The strength with which I push the doctor determines which foods it’s best for me to avoid, but my short attention span makes the test unscientific.
When I get bored I give bossy Ingrid a really hard shove: that means I’m allowed chocolate!
My attention wanders and I give a lethargic push: that means I have to say no to fruit!
In Dr Ingrid’s experience – which to be fair is greater than mine – kinesiology really works; and I am not going to disagree when she’s bigger than me, and a very good doctor who cured my Beijing lungs.
But I draw the line at being stretched by Colonel Klebb’s larger sister. Lovely person, just a bit strong. And if I want to be taller I’ll put on my 7 inch spikes not have my legs ripped out of their sockets.
I used the Poo Trick: excused myself to eliminate more toxins and “forgot” to return to the stretching room.
Next I was reborn in a salt pool, a super relaxing treatment for body and soul, but the psychotherapist had me worried when she said, ‘There may be tears.’
But no, she did not torture me. We just floated in the dark water, like a womb without the blood and Maddie shouting, ‘Devil’s spawn!’ as I emerged from the birthing pool.
I made myself popular by reporting the chef for giving us too much octopus for lunch and winning the chewing competition at every meal.
The night before my final weigh, I was sick with nerves at facing Dr Ingrid’s scales so I vommed up my dinner with a bit of help from the salty water you’re encouraged to knock back faster than vodka martinis.
I’ve gone down half a dress size, which makes the difference between pulling up my zip with help from the manservant and a coathanger; to just using the manservant’s paw.
Health is like acting: you only notice when it’s bad. You could just stay at home and read ‘friendly werewolf’ Dr Stossier’s book The Viva Mayr Diet: 14 Days to a Younger You, bake the bread and let it go stale before eating it; but really it’s best if you check into the clinic next time you catch sight of a person who looks like you only fatter in the mirror.
You will leave the place of happiness with glowing skin, a flat stomach and possibly the appetite to bite somebody; just don’t forget to chew.