Monday, June 04, 2007

Reading Magazines, Buying Nothing

In the thousands of fashion magazines issues that I've read in my life, I have never bought anything because it was featured or advertised in a magazine. First, I can't afford 97% of the products they show, but also it's because I (and I suspect many others) don't use fashion magazines to find things to buy.

I've long gotten over the disappointment that comes from spotting the perfect skirt in a Vogue spread and then realizing that it's so expensive it doesn't even come with a price. Mainly, I read these magazines because they give me ideas about how to rework my own wardrobe. And if there's a new trend that I like, I look around mid-priced and discount stores for a cheaper version.

This is something I hadn't given much thought about until Jezebel posted a quote from the vice president and publisher of Lucky Magazine, Sandy Golinkin, who had this to say:

"If you don't have a lot of money, you won't be happy reading this magazine."

Aside from simply being a really great attempt at alienating the readers who subscribe to the magazine but don't have a lot of money, Sandy's attitude pissed me off. Is that how magazine publishers think about their readers? But then I got to thinking, what does "a lot of money" mean anyway?
In the same post, Jezebel reported that Lucky is claiming that the average household income of Lucky readers is $84,400 (and remember that's household, not individual income). That's about double the American average, which is notable, but even if every Lucky reader is a single woman, when you subtract taxes and basic necessities like rent, food, transportation, that doesn't leave a whole lot left for clothing. Certainly, it's not enough for most of these readers to buy $400 jeans and $1600 handbags, unless you shop at H&M for everything else.

So, even if Lucky's numbers aren't inflated (which they likely are, as I would expect some people to exaggerate their income), I really question whether the majority of their readers actually consistently buy items showcased in the magazine. But we read it anyway, and the fact that we never (or rarely) buy clothes or accessories featured in the magazine doesn't really faze us, because that isn't the point.

Maybe the publishers of these magazines will catch on to this at some point and stop perpetuating this false idea that readers go out and buy what they feature so they can dress like the models on their pages.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I stopped getting Lucky magazine for that very reason: I don't have a lot of money. I was constantly frustrated by the high prices, and I would go on shopping trips determined to find an affordable version of what I'd seen in the magazine, only to end up disappointed. It seems like there is no way to recreate the "Lucky" look with clothing from mall stores, and I decided I would have my own look, and not bother to see what Lucky deemed "cool" or "fashionable." Nice to know that the editors didn't want me as a reader anyway, due to my lack of funds! I can find inspiration from other magazines who don't look down on my economic status. Or from blogs like yours, so thanks! :-)

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough when Lucky started they would feature stuff from the Gap and similar stores, and it was more about how to mix it up to get a look than "oh hey, buy these $300 shoes!" But I then had a (very wealthy) friend complain that they didn't feature enough high-end clothing. And since she's the one spending, she's probably the one Lucky wants to pick up their mag. Personally I hardly ever see anything in Lucky I would buy; it's a 15-minute diversion in how to splash out what I already own. Besides, it's a monthly mag -- even if I were wealthy, would I want to spend tons of cash every single month? (Hm... guess I'll never know the answer to *that* question!)

The Glitterati said...

Oh please, like I read Allure because I'm going to go buy a $40 nailpolish and then go for a few rounds of lipo/lifting! I think not. Like you, I read the magazines because I enjoy seeing the new trends and different ways to wear items I may not have thought of. Besides, it's so easy to find cheaper versions of clothes that mimic the shapes, colours, and silhouettes of the season. That's why I love Jane magazine -- they seem to be at least aware that their readers aren't millionaires, and they regularly feature "beauty/fashion on a budget" spreads. I believe Glamour does a similar thing as well.

Oh, by the way, I'm doing a fundraiser over at my blog, where for every comment made on June 4th, 5th, or 6th, I will donate $1 to a cancer charity, up to $50. Those who comment will also have a chance to win a great t-shirt... I'd love it if you and your readers stop by and leave a note for a good cause! Thanks so much!

Pen Name said...

I love that other people realize how ridiculous these mags are! The "bargains" and looks for less are always too expensive for me.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this post. I enjoy magazines because they highlight the latest trends and how to wear stuff in new ways; I don't go out of my way to buy the exact (freakishly expensive) item that was featured! As for Lucky pegging the income of its average reader at over $84,000, that's probably gross salary before deductions and income tax. Take-home pay is probably a lot less (especially considering that $84,000 puts a person in a pretty high income tax bracket), and after the everyday expenses Meg cited, the amount of disposable income left for fashion/beauty purchases probably isn't as significant as Lucky thinks.

Jessica said...

Ha - my hairdresser and I used to joke that the reason the magazine is called Lucky is because you'd have to be really lucky to afford the items featured. Sometimes there are a few little affordable things - beauty items, cute stationary paper, etc. - but the clothing prices are just ridiculous! But Lucky isn't the only magazine that does this - Vogue, Allure, and Elle certainly don't cater to "average" women or their wallets. I suppose it's nice to dream, though! I'm sure we'd all love to own wardrobes worth millions!

Anonymous said...

Not suprising. Lucky magazine is all style and no substance anyhow. Some times I even question the style part of too.

diego said...

I only subscribe to one magazine & it's more for hair/makeup ideas. For clothing ideas I need look no further than the myriad catalogs that keep coming by post -- Anthropologie, J Crew, Free People, etc. not to mention lots of blogs that feature fashion trends (eg, who what wear daily) I can see what's new/coming down the pike and use those sources for finding my own, less expensive renditions at Target, Old Navy, etc. & sales.

atlanta social said...

I read Vogue, W, and Bazaar for inspiration and industry info. Plus, I like the society stuff.

I buy at J.Crew amd Theory mainly. Not that I can even really afford those stores.

QueenMichelle said...

I buy magazines for EXACTLY the same reason as you Meg, even though I do have the income to buy a reasonable percentage of the stuff, but I still look for cheaper alternatives none the less. I use magazines for inspiration, then I interpret it in my own way and if I can do that for £50 rather than £400 all the better.
I can't get this magazine here (I'm in the UK) and it used to piss me off as I always heard it being mentioned, but now I don't think I'd buy it anyway as their attitude stinks.

Abbey said...

The Canadian equivilent of Lucky, called LouLou, is pretty good. They feature a lot of reasonably priced stuff (which they don't ghetto-ize in a special section), and they do a expensive look/cheap look version of a style, and most of the time, the cheap look actually looks better than the expensive one (at least to me).

Sharp Lily said...

A-MEN. Great post. This is precisely why I started my blog. I loved Lucky and hated that I couldn't afford anything in there. And sorry Sandy, but I *guarantee* the vast majority of your readers cannot afford $1200 bags. Most women do not read fashion magazines because they can afford to purchase the goods. They read them to be inspired. Very sad she doesn't know her customers. What an ass.

Anonymous said...

I still read 17 magazine, however childish it may seem. Although almost every article is based on teenagers clothing, it's great for the young people (-30's). And if you want to find items like those feautred in Lucky or Marie Claire, you best shot is bluefly.com or Forever 21. I live at those stores. Nothing is really expensive at either of the places. Also, hit up Ross or TJ Maxx. If you look hard enough, you can find designer purses or skirts for really cheap. I once found a large HL (Harajuku Lovers) purse for $20. It's retail was $125. It was in perfect condition, and I still use it today.

Anonymous said...

What an offensive comment. And I read Allure, too -- operative word being "read." Unlike Lucky, other magazines actually publish these things called "stories," instead of mindless babble like "We're obsessed with this lipgloss." I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I'd probably overlook that stuff if the styling were in any way original, or if they didn't seem to go out of their way to feature totally overdone, overpriced, unflattering outfits. Teen Vogue and Jane are actually better for clothes, but I get most of my style inspiration on the web -- from The Sartorialist, Stockholm Street Style, and even the outfits the stylists at Net-a-Porter put together. Oh, and when I used to make lots of money, I found out something first hand: A $120 T-shirt is still a freakin' T-shirt. Shop at Old Navy instead and put the difference in your 401(k). Trust me.

knoxwhirled said...

This woman was probably tailoring her comments for Lucky's advertisers. She wants them to think all the readers are wealthy, and that they indeed use her magazine like a catalog--as a vehicle to spend money on the products featured there. However, it does seem pretty stupid for her to insult the rest of us in doing so...

Rapunzel said...

*sigh* so sad. I remember the first issue of Lucky. When it first started it was a pretty good mag and had some cute ideas. But now, i find the vast majority of what they showcase to be uninspired and boring, and they tell you to do things like "wear bright colours for summer" or "try a wide belt with a full skirt to emphasise your waist" as though it was a new, unknown, and creative idea. Serioulsy, who doesn't know that bright colours in summer are always in and that a belt shows off a waist? Come on.

More importantly, even though they use expensive clothing in their magazine, has anyone else noticed that the way they photograph their spreads makes everything look cheap and frumpy? Everything is awkwardly paired and the whole thing looks like it was thrown together by untalanted undergrads with bad taste.

I definitely prefer pretty much every other fashion magazine out there to this one. I love Vogue and In Style even if i can't afford anything in their pages. At least they know how to photograph and put together interesting outfits (even if vogue can be a little ott sometimes).

It's really rather pathetic though, when magazines advertize "deals and steals" on the cover, only to be showing $70 tank tops and $150 canvas bags in the article. My mother and I were just laughing at this the other day. She saw "cheap fashion finds" plastered on the cover of the June Cosmo and we flipped to the article to see what they had. Everything was grossly overpriced for what it was: cheap looking and ugly. Everything looked like it came from Wal Mart, and yet was still overpriced. Go figure.

lazypadawan said...

A magazine lives and dies by advertising and every magazine will shoot for higher household income averages so that advertisers will beat down the doors in the hopes of reaching those with lots of disposable income.

But you don't have to have seen an episode of "Ugly Betty" or watched "The Devil Wears Prada" to know that Manhattan magazine editors live on their own planet. When designers are tossing samples at you left and right, you have no idea what it means for a young woman making $35,000 a year to buy a $200 top or a stay-home mother with three kids to buy a $1300 purse. These editors live in a fantasy world and their job is to sell us that fantasy world where we can replace our entire wardrobes every season with expensive clothes and accessories. Just look at the section where they profile "real" professionals who have glamourous but low-paying jobs yet can somehow afford clothes that cost more than what I make in a month.

Gauri said...

Psht. Lucky magazine obviously hasn't been doing their research.

And I definitely agree with this post, too. I get ideas and my trashy magazine fix from fashion magazines, nothing else.

Kristi said...

I enjoy reading Lucky but they don't even sell most of these lines in our stores. I usually browse through and then find imitations of the clothes that I like.