teenage wasteland: teen fashion magazines revisited

I’ve loved flipping through the pages of fashion magazines since I was in the fifth grade. Poring over the articles, studying the shots of meticulously styled, makeupped and coiffed models… it’s a good way to shut off the ol’ brain and just indulge in a not-so-guilty pleasure. Reading one of my go-to monthly favorites, Elle, got me thinking: are the magazines of my youth the same as they were back then? Kids today have access to so many things that just didn’t exist when I was growing up: the Snapchatting, the Facebookery…  technology and social media seem to have amplified the humiliation and embarrassment that is the ‘tween/teen experience. Yikes.

For my little research project, I picked up the March issues of Seventeen, Teen Vogue, and Girls’ Life Magazine. (I thought that Cosmo had a teen spinoff also, but evidently that franchise folded over five years ago. Shows how ‘with it’ I am.)


Going through these magazines took me back, waaaay back, to the days when I could afford nothing and relied on my parents for everything I had, including a ride to the mall. It made me a bit sad that my favorite teen magazine from my youth, ym, is no longer in publication (apparently I’m not the only one who’s bummed about this!) I’d started reading Seventeen well before I was actually seventeen, and in all those years, I don’t think the magazine changed all that much. The fashion featured in Seventeen is truly geared towards the teenage set: affordable, (mostly) cute stuff that’s appropriate for girls between the ages of about 12 and 20. Teen Vogue, on the other hand, has taken its brand of ethereal, otherworldly (and expensive) perfection and given it a younger spin:
IMG_4226What teenager (whose last name isn’t Kardashian) can afford a pair of $385 slip-on sneakers? (Teen Vogue)

Aside from the expected fluff (and occasional ‘WTF?’), the mags did actually have some substantive pieces to them. Teen Vogue had an info piece on the dangers of e-cigarettes, and Seventeen had a multi-page ‘how-to’ on ways to make and save money. Girls’ Life featured an article on rape prevention and also contained a quiz titled ‘Are You Too Into Yourself?’ which made me forever grateful to their publication (anything to mitigate rampant teenage narcissism get a big thumbs-up from me). Seventeen even had some good advice for me:

IMG_4217Don’t OD on fro-yo, Liz. Even teenagers know better.

All things considered, teen magazines really aren’t that fundamentally different from their older-and-wiser counterparts. The semi-vapid content (depending on the publication) is what got me to branch out and read all different kinds of magazines: eventually, the advice about how to get a guy to notice you and month after month of makeup tips I’ll never use just got old and tired. My recent favorites are men’s monthlies GQ and Details, and I like reading every word of the articles in just about any business and economics magazine. I suppose it was a gradual transition: eventually finding the teen magazines no longer relevant and “graduating” to the Elles, Vogues, and Harper’s Bazaars of the world. You wake up one day, and suddenly you’re… older. Funny how that happens.

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