I was going to do the usual review of VK once I got it. Then I did get it, and flipping through, happened to read the letter from the editor in the front. The title of it, "Size Matters to Us" caught my eye, and by the time I was done reading... well. I debated for two days how to properly address the letter in the VK review proper, without making it a hundred thousand words long, and I couldn't come up with a way. So I'm doing what I did with the 25th Anniversary Edition (links in the sidebar) and splitting this review in half. Because really, I've got a lot to say about this letter, enough that I don't think it's fair to cram it into the review. Since this isn't really a review, but a reply to the letter.
The text of the letter can be found on the VK web site, here. I suggest everyone who really is into this bip over and read it first. I'm going to quote the relevant parts (I don't know how long that link will work, once a new issue comes out), but if you read the entire thing, that way there's no question of me taking things out of context. I'll try very hard to quote everything pertinent so there's no misunderstanding. So stuff in quotes is from the magazine, specifically, the letter. Further down there will be photos of past VK designs. I'll list what issue they came from, for clarity.
And, while I'm trying to be clear, I understand the designers just submit a pattern to VK and VK takes over the sizing from there. It's implied in the letter itself. So while I'm ranting and raving over the size issue, it's not directed at the designers. As I see it, they don't have much to do with it either. (Plus, VK treats their designers rather shittily, and they deserve some sympathy... I'm not sure why they continue to work for VK, but a pay check is a pay check, after all.)
So, the gist of the letter is, VK analyzes each design carefully when it gets to the VK offices, and from there, they decide what sizes are flattering to each figure, and size designs accordingly. Now, part of this is inarguable. Sure, different things look better on different people. That's nothing but common sense. But the implication here is that VK knows better than I do (or you do) what looks good on my body (or yours). Considering they've never MET me, I find it damn hard to believe that they can sit in their office on the lower west side of Manhattan and know what I'm going to look good in. There are a few other gems.
"That’s the beauty of being a woman, and being a unique individual with varied tastes, knitting preferences and personal style." Really. Then why, in the pages of VK, is every model a tiny-sized, low-body-fat, unusually tall and thin female? Why are they all made up to look the same? Because it's high fashion? Is there no woman on earth larger than a size six capable of being high fashion? Is fashion about being thin? Where's the beauty of being a unique individual, in the pages of the magazine?
"We discuss how a piece would look and fit a body if sized much larger or smaller, and how a wide range of sizes would affect pattern repeats, cabling, colorwork and shaping. We look at length of body and sleeves, shoulder shaping and whether it would allow for more ease, design details that might be lost or simply would not work. Not all garments will flatter if they are sized too large or too small. A petite person can be swamped by the wrong silhouette and often by chunky stitches, and, conversely, the wrong length can cut a larger body at the wrong point, not flattering it in the least." I'm quoting this whole block here, because as I said above, I don't want to take things out of context or confuse the issue. This, according to the editor, is their philosophy, what they're thinking, if you will, when they decide what they're going to size and how to size it. I'm quoting all this now, because I think it's complete bullshit. I think they size according to what's easy to resize. I don't think looking good (if you're over a size six) is on their radar. I think it's all about how complicated the pattern is. If it's too complex, I think they lack the talent, the resources, or the time (or all three?) to bother resizing it, and that's where all those super-small once-size-only patterns come from in the magazine.
"As professionals, we ask that you understand why we make our choices to size only certain silhouettes up or down." As professionals. Implied expertise; they know better than we do. Not only is it ridiculous, it's contradicted further down.
"We choose those we believe will work for the greater majority of our readers, so you don’t waste time (and money) knitting a garment you will not necessarily be happy with when you’re finished." They want to save us money. Sure. I might believe it if that $600 USD cashmere sweater wasn't fresh in my mind. You know, the one in plus sizes, that was big-butt length. (See below; I'll put up a photo to refresh everyone's memories.)
"However, you know your body and personal style better than we do, and there will be times when you wish we had sized our sweaters differently. For those times, there are many resources available to help you custom-size your project." Here's the internal contradiction: We're professionals, and we know better. But if you're so hell-bent on a sweater that fits, do our job for us and size it yourselves. They also suggest hitting up your local yarn store for help. I don't know about you, but my local yarn store doesn't carry VK. They've given up on it in disgust (and because no one bought it).
For those of you who've been reading leBlog for a while, you know I've got a freaky-good visual memory. Especially if I've gone to the trouble of reviewing something, and stared at the photo for a while; it sticks in my head. So while I was reading this letter to the editor, there was this cascade of VK designs rolling through my mind. And since I started listing sizes in the past year's reviews, I even knew what sizes most of them came in. Here are some of the highlights of my brain montage.
They want to save us money, and keep us from knitting things we're unhappy with?
#16, Holiday 2009 VK. It's cashmere, and the largest size, a 54in/137cm bust, would cost $615 to knit. (Or did when I figured the cost when I did the review; prices may be going up.) I'm not sure anyone would look good in this without altering it a bit, because the length of it hangs down over the butt and adds bulk to it. Most of us don't need bulky butts.
#11, Spring/Summer 2009. $60 just for the feathers. (At last summer's exchange rate; the yarn was available from only one place in the UK.) Sizes only to a 40in/103cm bust, but considering the vest is a box with arm holes, I don't see how it's flattering to anyone.
But they want to save us money so we don't spend a lot and are unhappy with it later. Yeah.
"A petite person can be swamped by the wrong silhouette and often by chunky stitches, and, conversely, the wrong length can cut a larger body at the wrong point, not flattering it in the least." Really? Do you think? Then why do you keep publishing things like this?
#22 holiday 2008. Do you think she looks swamped in chunky stitches? I think she looks swamped in chunky stitches. I thought this was their great concern, what they were saving us from? Then why is it here? Oh, is it because there is a Designer Name on it? Which is it? Are they saving us, or not?
#18, Winter 2009. Bust sizes to 44in/111cm. Would anyone look good in this? Petite, plus size, my grandma? Anyone?
#4, Winter 2009. This would only look good on very slim body types. So why, then, is it available in a 50in/127cm bust?
#18, Holiday 2009. This is a nice lace pullover. There's a vertical line to it, which is flattering to just about everyone, and the design itself is fairly square and blocky, meaning it lends itself to a lot of sizes. Why do sizes only go from 29in/73cm to 40in/101cm? I've got a friend with F cup breasts who is at least a sixty inch bust, who would look good in that. Why wasn't it sized more broadly?
#15 Spring/Summer 2008. Is that a flattering length for ANYONE?
Know what I think? I think what I've always thought. That they don't really give much of a shit about true plus sizes (anyone up past a 56in/142cm bust). All those patterns that come in only one size? They're always complicated. I think they get complex patterns at the VK office and no one wants to re-size them, so they don't.
#3, spring/summer 2009. One size, 31in/78cm bust. You telling me NO ONE ELSE even slightly larger would look good in that? Or is it possible that because it's a complex, directional knit, no one felt like resizing it?
#19, spring/summer 2008. One size only. You telling me plus sizes don't look good in shrugs? I'm not sure shrugs look good on anyone, but they look as good on plus sizes as anyone else. Maybe it was just too complicated to resize?
#20, spring/summer 2008. Piece of major directional knitting. It would look good on a wide range of body types, thanks to the very delineated waist, but it's available in only one size, a 34in/86cm bust. I'm betting that's the size that showed up in the VK office and they printed it as-is.
Bottom line? I think the editor's trying to sell us a load of shit. Which isn't really shocking, we've been kind of saying that for years, but this letter from the editor is really, blatantly, shockingly obvious about it. On a personal level I find it extremely offensive, the claim that they know what's flattering better than we do - and then produce an overwhelming majority of small sizes. The implication is that plus sizes don't get/need/deserve flattering clothing. If they did a more equitable range of sizes, I might buy the claim. But as it is? It sounds like more fashion industry Thin Is Beautiful propaganda.
This may be the one that puts me over the top. I'm wondering if the library gets Vogue Knitting, because I think that's the only way I'm continuing these reviews. I'm too sickened to give them any more of my money.