Over the weekend, I was sifting through a pile of mail and got distracted with a Brooks Brothers catalog (pictured right). Something bothered me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I realized, this cover picture had nothing to do with a family, except perhaps a broken one.
There’s no way this woman could be the mother to those children unless she had them when she was 13 or 15, which doesn’t sound like the demographic that shops at Brooks Brothers. It looks like the husband, at least 20 years older, has substituted the nanny or his young secretary for his wife. Maybe it’s a scoop on season five of Mad Men since the previous episodes concluded with Don Draper proposing to his very young and beautiful secretary, who also happens to be great with his kids.
If you look closely, she doesn’t even seem to be wearing awedding band. The ring looks more like an engagement ring.
Yes, the aging process, nature, and just about every aspect of marketing are harder on women than they are on men. But at least show something that could be a real family. I can’t figure out who Brooks Brothers is targeting because women who are the age of the model don’t shop at Brooks. (Brooks might not even carry sizes that small.) If they have money, they shop other high end brands. The women who do shop Brooks tend to be older and/or shopping for their husbands and not for themselves.
Additionally, I know women who have had several children and look amazing. These are women who, if they got together and had some good marketing, could publish a book that would be the next South Beach Diet. They look great and many of us wished we looked as good as they do. If they can package their looks as the benefits of having a large and busy family, all I can say is cha-ching!
This reminds me a bit of a section from Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. The protagonist Sherman is at an exclusive Manhattan party:
The women came in two varieties. First, there were women in their late thirties and in their forties and older (women “of a certain age”), all of them skin and bones (starved to near perfection). To compensate for the concupiscence missing from their juiceless ribs and atrophied backsides, they turned to the dress designers. This season no puffs, flounces, pleats, ruffles, bibs, bows, battings, scallops, laces, darts, or shirrs on the bias were too extreme. They were the social X rays, to use the phrase that had bubbled up into Sherman’s own brain. Second, there were the so-called Lemon Tarts. These were women in their twenties or early thirties, mostly blondes (the Lemon in the Tarts), who were the second, third, and fourth wives or live-in girlfriends of men over forty or fifty or sixty (or seventy), the sort of women men refer to, quite without thinking, as girls. This season the Tart was able to flaunt the natural advantages of youth by showing her legs from well above the knee and emphasizing her round bottom (something no X ray had). What was entirely missing from chez Bavardage was that manner of woman who is neither very young nor very old, who has laid in a lining of subcutaneous fat, who glows with plumpness and a rosy face that speaks, without word, of home and hearth and hot food ready at six and stories read aloud at night and conversations while seated on the edge of the bed, just before the Sandman comes. In short, no one ever invited…Mother.
Sure, advertisers and consumers like youth and beauty. But there’s something wrong when beauty doesn’t include women who are old enough to be mothers, especially in a family shoot. Moms can be beautiful. Just ask any child.