Alexandra Shulman, the former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, was on the receiving end of some cringeworthy comments about women's fashion from a BBC Radio 4 presenter Thursday morning. Angry listeners accused John Humphrys, who was interviewing Shulman on the Today Programme, of "mansplaining" the fashion industry to her and being "out of his depth."
The veteran presenter, who has come under fire numerous times for his combative interview style, was talking to Shulman about body image and the future of women's fashion, and ended up making numerous misguided remarks in the process. He claimed there weren't many "reasonably cozy or comfortably shaped" bodies on the cover of Vogue (whatever that means) and blamed the magazine and the industry for promoting stick-thinness and "excruciating stilettos".
On body image, Humphrys said: "60 years ago, the hourglass figure was desirable, now you want to be skinny as a rake." But Shulman's response was as shrewd and well-informed as you might expect: She explained the industry's increasing embrace of women who are "not that skinny" and pointed out the most obvious examples.
"No, not sure that's entirely true actually...Rihanna, Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, they're not that skinny," she said. "Skinny is not necessarily what people want to be now. There has been a change in the last decade about that."
On the subject of stilettos, Humphrys said "women feel they have to wear very high heels and they must be excruciating," Shulman politely highlighted the years-long dominance of flat shoes in fashion. "I do not agree with that at all, women do not have to wear high heels," she said. "Wearing a heel gives you a completely different feel about your body. In my case it makes me feel in control rather than slopping around in a pair of slippers."
Many listeners took to Twitter to express their annoyance at hearing a doyenne of fashion having to respond to Humphrys' "off base" views.
Others criticized him for being misinformed.
Humphrys did, however make the valid point that the range of women featured on Vogue's cover during her tenure could have been more diverse. "I don't know that that's necessarily true. Under my editorship we had quite a range," she responded, citing Adele and, confusingly, the Duchess of Cambridge, as examples.
Shulman was also quizzed about her recent Instagram bikini selfie, which went viral and sparked a conversation about ageism and body image. She said she was "naive" to have posted it without realizing the furore it would cause, adding: "It never entered my head that the fact I was wearing a bikini was going to be remarkable."