The Lula girl as ‘sublime and childlike’: nostalgic investments in contemporary fashion magazines | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-4417
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4425



Since the 1980s, the figure of the ‘girl’ has become one of the most prominent subject positions offered up in British fashion magazines (Jobling 1999). This way of constructing femininity harks back to the observation made by Roland Barthes, in 1967, that the rhetoric of fashion ‘reproduces, on the level of clothing, the mythic situation of Women in Western civilization, at once sublime and childlike’ (1990: 242). This article argues that both facets – the sublime and the childlike – continue to inform constructions of femininity in contemporary fashion magazines, with the niche publication, Lula, girl of my dreams, being a particularly marked example. Methods of textual and discourse analysis are employed to make sense of written and visual excerpts, drawing from issues of Lula spanning 2006 to 2012. Discourses on Romantic childhood and discourses on ‘high’ fashion – both of which construct their objects as ‘pure’ – are shown to intersect on the pages of Lula thus producing the Lula girl as otherworldly creature, while disavowing the less palatable aspects of the fashion industry that bring her into being. Inviting nostalgic recollection of childhood, the Lula girl is shown not to recall childhood in any objective sense but rather to reconstruct childhood through the mythic tropes of Romantic innocence. The possible appeal of this vision of womanhood for both magazine producers and consumers is theorized through the concept of ‘investment’ as well as recent debates on pleasure and politics in feminist media studies. Ultimately, the Lula girl is shown to facilitate imaginary solutions for real-life frustrations by dissolving the contradictions of normative femininity as well as encompassing elements excluded from contemporary definitions of adulthood.


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