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One day I was happily schlepping from one favorite fashion blog to the next, when I noticed something: we all tend to strike similar poses.

See what I mean. Here are some pros who vogue the best:

Sally AnnLeft: Ana, Mrs. American Made. Right: Sally, Already Pretty.

Catie Jan Left: Catie, Fleur d’Elise. Right: Jan, Fort Smith Stylista.

Only a few bloggers have professional modeling experience. Absent training, that must mean that something else determines how and why we pose a certain way before a camera.

What causes us to turn a toe inward or cross one leg over another? When you see something over and over again, don’t you wonder if there’s a reason?

I feel slightly less shallow for giving it a thought after reading part of Caroline Evans’ book, The Mechanical Smile: Modernism and the First Fashion Shows in France and America, 1900-1929. It has a whole chapter on the subject of posing!

Here’s a really oversimplified summary of that chapter, where Evans goes deep and wide on the subject. In still and moving images from the early 1900s, models (they were known as mannequins back then) manipulated time and motion. When cinema advanced as an art form, models tried to arrest time in dramatic poses on film. (Think Gloria Swanson with the back of her hand resting lightly against her forehead, palm facing out.) Then and now, just the opposite occurs in a photograph’s single frame; these poses are often designed to suggest or capture movement. Crazy, huh?

Any given era’s dominant way of posing depends as much on contemporary aesthetics as it does the mode of modeling—whether in live fashion shows or print photography. To smile or not to smile; to notice the audience or pretend to be alone, bored and indifferent; to gesture (subtly or elaborately?) or stand like a classic statue; to glide, turn and pause in a flow or strut like a peacock?

All these decisions reflect how visual conventions flirt with merchandising and advertising. Thus begins the complicated relationship between fashion, time, motion, cinema, commerce and culture.

Today, I think most fashion bloggers pose with a few intentions:

  • Celebrating a style or a look to its best advantage.
  • Projecting an air of nonchalance that telegraphs these messages to readers: “Do your thing. Don’t make it hard. Fashion is for everyone.”
  • Making our regular bodies look as slim as possible—a nod to the enduring importance of thinness. We may promote realistic body images among women, but we can’t completely escape our culture’s obsession with weight.
  • Being natural and authentic to who we are—which is why a pose never quite works unless it’s conjured up by its owner.

This is serious stuff, my friends, serious stuff—deep thoughts from a shallow mind, this week. (Wink, wink.) Evidently, standing with the toes turned inward is considered slimming to the hips—a tactic I might have tried much sooner if only I had known it. Tell me, how do you stand in front of a camera? And why?

Special thanks to Ana, Catie, Jan and Sally for giving permission to use their photos. I’ve got all of ‘em in my RSS feeds and read their blogs regularly for inspiration!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.