Most Controversial Fashion Magazine Covers

It’s hard to get a magazine cover to stand out on the newstand. But, sometimes fashion editors go too far in their quest to design a cover that gets noticed. Here are 12 fashion covers that left readers and the social media universe outraged, and not because of scandalous nudity. The issues here are more like image retouching, cultural appropriation, insensitivity, or very public shaming by celebs. Grab your popcorn and let’s go! 

1.  Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik’s ‘Gender-Fluid’ Vogue Cover

Even Vogue admitted it “missed the mark” by naming a straight, wardrobe-sharing couple as an example of “gender fluidity” in this August’s issue. The magazine apologized after a huge outcry online. 

2.  Amy Schumer vs. Glamour

Amy Schumer got into it with Glamour over the magazine’s inclusion of her name on its special-edition plus-size edition.  “Plus size is considered size 16 in America. I go between a size 6 and an 8. @glamourmag put me in their plus size only issue without asking or letting me know and it doesn’t feel right to me,” she wrote on Twitter. “Young girls seeing my body type thinking that is plus size? What are your thoughts? Mine are not cool glamour not glamourous.” Glamour EIC Cindi Leive apologized to Amy during an interview, but defended the cover.

3.  Kim and Kanye on Vogue

Ah, remember the days when reality star Kim Kardashian gracing the cover of Vogue with Kanye West caused a scandal? This was obviously before Anna Wintour became a fixture at Kanye’s Yeezy NYFW shows. Back then in 2014, Sarah Michelle Gellar of all people tweeted that she would cancel her subscription over the cover, and more than 8,000 people retweeted her.

4.  Lena Dunham on Vogue

Lena’s 2014 Vogue cover looks straightforward enough. But controversy erupted when a Jezebel blogger put a $10,000 bounty on the original, unretouched images from Lena’s cover shoot, which led to debate over whether that was really the feminist thing to do. Lena called Jezebel’s move a “monumental error.”

5.  Kim Kardashian on Paper

In 2014, Paper attempted to “break the Internet” with Kim Kardashian’s butt-baring cover and NSFW photo shoot— and it more or less did. But the safe-for-work cover by Jean-Paul Goude based on one of his archival photos drew criticism by some for its roots in racist imagery. The Grio writer Blue Telusma called her op-ed: “Kim Kardashian doesn’t realize she’s the butt of an old racial joke.”

6.  Kerry Washington on Lucky

Blogs called out this cover of Lucky in 2013 as a “fail,” and Jezebel wrote: “Holy hell, Lucky mag found a way to make Kerry Washington look bad.” Kerry’s had bad luck with magazine covers. In 2016, she wrote a long Instagram post about her Adweek cover which she felt was too altered. “It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror,” she said. Adweek denied excessive retouching of the cover.

7.  Zoey Saldana on Allure

Zoe Saldana posed nude for Allure in 2013, but it was the cover’s tagline revealing her weight that proved controversial. Zoe defended the tagline against those who saw it as unnecessary, saying she didn’t think it was weird at all. “I think it would have been wrong if they were lying about my weight. This is how much I weigh, it’s something I can’t control, it’s who I am,” she told Today.

8.  Kim Kardashian Cosplays Jackie Kennedy for Interview

Aside from the fact that Kim as Jackie Kennedy is kind of a headscratcher, Twitter users accused the magazine of artificially darkening Kim’s skintone. She’s faced similar backlash this summer over ads for her new beauty line. 

9.  Kendall Jenner on Vogue India

Fresh off her Pepsi ad debacle, Kendall landed in hot water again with her cover for Vogue India in May. Instagrammers criticized Vogue India out for casting a white model for its 10th anniversary edition. One commenter wrote: “How do you expect Indians to be proud of themselves and their culture when you’re [using] white women to represent your country?”

10.  Vogue‘s Beauty Revolution Cover

Vogue‘s “diverse” March 2017 cover—with Kendall and Gigi!—struck some social media users as not being diverse enough. Another flashpoint: Instagrammers thought that the magazine choreographed Ashley’s hand placement in an attempt to make her look smaller. She set the record straight on her Instagram, writing, ““I chose to pose like that. No one told me to do anything.”

11.  Kylie Jenner on Interview

Putting an able-bodied Jenner sister in a gold wheelchair offended so many people that Interview issued an apology over its cover. It was more of an “I’m sorry you’re offended” apology, though.

12.  Gigi Hadid on Vogue China

Call it the case of the disappearing freckles. Gigi Hadid fans took Vogue China to task for airbrushing out Gigi’s (apparently) famous  freckles on her stomach. One commenter wrote: “Why do they Photoshop your freckles out? And why does it make me so angry?” Hopefully, she did some soul-searching over that one. 

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