Still, other readers have come to the defense of Ms. Zelenska, seeing the shoot as a symbol of national pride: a means to show the world Ukrainian elegance; a reminder of the balm that can be found in beauty; and a subtle nod to shared humanity in the face of inhuman aggression. She is not, after all, in a ball gown eating cake. She is in a war zone, looking haunted.
To a certain extent, the debate simply shows how tangled our feelings about fashion still are and how entrenched the view of it as a nonserious subject remains — despite the fact that fashion is a key part of pop culture and the rare equivalent of a global language. It’s one that every politician, and public figure, employs to their own ends, whether they want to admit it or not. (That’s why, despite the risks, they keep appearing in magazines like Vogue.)
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict is a war being conducted on all fronts: on the ground, in the air, in the digital sphere and in the arena of public opinion. (See, for example, Ms. Zelenska’s appearance in Washington last week.) Vogue — and, indeed, any outlet that allows the Ukrainian people to reach different swaths of the global population and influence sentiment — is one of them. As Ms. Zelenska and her husband, who founded one of the biggest television entertainment production companies in Ukraine before getting into politics, know.
By putting Ms. Zelenska on its cover, Vogue is furthering her role as the relatable face, and voice, of the struggle; bringing her up close and personal for the watching world. And by appearing in public, and raising issues in public, when her husband cannot, she is keeping her country’s needs alive in the international conversation at a time when other crises are vying for attention. She has, essentially, weaponized Vogue.