After all the anticipation (or am I the only one who starts a countdown in June?), the American fashion magazines’ hefty September issues are decidedly underwhelming. Nicole Kidman gives Vogue a neat jolt of star power in photos shot by Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, and the always arresting Irving Penn. But even Madonna on the cover can’t save the terminally lackluster Harper’s Bazaar. These cover girls have serious competition from iconic ad campaigns, where Steven Meisel’s ethereal Christina Aguilera for Versace easily trumps Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott’s android J.Lo for Vuitton. Normally, I’d pass them all up for Kate Moss, who gets 40 pages and nine separate covers in the new W. But that project fizzles, too, and is barely saved by Mario Sorrenti, Lisa Yuskavage, and Chuck Close, whose daguerreotype portraits of Moss in the nude are as tender as they are unsparing.

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