There was a time when the most notable thing about Blake Lively was the distracting, balloon-like cleavage she displays on Gossip Girl as privileged relative good girl Serena Van Der Woodsen opposite Leighton Meester’s far more interesting character Blair Waldorf. “Are they real?” is a question that can entertain viewers of Gossip Girl episode after episode, season after season, if the plot twists fail to. (To be fair, Lively’s pair has been more demure of late, at least onscreen.)
As Lively grows up, appearances at events like the Teen Choice Awards have been replaced by front-row seats at couture fashion shows and garden parties celebrating the magicianship of Valentino. She is often photographed smooshed affectionately up against Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, who has put her on the cover of the magazine twice and plans to do so again by the end of the year, according to the UK magazine Grazia. That’s two Vogue covers in the space of six months. Who else can boast of that feat?
Naturally, Lively’s character on Gossip Girl has started to dress more like a rich twenty-something and less like a rich teenager, which has helped give her a leg up into the sophisticated if slightly bland world of grown-up women’s magazines. This must be wonderful for Lively, who sports an increasingly sophisticated style on set, which she can then take off set. Or is it the other way around? Viewing photos of the cast shooting scenes of the show in Paris this summer, it’s hard to tell which clothes belong to Lively and which to Van Der Woodsen. “I own half her wardrobe,” Lively has said of her character’s pricey loot, and admits that her favorite place to shop is the Gossip Girl fitting room. “I go in and take pictures on my phone, then e-mail them to personal shoppers at stores and say, ‘Find me this,'” she tells Grazia.
So perhaps the real style icon in all of this is Serena’s wardrobe stylist, not the actress who plays Serena. Regardless, Lively is the clotheshorse, and her look––let’s call it Lauren Hutton-gone-Sports Illustrated swimsuit model––is perfectly tailored to Vogue‘s all-American aesthetic. Sadly, or safely, the magazine airbrushed out certain iterations of Lively’s curvy assets in its latest photo shoot, but with Lively looking thinner these days, perhaps her healthy figure isn’t the focal point of her appeal anymore. It should be. The only trouble is that Lively’s preferred method of flaunting her features consists of showing too much––of showing everything. “Not for Lively the ‘cleavage or legs’ mantra,” Grazia writes. She gives us both. Surprisingly, this is rare. It’s hard to think of other female celebrities who consistently show so much skin. Megan Fox and Katy Perry are certainly in the running. But even Fox seems to make the legs-or-boobs decision before leaving the house.
Lively is soon to star opposite Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern. Her transformation from teen starlet to sex symbol will be complete. It’s only a matter of time before she follows in the footsteps of The OC star, former fashion icon and now sadly maligned Mischa Barton and asks to be written out of Gossip Girl in some sort of horrific car accident or accidental overdose plot line. (Let Barton’s career thus far be a cautionary tale.) As she tests for similar roles to Green Lantern, like the sci-fi thriller Gravity, which was to star Angelina Jolie until the elder sexpot dropped out, it seems Lively is finding slightly less obvious places in which to insert her bod. Women’s roles in sci-fi films still have a ways to go, so it’s not as if Lively will be nominated for a Golden Globe for these performances. But if Angelina Jolie’s career is any indication, Lively has plenty of time to try for some gritty roles.
Then again, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is not Girl, Interrupted. But as the former movie demonstrates, part of Lively’s appeal––besides that it is preceded by the word “sex”––is that she is so undeniably nice. It is hard to begrudge a person her premature plastic surgery and designer shoe addiction when she seems so grateful and humble about her acquisitions and accomplishments. Lively’s September cover story in Interview magazine, in which she is questioned by The Town co-star and director Ben Affleck, is a good example of Lively’s sweet demeanor. (Never mind that in The Town, she plays a slutted-out former flame to Affleck’s bank robber. See above left.)
Vogue covers and front-row seats at Fashion Week do not a career make, but in the increasingly dabbly world of the starlet and the increasingly repetitive world of Vogue, a woman like Lively doesn’t have to do much to justify two cover stories in six months. Being nice, loving clothes and resembling Ralph Lauren model Elaine Irwin should suffice. Grabbing the eyeballs of the ten or so million people who watch Gossip Girl is a bonus for Vogue. But even longtime subscribers of Vogue feel that the magazine is out of touch. It remains to be seen whether anointing Blake Lively as its veritable spokesperson is a return to form or just another stop on a downward spiral.