Fanning Sisters for W Magazine

Posted on November 14, 2011

Even though some of the facial expressions border on creepy, there’s something very pretty and iconic about these pictures; like they depict the essence of young sisterhood; trying on clothes and whispering secrets. We hate to sound like Oldie McOlderson (and in our defense, we’re not old enough to remember their heyday, since it was a good half-century before we were born), but we’re reminded quite a bit of Dorothy and Lillian Gish, two similarly ethereally pretty sisters who were the superstars of the silver screen practically before there was a Hollywood at all. There’s still that slightly creepy doll-like quality you get whenever blonde, big-eyed teenage girls are put before a fashion photographer’s lens, but there’s also a real sense of their personalities and the bond they have with each other.

Dakota and Elle Fanning featured in the December 2011 issue of W magazine photographed by Mario Sorrenti and styled by Lori Goldstein. Hair by Recine. Makeup by Aaron De Mey for Lancôme at Art Partner.

Dakota wears Valentino Haute Couture’s Chantilly silk lace dress. Elle wears Valentino Haute Couture’s Chantilly silk lace and ostrich feather dress. Dior Fine Jewelry 18k white gold and diamond ring.

Elle wears Chanel Haute Couture’s white satin bolero jacket; Eres’s polyamide and spandex bodysuit; Chanel Haute Couture’s black wool tweed skirt. Chanel Haute Couture hat; House of Lavande earrings; vintage Helen Uffner gloves. Dakota wears Chanel Haute Couture’s black bouclé tunic and skirt. Chanel Haute Couture hat; Chanel Fine Jewelry 18k white gold and white and black diamond earrings; Van Cleef & Arpels 18k yellow and rose gold, platinum, emerald, and pink and white diamond necklace; Stephen Russell platinum, pearl, and emerald necklace (from top); Stephen Russell platinum and diamond bracelet; Shaneen Huxham gloves.


Tiffany & Co. platinum and cameo diamond ring. Elle wears Dior Haute Couture’s beige silk jacket. Valentino Haute Couture headband (worn as bracelets).


Elle wears Rodarte’s sequined, embroidered, and Swarovski Elements–detailed tulle dress. Vintage Helen Uffner gloves.


Dakota wears Giambattista Valli Haute Couture’s off-white silk dress with attached cape. P.S. Couture porcelain earrings. Elle wears Giambattista Valli Haute Couture’s black and off-white silk dress. P.S. Couture porcelain earrings; Rhodeus sterling silver and freshwater pearl ring.


Dakota wears Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci’s silk, lace, and tulle gown. Van Cleef & Arpels 18k white gold, pearl, sapphire, and diamond bracelet.

[Photo Credit: wmagazine.com]

    • Anonymous

      Hard to tell them apart here, but these are pretty.

    • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

      I find one thing odd:  they set Elle up in the “older sister” positions.  The cover shot, for instance, has Dakota with her head on Elle’s lap, though the position and birth order suggests it should be the other way…  The same thing continues throughout the shots. 

      It’s not a problem, I just find them to be very unusual choices.

      • Anonymous

        I think it might be because Elle is physically a little bigger than Dakota, and by bigger I mean taller and with a slightly larger frame. It happens. I’m an inch taller than my older brother and significantly thicker.

        • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

          That might be.  I thought maybe it was a deliberate choice by the photographer to up-end the expected positioning by inverting the two of them.

          • http://profiles.google.com/sara.e.munoz Sara Munoz

            I think you may be giving them too much credit. ;) They are not so different in age (17 vs 13) or status that it would be that unexpected. Yeah, Dakota is the veteran, but they would have to be like 20 & 12, for that scenario to have much impact. JMO.

            • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

              Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…. ;)

              I think it interests me because I’m the youngest of 4 — by a lot, 16 years between the oldest and me — and 3 of us are girls.

    • Sobaika Mirza

      This is creepy and sort of white-washed. I wish they’d gone easier with the airbrush tool considering they’re so very young and don’t need it. They didn’t need to force the ethereal look with these ladies.

    • Anonymous

      These pictures make me think of the potential the Olsen twins could have had if they weren’t creepy little octogenarians. The Fanning sisters are lovely. 

      • Cathy S

        Funny. The whole thing reminded me of the Olsen twins. The even look like them in the second picture where they’re in hats.

    • http://heartprintandstyle.blogspot.com Vivi N

      I swear, Elle has a 2nd career in modelling. The girl knows how to WERQ. 

      • Anonymous

        Agreed!

      • http://inkblotphotography.blogspot.com/ Cate

        YES. i find it so hard to believe she’s still so young. she’s stunning.

    • https://profiles.google.com/104791269167429064986 Judy S

      Yes, the Gish sisters updated. The same transparent quality. Beautiful and spooky. 

    • Anonymous

      Reminds me of those old “Lonely Doll” books by Dare Wright.

      http://www.darewright.com/

      • Anonymous

        Oh, my God – Lonely Doll!!

        • Anonymous

          Oh yeah. I brought it.

    • http://twitter.com/starrika Ali

      Pretty. I like the Fannings, and I like that this editorial didn’t go the usual Lolita route. This reminded me of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, a bit – sort of like the prequel before they get old.

    • http://twitter.com/starrika Ali

      I think it’s because she’s taller.

      • http://twitter.com/starrika Ali

        Sorry, this was supposed to end up upthread – not sure what happened here. Carry on!

    • Anonymous

      The picture of them in Chanel is frame-worthy.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t see anything creepy here. They look gorgeous.

    • Anonymous

      They are 17 and 13 years old! Some of the clothing and poses are inappropriately mature – the cover shot, Rodarte, and Givenchy. 
      Others are quite nice — the Chanel speaks to fantasy dress-up without being too sexual; it’s a gorgeous shot. I, for one, would never put my teenage daughters in the hands of fashion stylists and photographers.

      • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

        But 17 year old girls don’t have a dress-up fantasy like the Chanel shot.  They don’t want to PLAY with glamour, they want to LIVE IT.  The Chanel shot is wonderful because it harkens back to when they were still children.  But 17 is hardly a child, and even 13 is outgrowing that kind  of behavior fairly quickly.

        • Anonymous

          Didn’t mean to imply that they still liked to play dress-up (too old for that), just that the photo evokes that feel. And yes, 13 is still pretty much a child.

          • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

            13 is a child and it’s not… it’s a very strange age for most.  They’re leaving behind so many of the childhood trappings and behaviors but they’re nowhere near ready for adult lives either.  I feel for the editors in charge of Elle Fanning;  figuring out how to present a 13 year old has got to suck.

            I’ve always said I’d let my daughter do any form of media she desired — but not without me present, as her mother, not her manager. 

    • MilaXX

      For what it is, it’s not bad. They are fully dressed even though it’s still essentially children in women’s clothing. The only shot I dislike is the black and white with the hats.

    • Anonymous

      Pretty and pretty disturbing.  Between the near kiddie-porn presentation and the further glorification of the uber-white model, I’m having trouble being ok with it.  I wish the pictures weren’t so goddamn gorgeous.

      • Anonymous

        Maybe I am showing my granny-ish side, but I see absolutely nothing of kiddie porn in these.  They look like two sisters playing in mother’s closet, luckily Mother’s clothes fit very well. If anything, they look younger than real life.
        No side-boob, no thigh high slit. Nothing suggestive, even.

        Can’t argue about the whiteness, though.

        (And my younger daughter is a good six inches taller than her sister. I think the casting of Elle was just because of her physical stature.)

        • http://profiles.google.com/misslauraschultz Laura Schultz

          agreed. Really confused by the kiddie porn comments. 

        • Anonymous

          Re the kiddie porn aspect (and I might be a little dogmatic about that–it’s a hot button issue for me), @alyce1213:disqus says it better than I can. 

        • Anonymous

          I’m never going to get around using the phrase “kiddie porn,” even though what I said was “near kiddie porn.”  I will try to use less offensive language.  I do stand by my opinion that these are overly-sexualized images. The girls are made-up to look like sexy dolls  Both of the individual shots imply some nakedness, Elle’s with the cutouts and Dakota’s in the very bare arms and shoulders.  And both of them still look like they are under fifteen. 

          I think children playing in their mother’s closet are not meant to be posed and seen by adult voyeurs.  It’s sad.

          • Anonymous

            I understand about hot buttons, I have at least one myself.
            Without that particular button, I will have to just disagree with you.
            I remember playing with my mother’s makeup, using her eyelash curler at about age 5 or 6. My sister and I would play for hours with it, we used it more than Mom did.
            I grew up wearing halter tops, showing as much as Dakota does, more actually because it showed the belly. When you don’t have air-conditioning, as we generally didn’t in the 1960’s, you control your body temperature with other methods.
            As far as being voyeurs, I consider it to be more “audience”, voyeur implies being secret about it.

      • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

        Both girls are talented, levelheaded young women who are famous for their work.  Why shouldn’t they be featured in editorials?  They both happen to have very fair skin — how is that wrong?  In this case, the editor didn’t see out white girls because they looked better, he/she sought them because they’re celebrities and stylish ones. 

        And if they’re going to use Caucasian models, I’d prefer the Fanning paleness to the skin-cancer-causing tan. 

        • Anonymous

          I never said they shouldn’t be featured in editorials, it just astonishes me how many editorials they are getting relative to other starlets.  And since the beauty/modeling world is so whitewashed, that putting these girls on cover after cover just re-emphasizes that the beauty ideal is still pale, blonde, and childlike.  Are the editors beholden to express a different perspective? Nope.  But I feel bad for girls who are still seeing this look as the dominant paradigm.

          • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

            I agree when it comes to model selection for editorial, but to me, when it’s a celeb feature, the rules are different.  And some of the extra attention they get is due to the fact that they’re stylish in general, rather than always defaulting to the same boring starlet-dress-of-the-moment, plus the fact that they are both very talented and choose interesting parts. 

            Though I always find it odd hearing that the beauty ideal is pale.  Really?  Where?  Because everyone I know has been trying to drag me to a tanning bed for more than a decade.   White, absolutely, but pale always denotes really fair white skin to me, and I think of how many comments are leveled about people looking “pasty”.

            • Anonymous

              Ah, good point. In retrospect, I guess pale really isn’t the right word. I meant the various shades of Caucasian.  The Fannings are undeniably stylish, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: they’re getting opportunities to wear a far more sophisticated range of designer clothes and getting better stylist advice than other girls their age.  Their youth is unusual (and not in a good way), but the white, usually blonde, celebrity cover-girl is so ubiquitous that it’s not likely simply to be based on talent/fashionability.  There are so many other stylish, cover-worthy celebrities that aren’t the Fannings, the Olsens, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Kate Hudson.  They could have chosen Zoe Saldana for Pete’s sake!

            • Anonymous

              Whoops, misread your post, never mind!

            • Anonymous

              I’m just saying that there are celebrities they could have chosen *other* than the usual blonde, white suspects.  Extreme youth aside, the Fannings are still part of a trend that has gone on for too long.

            • http://profiles.google.com/shannonlstewart Shannon Stewart

              Gotcha — to me, pale always denotes light skin for one’s ethnicity, whether it be a light-skinned black woman or a Fanning-white Caucasian or a very fair Asian (like Keanu Reeves though he’s mixed) as opposed to white people. 

              As to the rest of your point, I both agree and disagree.  I agree that there’s no reason why every editorial has to feature white actresses or white women in general.  (Especially because there are an awful lot of things that look better on women of color.) 

              But part of the reason that the celeb features don’t use someone like Zoe Saldana is the fault of Hollywood, not fashion.  Think of the roles Saldana has gotten.  Now think of the Fannings’ roles.  Saldana hasn’t had nearly as much critical success, in no small part because she isn’t being given the parts — there aren’t enough great parts for black actors.  And the few that are out there are going to be offered to a few select A-listers first, and because of the limited nature of the roles it takes much longer and much more work to make it onto that list. 

    • Anonymous

      Really? You see a sense of their personalities and their bond in these pictures? All I see is the make-up artists bond with their skin. They’ve done that creepy thing with these girls where they try to make them look exactly the same, you know, because we’re basically all interchangeable in the male fantasy. (the fashion photographer male fantasy, that is. I know most of you are normal) The whole thing is creepy, which is unfortunate because it’s work to make these two girls look bad.

    • http://twitter.com/thedogsmother thedogsmother

      Just. No.

    • Anonymous

      I’m as sensitive as the next person to hypersexualized images of young women. But, I don’t get a “kiddie porn” vibe from this at all. In fact, I would tilt it in the other direction and say they both look substantially OLDER than their actual ages in this shoot, not younger.

      It’s very pretty, very ethereal, they are lovely women. But they don’t like like real people to me. I liked the photo shoot of Elle where she was pulling a cute face and you could see she still has teeth growing in. The women in these shots look like porcelain dolls you set on a shelf, never to touch.
       
      I totally dig those hats, though.

    • Anonymous

      Not to judge teenage girls, but I find Elle so much prettier than her sister. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/charlotte.horseman Charlotte Horseman

      Really?  Women’s holiday fashion modeled by a 17 year old and a 13 year old?

    • Anonymous

      I like this editorial better than other shoots I’ve seen them in. They both look beautiful here. Although, the mature clothing really highlights how young they are.

    • Anonymous

      Lovely and not oversexualized, hallelujah! Yes, uber-glamourized and styled beyond human-ness (WELL into doll-like), but I don’t feel dirty nor sad for them. Which unfortuntely is kind of rare among teen girl editorials lately.

    • fragileindustries

      Creepy.  Disturbing.  Porn-y.  The Olsen twins redux.  Please God, don’t let the publicists turn these two young women, excellent actors both, into the latest Lolita fantasy double feature because they also happen to be beautiful.  That is the dark side of fashion and warps too many young women the age of the Fannings because they don’t meet this false ideal.  Yeah, I know this is a fashion blog, but it’s a very different thing for adults, the Gwyneths and JLo’s to display themselves as they choose.    

    • Anonymous

      Woe, I wouldn’t have recognized Dakota if not for the captions

    • Anonymous

      They’re lovely photographs and I for one don’t find them overly sexualized.  I don’t love that there is that much make-up and hair color on teenagers under any circumstances, even a high-fashion shoot.  I’m an old fart.  Every 13-year old girl:  But Mommy, Elle Fanning bleaches her hair and wears tons of eye makeup and lipstick!

    • Anonymous

      i love it. i think they are just sweet girls.

    • Anonymous

      I can understand the desire to have sister pictorals.  Both girls are talented and beautiful, and the cover shot is gorgeous.  However, it continues to bother me that they keep dressing this 13 year, old in women’s clothes.  I can see Dakota, given her age, in some of these outfits, but Elle is a middle school kid who seems to be treated like she’s much older (even many articles claim that she’s “wise beyond her years”  or “mature” – let’s get real, she’s barely a teenager).  The lipstick shot isn’t two girls trying at being adults.  It looks like two WOMEN getting ready for a night on the town. 

      I hope that ten years from now, Elle’s not on her second or third rehab, shaving her head, or making her umpteenth court appearance before a judge because she was too old too soon. 

      • Anonymous

         That’s my only problem with this. I think the photos are gorgeous and relatively tasteful. It’s just the knowledge that Elle is so young that bothers me. My little brother is 13 and to me he is still a baby. He plays video games and has sleep overs and thinks “crap” is a bad word (he is a big dork though). Girls may look older at that age, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still children. If I didn’t know Elle’s age, I would have absolutely no objection to these pictures. But if I saw a girl at my brother’s school who looked like that, I would attack her with makeup remover (after I got over my initial envy that a child wears clothes better than me).

      • http://twitter.com/starrika Ali

        Considering Dakota has turned out fine so far, I’m guessing Elle will be okay as well. They’ve both managed so far to balance normal schooling and lives with their careers. Lohan was already going off the rails at this age. Doing a more mature editorial is hardly clubbing it up and doing lines at 13.

    • Wrenaria

      Pretty!

    • Anonymous

      Nice analogy!

    • Rand Ortega

      Very beautiful girls. But the composition & tone of the photos are a bit too “Children of the Corn” meets “Pretty Baby” photographed by Terry Richardson.

      • Anonymous

        Since we’re not looking up their skirts, I don’t get a Terry Richardson vibe. :)

      • Anonymous

        No, if Terry Richardson got a hold of these girls, there would be crotch shots and direct flash for lighting. I despise that man both as a person and as an “artist.” 

    • Anonymous

      Aww, bless you for evoking the Gish sisters.  I knew Lillian, still awesome in old age.  Great beauties, and great actors.

      • Anonymous

        You knew Lillian Gish! How incredible. Please tell us a little more.

        • Anonymous

          My father was a fan who met her in the 30s when she toured in theatre.  She was a friend of the family, although we later lived outside the US and saw her rarely. The last time I was at her NY apartment for dinner, she served apple pie with coffee ice cream. Her letters to my father are now with the Gish papers at the New York Public Library.

    • http://profiles.google.com/misslauraschultz Laura Schultz

      Stunning! I love these two. I think Elle has incredible presence and talent, HUGE potential. Can’t wait to see more… 

    • Anonymous

      Done with children as fashion icons. Doesn’t work for me at all.

    • Anonymous

      There is something rather Gishy about them – good call.  Gish meets Virgin Suicides. 

    • Anonymous

      I kind of like it, but I wish they didn’t look so serious in ALL the pics.  It’s perfect for the cover…but particularly the hats picture and the whispering picture just don’t look like real sisters act.

    • Anonymous

      The photos are beautiful.  But what is problematic about this shoot, for me, is that it is another example of the fashion industry and media in general creating unrealistic expectations for young girls and women.  Young girls CANNOT (nor should they) look like this in reality and not be sexualized.  And adult women CANNOT look like these young girls.  So while the pictures are pretty, they are pretty damning and, as a part of the larger impossible and unrealistic images out there, damaging to girls and women.  

      • http://beautyforrealgirls.blogspot.com/ accidental housewife

        Well, in reality, some people will sexualize young girls no matter how they’re presented. But I do think it’s important that young girls be very carefully presented, especially girls who are Elle’s age. If I had a daughter her age, I’d think long and hard about every layout offered to her.

        As for grown women, I don’t buy it. I mean, I know that some women are affected by the impossible and unrealistic images we’re constantly bombarded with, but I think it’s absurd that any of us let that happen. Granted, the fashion, beauty, and entertainment industries lie to us constantly, but we are supposedly grown-ass women, and should have the brains to know that the beauty standards set forth by those industries are mostly bullshit.

      • Anonymous

        Very, very well said.

    • margaret meyers

      The little hats are adorable!  If anyone can bring back real hats for women, not fascinators, it might be these two.

    • Anonymous

      Ethereal and pretty. The camera loves Elle don’t you think? Not that Dakota doesn’t look good but Elle’s got the “it” factor.

    • Anonymous

      Where is Dakota’s hand?!
      In the cover shot, she’s reaching up to touch Elle’s hair…but never gets there, because amputee is in this season I guess.

      Ever since I noticed the missing appendage, all I can see in Elle’s expression is, “Crap! I KNEW there was a bit we forgot to attach! Gepetto’s gonna be so mad at us!”

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Catherine-Rhodes/602850414 Catherine Rhodes

        She’s bending at the elbow so her hand would be behind Elle’s neck hidden by her hair.

    • http://twitter.com/starrika Ali

      I find it interesting that so many are calling this out as kiddie porn – well, what about those editorials we look at? You know most of those models are in the age range of Dakota and Elle. With those, it’s all about the photo, the composition, the clothing and styling. Here, because we know their age, it’s sexualized and wrong. Contrast these photos with Dakota’s perfume ad. I truly do not see how you could attach that label to this editorial.

      • Anonymous

        I find those editorials disturbing too, it’s just harder to call them out when the models are relatively anonymous compared to actresses.  Dakota’s Marc Jacob’s ad is also godawful.

    • http://orangtunes.blogspot.com BIG MAC

      I swear every time a photo shoot with a child is posted, I read comments that they’re being exploited in some way and I never see it initially. Its to the point where I think it just may be due to a generation/cultural gap. Because seeing children in clothes like these for photo shoots is pretty much normal to me. It just seems like photo shoot play time for them lol. 

    • http://jessieliz.wordpress.com/ Super Red

      beautiful girls, beautiful clothes, beautiful shoot. love it! (but then, I love the Fanning sisters… they’re interesting, but seem level-headed. shocking!)

    • Anonymous

      Never in a million years would I have known who these girls were if I had not been told. The only photo I find remotely recognizable is the last one of Dakota. But I actually like the second photo. I think they look cute.

    • Lisa

      These don’t feel quite as “exploity” as most pictures of them, but it’s still a skosh too grown up for them.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JQSQJRAL4YYWB2OZNHNUHKZAEY Christopher

      Christ,  they look like twins.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JQSQJRAL4YYWB2OZNHNUHKZAEY Christopher

      Christ,  they look like twins.

    • Anonymous

      Is it wrong of me to already be over these two?

    • Anonymous

      Is it wrong of me to already be over these two?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Catherine-Rhodes/602850414 Catherine Rhodes

      That last shot is kind of creepy — evokes that famous one of Marilyn Monroe taken soon before her death. Are they making a comment about the glamor of self-destruction?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Catherine-Rhodes/602850414 Catherine Rhodes

      That last shot is kind of creepy — evokes that famous one of Marilyn Monroe taken soon before her death. Are they making a comment about the glamor of self-destruction?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Elizabeth-Poytinger-Baumer/1516981341 Mary Elizabeth Poytinger Baume

      I like.

    • Anonymous

      I always love a Fanning edititorial since my five year old daughter looks like the lost Fanning sister (still trying to figure out how that happened). However it’s fun to show pics of Elle to my husband and say “this could be PP in a few years”. I’m sure it’s been responsible for a few greys

    • Anonymous

      I don’t find it too creepy. I think it’s beautiful, even though I worry that by liking it, I am contributing to their (inevitably) already big heads.

    • Ebony Dawkins

      These girls are everything.

    • Anonymous

      I love it, what amazing pictures these are. They are beautiful girls, they don’t look creepy at all to me. I can’t believe Elle is only 13!

    • Anonymous

      The cover shot is beautifully posed. If I had two young daughters I would want a large photo of them just like this.

      I am not particularly bothered by this photoshoot, but I really hope that some mature adults in their lives are really looking out for their very best interests.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=768540908 Badriya Al-Badi’a

      I would like to see the movie about these two characters!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-TallGirl-Freeman/1043623567 Jessica TallGirl Freeman

      Beautiful girls.  I quite like them all.

    • Anonymous

      I subscribe to W and go back and forth between liking it and finding it too much. This cover is a pleasant surprise since the current one has Nicky Minaj on it with something dangling from her eye?! It isn’t an art magazine, please give me fashion. 

    • Anonymous

      They need to be cast in a remake of “The Other”.

    • Anonymous

      I want to see Julianne Moore and her sister……. such a tease to have that on the cover and then not show us!  The Fandance Girls look great here, a couple of oddly wide eyed looks but pretty and nothing showing that young ladies shouldn’t be showing thankfully!

    • http://twitter.com/Miss_Fury Miss_Fury

      100% gorgeous.

    • Anonymous

      Wow.  Everything about this is beautiful.

    • Anonymous

      I will never understand the appeal of putting teens and pre/teens into expensive designer clothing in a magazine aimed at an older audience.

    • Anonymous

      LOVE the lipstick pic and the last one of Dakota who has SUCH a little under-bite I never really noticed. Well I noticed but never identified it.