from vogue cover girls to models and celebrities in the glossies, all are baring their pearly whites this season. so, why now? asks anna coogan
What have models got to smile about -- unless it's the free shoes the rest of us can't afford, or being flown to exotic destinations to model skimpy bikinis, while the rest of us use our passports as a tea coaster these days?
The long-in-the-tooth joke is that models are too hungry to smile. That a slice of lettuce, dressing on the side, 20 fags and several cups of coffee a day diet doesn't provide enough energy to be falling around giggling, has long been the consensus.
So when models start grinning their heads off, there's a tendency to look over your shoulder in case there's a great big hairy bloke in a dress making the pretty girls forget to pout.
Smiling has gone viral, with supermodel Arizona Muse looking thrilled skinny with herself on the front cover of next month's Vogue. There's something Stepford-wifey about her manic, wide-mouthed smile outlined with deeply stained red lips, so there's no missing it from the moon.
Kate Middleton is baring her pearly whites on the front covers of both Tatler and U magazine. While Cameron Diaz is beaming on the cover of Marie Claire.
The happiness epidemic is also found on the inside ad pages of the February issues of bestselling magazines too: there is Audrey Tautou with a serene, private smile for Chanel No 5, Liya Kebede all toothy for luxury brand Bottega Veneta, and Lindsey Wixson and Frida Gustavsson having a fun time in an advertisement for Mulberry.
God, the nice thing about fashion models has always been that, while they've clearly been hit by the beauty wand, their sullen and vacant faces have frequently suggested that they've been overlooked by the fun and happy one.
Now we're faced with supermodel Miranda Kerr looking on the verge of hysterics while feeding a couple of goats for a Bally ad. While the Clarks' women appeared captivated by something hilarious just out of shot. So what's going on?
"Smiling -- doesn't cost anything? Does it?" says Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman about this new trend. "There's so much bad news around. I imagine a lot of people have thought similarly, that anything you can do to dispel the glums is welcome."
"I know for a fact that if you have a smiley happy face on the cover of a magazine, women are now more likely to reach out for it," says Dublin-based model agency boss John Compton. "It makes total sense. In the current climate we want to be cheered up. Magazine editors are deciding it's happy faces all the way."
The lipstick effect is the theory that women in economic crises will buy less costly luxury goods, so instead of a designer handbag they will buy more affordable treats such as lipstick and magazines. Mags are competing to be the one to give a feel-good buzz.
"It's an instinctive desire from designers to connect with the consumer," says fashion commentator Caryn Franklin. "Because the default setting for the model pose is preoccupied: 'I'm too cool to be here.' Recessionary posing means cheering people up. It's a route to profit, but it made you feel more included, didn't it?"
Derek Daniels, from Assets Model Agency, says: "I'm not seeing it so far as a trend in Dublin, and I'm not sure it isn't just a fad. Traditionally, there is smiling in lifestyle ads but not in fashion. If it cheers people up at a time when there's nothing to smile about, who on earth is going to argue with it?" he asks.
It's not the first time that fashion has hit on the power of the smile, and every now and then a designer goes rogue and sends models down the runway with the corners of their mouths turned up. Designers Stella McCartney and Michael Kors have both encouraged smiling in the past.
Susan Vasquez, editor of Stellar magazine, says: "I'm a huge believer in the power of a smile. Since the very first issue of Stellar we've consistently featured models in our fashion shoots, and celebrities on our covers, wearing fashion's best accessory -- a big smile! We even ran a feature last year where we photographed real Irish women wearing nothing but a smile," she says.
"You don't have to be rich or a size six to rock a smile, and it transforms how you look -- and feel -- in an instant. If that doesn't make you grin from ear-to-ear, I don't know what will," Susan says.
Yes, smiles sell, and right now we need cheering. But for how long will we be able to live with models being both beautiful and happy? Okay, over it now, already there's something appealing about a surly-looking beauty.