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The History of Fashion Magazines

The History of Fashion Magazines


From Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar, fashion magazines have long been the essence of the fashion world. The origin of 'fashion magazines' can be traced back to Louis XIV's France when publications featuring fashion illustrations were introduced. Later, in the Georgian era, fashion magazines increased in popularity and even inspired the creation of the department store.  

Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar

The first issue of Harper's Bazaar was published in 1867, becoming the first fashion magazine in the United States. The slogan associated with the publication was, "A Repository of Fashion, Pleasure and Instruction".

The first issue of Vogue was later published in 1892 in the US and was taken over by Condé Nast in 1909, it was referred to as “a dignified authentic journal of society, fashion, and the ceremonial side of life".

The magazine originally began as a high society New York magazine, later transforming into a fashion magazine. Both Vogue and Harper's Bazaar revolutionised society and offered escapism from the banality of everyday life.  

In 1986, Anna Wintour was appointed editor-in-chief of British Vogue before becoming editor-in-chief of American Vogue in 1988. Wintour's influence caused a revolution that would last for decades. Anna's first cover for Vogue featured Israeli model Michaela Bercu. The cover attracted attention due to its casual, understated nature, so unlike previous covers. 

Anna Wintour stated how she, "looked at that picture and sensed the winds of change." 

Condé Nast: A Short History

In 1909, Condé Montrose Nast bought Vogue, a weekly high society gazette, changing it into the highly successful monthly fashion magazine. Condé Nast was the first publisher to introduce international editions and launched British Vogue in 1916. Today, there are 27 global editions of Vogue, and Condé Nast also own magazines including Tatler, Vanity Fair, Glamour, GQ, and Wired. 

Elle Magazine

Elle was founded in 1945 by Hélène Gordon-Lazareff. Hélène worked for Vogue before launching the French fashion magazine. Elle focused on fashion, lifestyle, beauty, and issues related to feminism, an aspect of greater importance following the war when the magazine was launched. Elle's success originated from its balance of both serious social issues and fashion. There are currently 45 global editions of Elle magazine.

"Deeply influenced by WWII, the immediate post-war political climate, leftist political philosophy and early feminist movements in France,” - Hélène Gordon-Lazareff

1. Glamour, August 1968

This 1968 Glamour cover made history as being the first cover featuring a black woman, Katiti Kironde, Harvard student, 18. Kironde was featured for winning Glamour’s Top 10 Best Dressed College Girls contest. 

2. Vanity Fair, August 1991

This Vanity Fair cover featured a controversial image of a nude, pregnant Demi Moore. This cover gained attention as it signified a change in the taboo around pregnant bodies encouraging a celebration of women and motherhood.

3. British Vogue, September 2019

In the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, The Duchess of Sussex became the first guest editor of the magazine and released a revolutionary issue entitled “Forces for Change”. This introduced a change to the typical September issue and focused on influential women and social causes, alongside fashion. This issue was the fastest ever to sell and sold out within 10 days. 

Today, fashion magazines such as Vogue have shifted their focus onto the need for greater representation, inclusivity, and diversity, whilst still showcasing the height of fashion. Although most magazines have maintained their print format, digital platforms are equally utilised, with many magazines launching exclusively online. Despite the rapidly developing climate and greater reliance on digital platforms, it is unlikely that we will see a total absence of physical fashion magazines in the immediate future.  

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