on the fashion magazine

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N°4 Summer 11 , Anja Cronberg

Fashion magazines are used to show clothes, of course. Once intended for the privileged rich, they have accompanied the democratization of ready-to-wear, right up to street fashion. A look back at an eventful history.

1 The will and urge to spread fashion is as old as fashion itself. The distribution of fashion trends was originally the job of those who travelled, and who upon homecoming brought letters and verbal descriptions of what they had seen the rich and powerful wear.

Harper’s Bazar, 1894

2 Before fashion plates and magazines, the latest fads were communicated via fashion dolls. The first fashion doll was life size and supposedly sent by the French court to Anne of Bohemia, the wife of Richard II, at the end of the 14th Century. The idea was that the doll would show the Queen of England the latest French fashions and thus make it easier for her to choose the style and fabric of her dress, waiting to be made for the upcoming wedding ceremony between Charles VI and Isabeau of Bavaria.

the first fashion doll was life size and supposedly sent by the French court to Anne of Bohemia, the wife of Richard II, at the end of the 14th Century

3 Fashion dolls continued to be the primary source of fashion dissemination for the coming four centuries. However, with time they went from being life size and made from wax, wood or metal thread wrapped in silk, to being doll size, around twenty centimetres in height, and more often than not made from porcelain. Affectionately known as Pandoras, from the first woman in Greek mythology, the fashion dolls travelled across land and sea to reach their new owners. Not even war could stop them; when needed they were furnished with passports, military escorts and diplomatic immunity – all so that the aristocracy would know what to wear.

The Ladies Home Journal, novembre 1896

4 In the 18th Century the fashion plate successively replaced the Pandora, a new way of spreading fashion that grew in popularity as the postal system became evermore reliable.

5 Before the birth of the fashion magazine, whose aim it was to pave the way for new trends, there were satirical journals that reported on fashion whilst simultaneously ridiculing these new styles. One of the most well known examples was Jean Loret’s La Muse Historique, which was published weekly in France between 1650 and 1655, and contained gossipy epistles about high society and the bohemian set.

The Delineator, 1892

6 At the end of the 17th Century fashion began to be reported without a satirical edge. The literary journal Le Mercure Galant, first published in 1672 by the author Jean Donneau de Visé, was one of the first to do so and it rapidly became tremendously important for the dissemination of fashion news, luxury, decorum and life at the court of Louis XIV, both within France and internationally.

Vogue n° 1, 1892

7 The very first pure fashion magazine was the weekly publication Le Cabinet des Modes, which popped up in Paris in 1785. It didn’t last long in its initial incarnation however, after only one year Le Cabinet des Modes changed name to Le Magasin des Modes Françaises et Anglaises, and was thereafter primarily focused on British menswear.

8 During the second half of the 19th Century America became an increasingly important market for fashion and consequently evermore magazines were produced there. The first issue of Harper’s Bazaar was published in 1867, McCall’s in 1876, The Delineator in 1879, Ladies’ Home Journal in 1883 and Vogue in 1892 – and these were only a handful of the fashion magazines on the market by the end of the century.

i-D n° 2, novembre 1980

9 Whereas most fashion magazines were aimed exclusively at women, Vogue was started by former Princeton alumnus Arthur B. Turnure, with the purpose of reaching all of New York’s elite, men as well as women. Some of the city’s finest families were behind Turnure, and Vogue was from its inception backed by all from Cornelius Vanderbilt and William Jay to A.M. Dodge and Marion Stuyvesant Fish. The publication got its name from its very first editor, society lady Josephine Redding. In 1909 it was bought by the publisher Condé Nast.

The Face n° 65, juin 1985

10 The fashion magazine has proved an enduring and reliable source of fashion news; it has survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and the youth culture explosion in the 1950s and is still adapting to our ever-changing needs and desires. In the 1980s street culture was becoming increasingly important in the media and it wasn’t long before the fashion magazine picked up on this new phenomena. Both The Face and i-D were first published in 1980, challenging the authority of the traditional and elitist fashion magazines, and it wasn’t long before the old guard had to make way for the young and hip.