They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and nowhere does this adage ring as loud and clear as in the world of magazines. I personally am a hoarder of these things, particularly first issues (LOVE Magazine, I hope to keep you forever), limited edition covers and of course vintage magazines.
In this internet age, we have gazillion pictures and articles at our very fingertips, and yet there is nothing quite like a properly curated magazine, meticulously designed and arranged in order. A good magazine promises to show you the very best in its subject matter, be it fashion, or interiors or goldfish keeping, without endless trawling through the vast ocean of information online.
An old magazine makes even more enticing promises; to open the door to a whole other time and sometimes country, revealing the zeitgeist of just a few months in history. And an old fashion magazine doesn’t just show us how people dressed, it reveals so much about the culture and politics of the time.
I do adore history, and fashion, and magazines, and have the immense pleasure of being the Editor (and founder) of V&OAK magazine, a newly launched print magazine for vintage, handmade and upcycled style. I am fortunate to say that it is my job to look at magazines, and lots of vintage ones at that. In my ceaseless search for inspiration, I have found many vintage covers to call favourites, but have attempted here to narrow them down to a very lovely five.
This January 1939 Vogue cover is so rare that even Google Images hasn’t heard of it, and I am left to present to you a lopsided photograph of it. My fiancé gave this to me as Christmas present last year alongside other Vogue-themed pressies (a vintage edition from the month I was born, a subscription and a box of 100 Vogue cover postcards). I believe he chose this particular cover because of my penchant for skiing, finding out in the process that ski covers are few and far between. These days they just don’t feature sport on fashion magazine covers at all.
This particular cover was brought, cover-mounted and ready to frame, from Vintage in Print (http://www.vintageinprint.co.uk/), a company we happened to see at Judy’s Vintage Fair in Spitalfields last December. Nicky Young, owner of Vintage in Print has since told me that the cover was shot by Horst P. Horst, who incidentally is the subject of a retrospective at the V&A later this year. Definitely one to put in my diary!
This July 1932 Vogue cover is the first to have been photographed and not illustrated. At the time, it was considered an innovative move, and paved the way for a more experimental approach to fashion magazine covers. The photographer Edward Steichen was known for playing with lights and shadow, as can clearly be seen from his debut magazine cover. He had made his name photographing the celebrities of the day in this unique style, including Greta Garbo who upon seeing his final photos of her, hugged him and said “You understand me . . . you should be a director.”
How delicious is this cover? There was a time when Vogue was creative with its masthead, making each cover a magical piece of art. In the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s the masthead was often written out in a different way each time, incorporated into the cover image to create something really striking. I would guess that mid-century the trend for brand uniformity took hold, but wouldn’t it be great if magazine covers would delight and surprise us in this way again!
This run-down of covers consists mainly of Vogues. Though this isn’t intentional, it shows perhaps what a huge behemoth Vogue is in the world of fashion magazines, and how incredible it is that this brand has stood the test of time whilst all around it lesser magazines have ceased publication.
However, Harper’s Bazaar was launched in 1867, twenty-five years before Vogue was even thought up. Harper’s Bazaar was America’s very first fashion magazine, aimed at showcasing the latest European styles to the middle and upper classes.
Home to talents such as Diana Vreeland, Diane Arbus, and Richard Avedon, Harper’s Bazaar created some of the most innovative and memorable magazine covers ever seen. This August 1940 cover by Herbert Bayer (a member of the Bauhaus movement and a widely artist and photographer) shows how much more modern and design conscious Harper’s Bazaar was. The magazine prided itself on being the resource for not just the “well-dressed woman” but also the “well-dressed mind.”
Back in the day, before it became normal to choose models and celebrities for your front cover, magazines like Vogue showed aspirational illustrations. Aspiration wasn’t all about bling. Rather, the 1920s covers (like this one from August 1929) show women in fairly charmed pursuits; enjoying the great outdoors (often in snow and rain as well as sun), a stunning view, or as on this cover, the freedom to paint and be creative. Now, that is true luxury!
Finally, I cannot finish without showing off our very own cover, for Issue 1 of V&OAK. It is a bi-annual magazine, and we are currently busy working on our second issue (out on 28th March). You can order the first and the second issue here (http://voakmagazine.bigcartel.com/).
For more vintage magazine covers, please visit our dedicated Pinterest board (http://www.pinterest.com/vandoak/vintage-magazines/).
Thanks for reading and hope to see you this time next week!