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The History of Fashion Magazines: From Kings to Editors

We usually think of fashion magazines and fashion as the modern day concept but in actual fact the history of fashion magazines dates back to early fashion in the 13th century when fashion was first considered important. The first writings on fashion surfaced in the 15th century.  Michel de Montaigne was one of the greatest French renaissance writers who had a habit of digressing from his academic writings to ponder everyday notions and antidotes; his thoughts about fashion became quite popular.

The French court of the 17th century was renown for fashion.  King Louis XIV was the epitome of fashion sense, and grace, garbed in velvet and lace.  King Louis XIV was renown for saying, “Fashion is a mirror,” in other words what you wear is who you are. In those early days of the history of fashion magazines, there were no written works on fashion in the French society and the courtiers relied on sketchings to determine good fashion choices.

By the 1860’s in America a new concept was conceived, writing about and photographing fashion then putting it into a magazine form for publication viewing and distribution.  The history of fashion magazines was born with the world’s oldest fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar in 1967. This magazine was geared for the upper middle class and wealthy women.

Harper’s Bazaar began showing casing fashion from Germany and Paris and then quickly moved into the American Fashion Industry by 1901.  From 1898 – 1912 Harper’s Bazaar was the hub of Victorian haute couture. It also gave the more tailored look that the first suffragettes required.  Prominent families such as the Astors were portrayed in elegant fashion. During the 1940 – 1950’s Harper continued to showcase fabulous designers and actresses from the golden years of Hollywood.

The Second major competitor and utmost authority found in the history of fashion magazines is Vogue. Vogue is the world’s foremost authority on fashion. Vogue Magazine not only publishes fashion photos, it publishes fashion as articles well.  Vogue Magazine has published articles on the history of fashion magazines. Vogue Magazine is published in 18 different countries. Arthur Baldwin Turnure also founded this magazine in the late 19th century; he founded it in 1892 to be more precise. When he died the magazine was taken over by Conde Nast Publications where its readership started to grow in leaps and bounds.

Just to note the overwhelming popularity of this New York based fashion magazine, while the world was in turmoil, subscriptions actually rose in the depression and World War II era!

Editor in chief, Diana Vreeland, once editor of Harper’s Bazaar, brought the daring fashion choices of the 1960’s to the forefront. The high profile models such as England’s Twiggy became common household names.

The wild days of the sixties settled down for more practical clothing fashion choices of the 1970’s and 1980’s under the direction of editor in chief, Grace Mirabella.  Now the dreaming housewife was heading out to work in fashion often seen in Vogue.

Today Vogue stays on top as the world’s number one fashion magazine under the watchful eye of editor in chief, Anna Wintour.  Anna brought the haute couture world into the arena of the average woman of little means by combining haute couture and jeans.  Her attempt to boost readership to a less than wealthy class of women has paid off.

The contributions of the these two founding fashion magazines promoted the surge of many fashion magazines to come and will forever whole their place in the history of fashion magazines as publication pioneers and giants.

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