Walk past any magazine rack and without a doubt you will walk past fashion tomes advertised as Vogue, Fortunate, W, and more: thick-bound copies often depreciated for their heavy publicity and high photo-to-handwriting ratio. Inside you’ll find waifish, pouting models dressed in ridiculously expensive and deliciously bizarre costumes—not clothing — with titles that seem concise and superficial: trend forecasts for the season, celebrities posing in designer dresses, tips on how best to flatter the body.
It seems that an anonymous writer a decade after the turn of the century felt the same. In a 1911 Atlantic article, she (and this is a guess on my part, but I guess the writer is a her) is amazed at the often thoughtful look one finds on the faces of many models, the one who seems to be looking into the distance .
Observe, in this choice publication, the crucial moment when he – in the pergola studied from the directions in Ladies’ own for the making of Italian gardens – stands, with the elbows correctly bent, a perfect facsimile of “Gentleman’s Afternoon Wear”, on page 2 of the fashion circular. She, in a wrinkle-free Empire style, looks at him with that lack of facial expression that signifies a perfect fit. It is the most efficient, after its kind; but should a man, in this great crisis of life, think so hard about the line of his shoulders? Should she, at this moment, who Ladies’ own Would he pronounce the supreme moment in a woman’s life, would it be so safe to tilt your head in a way that shows off the underside of your hat?
The lack in this scene of any emotion, any intellectuality, any sense of human complexities is evident, and the author takes note of it by gleefully tearing up the fashion magazine of his time.
In many ways, not much has changed in fashion magazines. There is, after reading the 1911 story, a strange sense of continuity: Fashion magazines continue to feature models in awkward positions with trendy fashions.
But fashion magazines have evolved. Today, they’re just as likely to tackle the serious events and social issues of the day as they are to present the next feathered and ruffled creation. Fashion has become more and more accessible since the time this play was written – it has broadened its vision beyond society’s girls drowning in money and has become a genre that celebrates “street style. “,” normcore “and” basic “. Fast fashion, while controversial for its practice of reproducing carbon copies of designer clothes at a fraction of the cost using mostly contract labor in developing countries, arguably democratized fashion by making expensive yarns featured. in the pages of the fashion magazine the anonymous author ridiculed over a century ago affordable.
Fashion magazines also had to compete with the Internet, like all other print magazines. But they’ve extended their power beyond the star-eyed clothing connoisseur – they’re a real source of information (see Refinery29the skillful comments of on the events incorporated into the design of her fashion blog), feminism (Joanna Coles from Seventeen changes the magazine’s focus on sex into a powerful statement about the prominent sexual issues of millennials), and politics (a topic that has been tiptoed in this arena but has been a welcome, albeit limited, aspect of recent issues from the industry leaders).
Fashion magazines are still not perfect. At Betty Friedan Feminine Mystic criticized one-dimensional women editors marketed for, a housewife whose beautiful spirit did not care about the politics of the time. Their overt focus on slim models continued, drawing attention to the eating disorder epidemic in American high schools, and questionable photographs drew criticism for portraying an almost child pornography version of “high art.” “. Representations of powerful women as young ladies, and the emphasis on their diet and beauty routines, also drew criticism. It’s a classic problem, says our anonymous erstwhile author:
All kidding aside, there seems to me in all of this work a fatal tendency to move away from the in-depth study of individual characteristics towards types, and rather insane types, like wax figures in shop windows. Is this our closest approach to presenting ideal beauty?
But these controversies are distinguished by the introduction of very serious and real conversations about the world we live in. Fashion magazines have highlighted societal issues that have often been overlooked by the mainstream media, from the working conditions of mothers around the world to the pay gap. between women and their male counterparts. In many ways, they have become driving forces of the feminist movement of the 21st century. While our author of the past despises the powerlessness of women at the time as described by her magazine subscription, fashion magazines today have come forward (attempting to) ensure that women who they present are not just hangers for sewing but people of character, courage and ambition.
We are living in the golden age of this medium. Fashion has become a modern political force, and it is exerted through images and text in the pages of today’s fashion magazine.