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The Evolution of Vogue Magazine (Fall 2012)

            During World War II, many women started to work outside of their homes even though some people thought that women should stay in the home and take care of children. Many men were enlisted into the war and women were needed in the factories to make war materials. Even though there were conflicting beliefs about women working outside of the home, it was necessary for the war.  Women were able to gain more leisure time and became more literate with their time outside the home. 

            After the war, the United States emerged as one of the leading world powers. The war helped to strengthen the U. S.’s ability to produce goods and they were able to help other countries in need of rebuilding their economies. In the process of helping other countries, the U.S. boosted its own economy where consumers were able to purchase things that were not a necessity such as televisions and cars.  Many people had also grown tired of wearing restricted clothing options during the war and wanted to wear more luxurious items. Clothing manufacturers that had produced clothing during the war for men used their machines to mass produce clothing. This mass production made various styles of clothing available to all people and magazines promoted the style of dress during that time.

            Other important forces involved inspiration from art and music, new technology and critical individuals that brought change to the magazine. During the Illustration Era of Vogue, the art deco and jazz age inspired many of their covers. Eduardo Garcia Benito had the most influence on the covers with illustrations that had soft lines and geometric shapes. The first colored photograph was introduced by photographer pioneer, Edward Steichen, who believed in realistic style photography. Baron Adolphe De Meyer influence brought art and romanticism through his “pictorialist style, a perfect balance between commercial chic and the aura of pure art that Vogue sought” (Angeletti and Olivia, 2006, p. xix).

Magazine Publishing Cost
            The cost of publishing a magazine was quite expensive in colonial America. The paper and ink needed for publishing were imported and once they were inside America, they were taxed. That was not the only difficulty. With poor roads, limited postal routes, and interstate custom regulations it was hard to distribute magazines. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution created affordable printing presses along with machine-made parts that were more readily available. Ink and paper were no longer imported as domestic manufacturing of these items began. There were also improved interstate highways and the construction of a centralized postal system that made magazine distribution easier. 

The Beginning of Vogue
            Arthur B. Turnure, a Princeton socialite, wanted to create a New York social gazette. With his interest in publishing, he found Vogue with substantial support from notable financial backers such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Jay, A. M. Dodge, and Stuyvesant Fish. His key editor, Josephine Redding, was also a socialite who donned the magazine Vogue. Her real passion was for animal welfare which she later included in sections of Vogue.

            On December 17, 1892 the first issue of Vogue appeared depicting a debutante on its cover. As a weekly magazine for high society New Yorkers originally, it also showed covers with well-polished women that were called Gibson girls. During this time, they were the epitome of the New York socialites. The initial content of the magazine was written to attract the attention of men and women. To satisfy the upscale tastes of its desired readers, they generated different sections in the magazine such as “Society Snapshots,”  “Of Interest to Her,” and “As Seen By Him.” Vogue also provided fashion advice for social events. They did not report on the current trends or styles like Vogue today.

            From 1989-1899 the magazine experienced many changes. Vogue had developed a stronger fashion direction and its contents geared more towards fashion. There were increasingly large format fashion plates and different departments and sections in the magazine were expanded. Major editorial change came when Rosa Payne approached Redding about running a segment on garment patterns. It was quite controversial since presenting garment patterns meant that Vogue’s readers could not afford to buy their clothing but wanted to instead make their clothing. It could have been detrimental to the magazine with its target customers being New York socialites. However, some of the favorite sections of the magazine were “Seen in the Shops,” “Vogue’s Designs for the Seamstress,” and “Smart Fashions for Limited Incomes.”

            In the beginning of the twentieth century, Vogue transformed into a women’s fashion magazine. It was no longer targeting male audiences. Readers soon extended beyond socialite New York. Even with the increased readers, circulation numbers were declining. Vogue’s return policy for unsold items magazines soon changed. Newsstands used to be able to return Vogue magazines that were not purchased for credit. However, with a decline in circulation numbers, the magazine wanted more prepaid subscriptions. Newsstands began to suffer from weekly cash loss from unsold copies, cancelled ones, or reduce standing orders immediately. Individuals who purchased from newsstands wanted seasonal issues and did not want to invest in prepaid subscriptions.

            In the making of the magazine, there was gendered based division of labor. Turnure and his male colleagues were in charge of sports and social affairs at clubs and residences. Redding’s role was to collect dress patterns and report on fashion related topics. She was able to insert a section called “Concerning Animals” that she was very passionate about. 

Condé Nast
            With a declining interest in the magazine, Condé Nast believed he could help Vogue survive. Negotiations for selling the magazine to Condé Nast began in 1905 but Turnure died during these negotiations in 1906. In 1909, Condé Nast bought Vogue and used the covers of Vogue issues to reach a wider upscale audience. His experience in Collier’s Weekly doubled ad revenue. His time in Home Pattern Company influenced his decision to expand Vogue’s pattern enterprises.

            He completely reformatted the design, introduced full color front and back covers, and the idea of a “special number” edition. Condé Nast kept many society related departments in the magazine but took out any fiction. He even introduced a section in which women could sell and exchange items. Condé Nast changed the circulation of the magazine as well. Instead of a weekly magazine, it became a semi-monthly magazine with clothes at the heart of the new formula for Vogue’s success. Prices of the magazine rose from 10 -15 cents while the rate of subscribing to the magazine did not change. 

            He made many successful maneuvers to keep the popularity of Vogue. He hired Baron Adolphe de Meyer in 1913 to take part in revolutionizing the magazine. Meyer’s romantic and seductive images and soft backgrounds created a new world of imagery. Condé Nast believed the covers could draw the attention of the readers and soon took interest in that. He sought the finest illustrators and photographers in the world. Condé Nast also believed that his covers had to be of the best quality. To ensure the finest printing quality, he bought a printing company in Greenwich, Connecticut. Color photography was finally allowed to appear on the cover in 1932 when the quality of printing was up to his standards. Condé Nast also sought out renowned writers to improve the quality of the magazine content and geared ads towards men’s products. 

            At the end of Condé Nast’s first year with Vogue, he generated over half a million lines of advertising, subscription numbers double, and newsstand sales tripled. The average issue of the magazine contained 30 pages weekly but Condé Nast turned every issue into an average of 100 pages. With such success, advertisers rushed to be a part of Vogue. Condé Nast did not anticipate such success and failed to equip his advertising department adequately.

Anna Wintour
            Anna Wintour, is another influential in the history of Vogue. As the current editor-in-chief of Vogue she began her career in 1988. Vogue at the time was being outcompeted by Elle magazine and Vogue needed a new change of direction and revitalization.

            For her first Vogue cover, she wanted change from the usual covers that had become to look too identical to each other. She debuted and Israeli supermodel wearing jeans on the cover which revolutionized covers. She even started putting celebrities on the covers instead of supermodels. She was a pioneer in mixing cheaper fashion items with more expensive ones in her photo shoots. It even involved her first cover that involved a pair of $50 jeans and $10,000 jewel-encrusted t-shirt. With such a move, she was able to obtain a wider audience. She combined regular clothing with haute couture and created a new movement in fashion. Wintour’s ability to revitalize Vogue and her fearless need for something new has created the Vogue that we know today. 

            Wintour’s power in the fashion industry can be seen with the prominence of designers. She helped Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen break into the fashion world. Her assistance in the fashion world can help any designer connect with a retailer. In 2006, Thom Browne began showing his designs in 90 Brooks Brothers retail stores with the help of Wintour’s persuasion. 

            With Vogue, Wintour has been able to reach out to others. She helped raise money for the Twin Towers, help with the creation of the Council of Fashion Designers of America that funds two new designers each year, and even organizes a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume department.

            To help with the recession, Wintour created Fashion’s Night out in 2009 to encourage people to spend money. During Fashion’s Night Out, the public gets to meet fashion designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Tommy Hilfiger and celebrities like Halle Berry and Sarah Jessica Parker. 

            Vogue also raises awareness of political issues. In 2006, the burqa appeared in an issue along with articles about prominent Muslim women and how they incorporate fashion into their lives. It has even sponsored “Beauty without Borders” that taught beauty skills to Afghan women.

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