Newsstand: 1925: Vogue [UK]

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a virtual newsstand from the summer of 1925

Overview

           Vogue, known today as the leading woman’s fashion magazine, was originally created to show “the ceremonial side of life” of socially elite individuals, those who could buy (and sell) luxury goods. By the 1920s, the magazine had a focus on fashion and society, as well as cultural pieces on art, literature, plays, etc. Today the magazine is most notable for its role in forecasting the fashion trends of the seasons and detailing the lives of important people and events in culture and society.

 

History

 

           Vogue was originally founded in 1892 by Arthur Baldwin Turnure. Initially beginning as a men’s sports magazine, it focused primarily on the traditions of high society. These early years for Vogue consisted of maintaining its rather small readership of 22,500 and operating at a loss due to its small advertising revenue of $100,000 (Peterson 266). Soon, this early readership transitioned from a mainly male elite audience focused on how to maintain proper decorum to an upper class woman’s magazine for the socialite of New York City.[2] Conde Nast began pursuing the acquisition of the magazine in 1905. For him Vogue was the only woman’s magazine aimed at an elite audience and this aspect was exactly what Nast had been searching for. Unfortunately for him Mr. Turnure died in 1906, leaving the negotiations pending for the next three years. Finally in 1909 Nast succeeded in taking over the magazine. He reinvigorated Vogue’s rather small readership and slowly but surely reinvented it as a magazine that appealed to an even greater to its intended New York society audience. Nast, who original began as an advertising manager for Collier’s in 1901, had developed a theory that Vogue could serve as a magnet to attract the audience that would impact his advertisers and thus his magazine most effectively (Peterson 266).

           With the beginning of the First World War, Nast began eyeing an international market for Vogue. Originally American, Vogue was first distributed in Britain in 1912 and by 1914 Vogue was selling 4,000 copies in England (Seebohm 123). However, once full-on warfare got underway Vogue could no longer be shipped overseas as it was deemed “non-essential” (Seebohm 123). Therefore on September 15, 1916 Nast gave the word to begin on a British version of Vogue. Nicknamed “Brogue” by its employees, British Vogue began to promote American goods in much the same way American Vogue viewed European goods. By 1918, British Vogue was supplementing their own European articles and advertisements with advertisements for American made objects such as cars and even investment opportunities (Seebohm 124).

           The first official editor of British Vogue was Elspeth Champcommunal. She had a strong fashion sense but little publication experience. As a result, the magazine’s circulation dipped below 9,000 in 1922 and Nast saw an opportunity for a changing of the guard (Seebohm 125). Dorothy Todd, who had been replaced as the original choice for an editor at the last minute by Champcommunal, took over. Dorothy Todd is an interesting editor in the Vogue history books. She stood in sharp contrast to the American editor at the time, Edna Woolman Chase. Miss Todd, who was openly homosexual, also had a different editorial direction in mind for Vogue. She was a fan of literature and wished to transform Vogue into a magazine more about literary content then about “stays and . . . petticoats.”[3] Vogue’s American office took offense to this as they believed the magazine had always been a “stimulating guide to the arts” without focusing on literature primarily (Brosnan 50). This ultimately led to Miss Todd’s replacement, as Vogue was losing money. During her brief run with Vogue from 1922 to 1926 Miss Todd published authors such as Virginia Woolf, Robert Fry, and other members of the Bloomsbury group who objected very much to her firing.[4] Critic Jane Garrity claims that Todd is an example of “mass culture’s role in producing British high culture” (Garrity 37).

           After Todd left Vogue in 1926 the magazine began flourishing, changing direction yet again back to its original roots of high fashion and society. British Vogue did surprisingly well during the dark years of the World War and continued to flourish in the 1920s. Readers of British Vogue in the 1920s were socially elite or wished to be part of the socially elite. As Nast put it, Vogue was to be “a magnet that would draw out only the gold ones”; in other words Nast wanted Vogue to be read by people of the wealthy upper classes not mass audiences (Peterson 268).

           Among the elements of Vogue, the covers and fashion illustrations stand out the most. From the magazines inception in 1916, the covers have been consistent in their depictions, almost always featuring women in the fashion of day, often in cubist or modernist style. British Vogue did not begin using live models on the cover until the late 30s-early 40s..

           After the postwar 1920s, Vogue’s readership jumped to around 500,000 and continued to dominate the women’s magazine market (Peterson 268). Even though the magazine was marketed for the elite “the woman-from-outside . . . was probably their principal devotee.”[5]. Vogue maintained its existence as a force in the fashion world, continuing to promote editors who not only influenced the magazine but the very culture of the cities and countries in which they operate. Seven countries throughout the world now have their own editions of Vogue and it continues its legacy of importance by bringing to the world examples of the exceptional standards of living that they have held up for over a century.

 

--Contextualization by Paige Wester

 

Notes

 

[1] Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. 1964. pg.268.

[2] Seebohm, Caroline. The Man who was Vogue: The Life and Times of Conde Nast. New York: The Viking Press, 1982. pg. 37.

[3] Brosnan, Leila. Reading Virginia Woolf's Essays and Journalism. London, England: Edinburgh University Press, 1999. pg. 50.

[4] Garrity, Jane. “Selling Culture to the “Civilized”:Bloomsbury, British Vogue, and the Marketing of National Identity.” Modernism/Modernity. 6.2. 1999. pg. 29-58

[5] Walker, Nancy. Women’s Magazines 1940-1960: Gender Roles and the Popular Press. Boston, MA. Bedford/ St. Martin’s. 1998. pg. 248.

 

 

Work Cited

 

Brosnan, Leila. Reading Virginia Woolf's Essays and Journalism. London, England: Edinburgh University Press, 1999.

Garrity, Jane. “Selling Culture to the “Civilized”:Bloomsbury, British Vogue, and the Marketing of National Identity.” Modernism/Modernity. 6.2. 1999.

Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. 1964.

Seebohm, Caroline. The Man who was Vogue: The Life and Times of Conde Nast. New York: The Viking Press, 1982.

Walker, Nancy. Women’s Magazines 1940-1960: Gender Roles and the Popular Press. Boston, MA. Bedford/ St. Martin’s. 1998.

 

 

click cover for magazine

June 1925

Genre

Woman’s Magazine

Publisher:

Arthur Baldwin Turnure 1892-1909

Conde Nast & Co, Ltd. 1909-present

Place of Publication:

London, England, New York City, New York

Years of Run:

1892 — today

Frequency of Publication:

Weekly 1892-1909, bi-weekly 1909-1973, monthly thereafter

Circulation in 1925:

About 137,000 [1]