The history of Vogue

The word ‘Vogue’ possesses so much power within the fashion world. The glossy magazine is sold across the world and published in 19 different languages. The queen of pop icon Madonna has a whole song dedicated to Vogue. The legacy is timeless and sought after, if you work for Vogue or appear in Vogue, you have made it in life. Vogue is THE fashion magazine.


Arthur Baldwin Turnure founded Vogue in 1892, but it was very different to what it is now. The magazine was published weekly in America and it targeted the elite socialites of New York high society. The first copy had a price of 10 cents – around $3 to-date. Instead of fashion, the magazine focused on social etiquette, traditions of high society, and it reviewed books, theatre, music. In short, Vogue was a lifestyle magazine for the wealthy – a target audience that remains to this date. 


In 1909, Condé Montrose Nast, the founder of Condé Nast Publications, bought Vogue, and transformed it from a lifestyle magazine to a fashion magazine. It targeted women’s fashion, beauty, composure, and etiquette. He changed the weekly publication to publishing every fortnight. It became monthly in 1973. 


Vogue became a magazine that valued high-quality photos, a focus that continues to evolve. British Vogue Editor, Alexandra Shulman states “In an average issue [of Vogue] there are over 400 images.” Part of the appeal of reading Vogue is for the escapism it offers. Whilst the luxury fashion is targeted towards a wealthy audience, the magazine itself is not costly, meaning the average person can daydream and fantasise about a lifestyle that is portrayed as a dream. The high-quality photos featuring beautiful models in a sunny luxury resort, creates an aura for which the consumer longs. By having more photos than interviews, it allows our minds to transport ourselves to the appealing location and lifestyle Vogue is selling. 


Focusing on photographs and images from the beginning allowed Vogue to sell this escapism, and be at the forefront of trends. In 1932, Vogue was one of the first magazines to print a coloured photo for the cover – it was of a swimmer holding a beach ball. When Vogue was first published, the cover would feature an illustration, or an image of a location, or it featured a person who was not famous: the first ever cover in 1892 featured a debutante at her début. The first female celebrity to appear on the cover was Madonna in 1989. 


In 1988, Anna Wintour became editor in chief for American Vogue – a title she still holds to-date, alongside the title ‘Dame’. She needed to rival the newly launched fashion magazine Elle, and made a series of changes in order to achieve this. She began to feature celebrities that were not just models on the cover of the magazine, such as actresses and even politicians (such as Hillary Clinton). This sparked a wider interest and became an international trend. She expanded the target audience by launching Teen Vogue in 2003, and Men’s Vogue in 2005 in the United States. Vogue continues to be a fashion magazine, but it is aware of the current climate of the world, such as British Vogue featuring NHS workers on the cover of the July 2020 issue during the pandemic. This awareness keeps them relevant, as it still feels in-touch with the world, whilst also balancing this with the ability to feature high-quality escapism images. 

Vogue’s success continues to grow, it unites 24.4 million readers globally, and 42 million unique monthly online users. In 2009 The New York Times titled Vogue as “high fashion’s bible” which perfectly captures the importance each monthly issue holds. Vogue is the most famous fashion magazine in the world – if you have made it to Vogue, you have made it in life.

Featured image: taken by Kirsten Meek

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