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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fashion statement

Harper's Bazaar was America's first fashion magazine and is the oldest continuously published fashion magazine in the world. It started as a weekly publication in 1867 and changed to a monthly issue in 1901, a schedule it has maintained since then. It targets upper-middle and upper class readers and considers itself to be the style resource for "women who are the first to buy the best."

Over the years, the magazine has assembled the most outstanding editors in chief, fashion editors and photographers in the industry. When Bazaar celebrated 140 years of publication, they did a look back at some of their most famous and influential staff members, and in 2011 a special collector's edition hybrid book/magazine entitled Harper's Bazaar Best Covers featured iconic covers from 1867 to 2011. It is not surprising that staffers from the mid-century era figure prominently in the history of the magazine.

The Carmel Snow Years: 1933-1957  
In 1933 editor in chief Carmel Snow, who had been a fashion editor at Vogue, revolutionized fashion photography. Up till then, most fashion photographs had been taken in a studio. She took photojournalist Martin Munkacsi to a windswept beach and had a model run toward the camera, making fashion magazine history. Her genius was in cultivating the best people. Her first big find was in 1934 when she hired art director Alexey Brodovitch. In 1936 she brought fashion editor Diana Vreeland aboard. Then in 1945 she hired photographer Richard Avedon. The collaboration of these four visionaries produced some of the most important fashion shoots of the 20th century.

Alexey Brodovitch: 1934-1958
With his famous challenge, "Astonish me," Brodovitch inspired some of the most legendary visual images the fashion world has ever known. His signature use of white space and the cinematic quality of his photo cropping caused Truman Capote to write, "What Dom Pérignon was to [Brodovitch] has been to...photographic design and editorial layout."

The Avedon Years: 1945-1965
Richard Avedon started creating porfolios for Bazaar when he was only 22 years old. He was so determined to work for the magazine that he endured 14 canceled interviews before finally being hired. Avedon's photography captured the "freedom of the postwar era, the frivolity of youth, and the fabulousness of fashion."

The Vreeland Years: 1936-1962
Carmel Snow first saw Diana Vreeland dancing on the roof of New York's St. Regis Hotel in a white lace Chanel dress and a bolero with roses in her hair and knew she had found Bazaar's next staff member. Vreeland is said to have coined the word pizzazz and was known for her eccentricity, her sharp eye for fashion and her keen wit. For many, she was the prototypical fashion magazine editor.

All photos from Harper's Bazaar

Snow (l) and Vreeland (r) discussing layouts
Brodovitch layout showing his painter's approach - 1945 
Vreeland layout using her own hands - 1951
December 1952 cover by Avedon featuring Suzy Parker 
April 1956 cover by Avedon featuring Audrey Hepburn 
July 1956 modernist cover by Brodovitch
December 1958 cover by Avedon
December 1959 cover by Avedon featuring model Dovima

To read more, see 140 Years of Harper's Bazaar and Bazaar Through the Years.


  1. The 1958 cover looks... astonishing!

    1. I think my favorite is the Audrey Hepburn one. Only she could have pulled off a hat like that.

  2. These covers truly were works of art. The use of white space amazes me, given that today's magazines try to cram as much text on the cover as possible to entice people in the grocery check-out line to purchase a copy. Yet another thing of beauty succumbs to commercialism.

  3. You are so right about all that white Dana, the "simplicity" of these beautiful covers is much more enticing to my mind than the rubbishy, text crammed covers of today.
    Great post. Will definetely check out those links.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. I think you'll enjoy reading more at the Bazaar site.