Updated: Nov 15
By Lauren Lippert
First Vogue Issue Ever
Vogue is one of the oldest fashion magazines to ever exist. With it’s initial release in 1892 by businessman and founder Arthur Baldwin Turnure, it has since dominated the fashion journalism industry for decades.
It’s what every fashion journalist dreams to work for and it’s what any fashion lover wants to read.
With that being said, Vogue has managed to capture each era beautifully through their covers. From the supermodel era to utility fashion, Vogue encapsulates the times creating some of the most iconic covers to date.
Here are some of the top Vogue covers from each decade.
This was the time where Conde Nast purchased the publication from Turnure before he passed away. It was after the purchase that Vogue became a women’s fashion magazine. It continued to target upscale audiences and the popularity grew rapidly. Vogue initially was created as a newspaper publishing company that targeted the upper class, their habits, leisure activities and of course their clothes. Turnure said he wanted Vogue to serve as “a dignified authentic journal of society, fashion, and the ceremonial side of life.” The Vogue “newspaper” was primarily concerned with fashion, sports and social affairs which was included for male readers. This was easily reflected in their first magazine covers.
The tempo of the ’20s was set by the First World War. After darkness, people craved light, speed and fun. Women cut their hair into neat bobs, wore knee-length tubular dresses, and embraced the night life unlike no other. Vogue covers of the roaring ’20s conveyed charm, chic, and luxury. While Vogue’s illustrators were conjuring fairy-tale-like fantasies, photographer Edward Steichen was turning his direct, and modern, eye to fashion photography. This helped push Vogue covers to stand out amongst other fashion publications.
This era of Vogue challenged the artistic approach of magazine covers everywhere. They were the first publication to put a colored photograph on the cover where prior to that, it was mainly illustrations or artists’ sketches. Surrealist Spanish artist Salvador Dalí and surrealism were also heavily influential in the ’30s and to Vogue issues. It was also during this decade that pants started becoming acceptable for casual resort wear.
First Colored Cover Photo
This was the era where men were sent off to war (WWII) forcing women to join the workforce. Throughout the war, the magazine focused on the changing role of women. Chanel closed her business in 1939, and the business of couture became almost nonexistent in Paris. The Germans had suspended the publication of French Vogue during this time period. The void was filled with American designers like Mainbocher, Adrian, Claire McCardell, and Charles James.
Known as the Golden Age of Haute Couture, the 1950s was also the magazine’s “most powerful years” due to their ever growing subscribers and most artistic magazine covers yet. It was also when waistlines grew slimmer and the postwar expansion continued. The fashion scene was becoming bigger and better; the first organized fashion shows were arranged in New York City and Italy. During this era, Jessica Daves became the editor-in-chief and helped morph Vogue into what it is today, a fashion powerhouse.
Diana Vreeland joined Vogue from Harper’s Bazaar. First as Associate Editor, and then in 1962, became editor-in-chief. She led the magazine into a period of youth and vitality, but also extravagance, and luxury and excess. During this period, Vogue remained fascinated with the doings of the upper class. Their home life and styles were often featured in Vogue issues as well as designer’s work with the A-line shifts and futuristic looks, which became a symbol of the era.
This was the decade where sportswear dominated the fashion industry. Easy-on, easy-off pieces like wrap dresses were all the rage, and so were pants worn for day and night. This was also the era where Vogue featured the first woman of color on the cover. Times were changing and ultimately the magazine was helping pave the way.
First women of color on the cover
Anna Wintour was named editor-in-chief of Vogue in 1988 and in November she published her revolutionary cover, featuring Israeli model Michaela Bercu photographed by Peter Lindbergh and styled by Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele. This cover broke the rule because the model was wearing a haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket with denim jeans, mixing high and low fashion for the first time. This was also the era where clothes and hair were bigger and more extravagant than ever before. Not only was the power suit created but it turned traditional gender roles upside down. It’s why this era’s covers focus more on color and bolder looks.
Anna’s revolutionary cover
Vogue, like the rest of the world, was obsessed with supermodels. Due to this fascination, the 1990’s were known as the “supermodel era.” Thanks to Madonna, corsets, cone bras, and bustles saw the light of day, and the Wonderbra was an essential. The slip dress became one of the defining looks of the decade.
Filled with low cut jeans, rocker band looks and hipster vibes, the early 2000’s proved to be one of the most influential fashion decades to date. It was the era where celebrity culture dominated Vogue covers and society as a whole. Women were unafraid to mix and match therefore helping to create what is known as the “grunge” look. As the red carpet became a major international marketing tool, actors replaced models as the cover stars of magazines. What these celebrities wore became the central obsession of the new tabloid culture. In Vogue, celebrities were encouraged to engage with fashion and reveal different sides of their personalities.
Music proved to be more impactful on fashion than ever before. With superstars such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga regularly appearing on the cover of Vogue. Athlesuire wear of leggings, yoga pants and denim became increasingly popular. Fashion photography also grew immensely due to the increase of social media and everyone using imagery to portray their lives. With that being said, Vogue focused more on imaginative shoots that reflected the complexity of the times.
Fashion, as proven throughout the years, is about showcasing one’s personality and how you chose to portray yourself. Vogue has done just that by challenging the social and gender norms repeatedly on the cover. It’s now more diverse than ever before and continues to push the fashion boundaries. It’s because they’re able to adapt and remodel after each decade that Vogue is considered a fashion powerhouse and they’re not slowing down any time soon.
It’s because they’re able to adapt and remodel after each decade that Vogue is considered a fashion powerhouse and they’re not slowing down any time soon.