Friday, October 16, 2015

"The Origin of Fashion Magazines"

A bicycle rides through it...

What a delight to discover that one of the world's greatest art museums knew you were coming.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam recently reopened after a massive 10-year refurbishing and is home to Rembrandt's "The Night Watch", a whole bunch of Vermeers, Van Goghs and thousands of other treasures. I soaked in quite a bit before landing at the exhibit hung especially for me, "The Origin of Fashion Magazines."  It's a precious jewel of a show, tracing the history of the fashion magazine from its 16th century beginnings to the early 1930s.

The more you look the more you see

Before there were magazines, there were fashion plates, single sheets sold to inform the wanna-be-stylish what were the latest trends. Think of paparazzi with pen and ink instead of cameras. They would gather where there were fashionistas (men and women both) and sketch away. The ink drawings would be meticulously transferred to engraving plates, printed, hand colored, then sold.


In turn single plates were bound in portfolios and further evolved into magazines with commentary. The first magazine published as such was 1785's "The Cabinet des Modes" in Paris, of course. London soon followed with its own interpretations of the Paris looks and attempts to best them. Rivalry between the two cities went on for centuries.


What became apparent is how important fashion was in the cultural zeitgeist. Today we may think of art, architecture, literature and music as defining culture. Once fashion held just as important a place. It signaled your status if you could afford to follow it. If not you could attempt to emulate it.

The mid 19th century saw the rise of fashion magazines directed exclusively to women. From these sprung Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and women's service magazines (featuring fashion plus subjects of interest to women) like Ladies Home Journal and McCall's.

Early in the 20th century a few of the more avant garde magazines considered fashion an art form. These publications didn't thrive, and by the Depression and the advent of WWII were no longer. The examples in the exhibit from these magazines were gorgeous:


"The Origin of Fashion Magazines" closed a few weeks ago, but you can pick up the book on the Rijksmuseum's website (English edition available).


2 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I learn so much from fashion exhibits, and this is one I would have liked to have seen.

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  2. An added bonus was the surprise that it was there. The book of the exhibit gives you much more text; alas not as many illustrations.

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