It cannot be denied that Vogue has had some gorgeous covers throughout the years, but how much have they changed?
The vogue 100: A century of style contains a range of British covers, showcasing Iconic images of the likes of super model Cara Delevigne, taken by photographers such as Mario Testino, one of the most recognised photographers in the world, known for his work in the fashion industry.
As you enter the National Portrait Gallery, guests are exposed to an array of covers, and one that sticks out in particular is a portrait photo of Kate Moss in underwear, which featured in the October 2008 issue. This provocative and rock & roll image, raises the question; was the Vogue woman always shown in this way?
Before the likes of Anna Wintour entered the scene, the earliest Vogue covers (starting way back in the 1900s) were of illustrated. Through their illustrations, artists such as Eduardo García Benito, Georges Lepape and Erwin Blumenfeld portrayed the image of a classy woman.
The 1930s was the beginning of Vogues change from illustrated women on the cover to live women. The Vogue women were photographed from the waist and up, to draw attention to their nails, jewellery, and a bold lipstick, emphasising the quality of what they were wearing. These models often took a fragile pose, looking both graceful and dainty, portraying the idea that a Vogue woman is only to be admired, not touched.
As you move through the gallery, you are transported to the ‘50s. As well as the signature Vogue heading at the top of the page being established, this is the era where women used different poses to show off their beauty and daintiness. Aside from the aspirational dresses and jackets, jewellery played a huge role on the covers during this period.
One of Vogues most influential editors changed the whole image of the magazine cover in the 1960s. Diana Vreeland made the shift from society’s woman to pop culture where she featured people like Cher and Twiggy on the cover of the magazine. Vogue’s choice to use celebrity women seemed to be a winning formula as it attracted a younger audience.
Jumping forward to the late ‘80s, early ‘90s and we begin to see a more relatable Vogue woman, with the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell entering the Vogue scene. In December 1987, Naomi became the first black woman to star on a Vogue cover since Donyale Luna in 1966. They started playing with different, more urban trends but still portrayed how exquisite and expensive it was.
Arriving to the 21st century and the era of pop culture, related covers is a prominent feature for the magazine. It’s no longer solely about the models and the luxurious commodities but about singers and actresses being used to sell copies. From Emma Watson to Rihanna, celebrity endorsement seems to be staying in Vogue.
When looking back and comparing the covers over the years, it is clear to see that Vogue’s main development has been to push an ‘aspirational’ lifestyle and to achieve this, different women have had to be used to adapt with the times. But seeing these women can have serious effects on the younger female audience, particularly on those who aren’t seen by society as ‘thin’ or ‘beautiful’. Vogue has a big role in setting societies ideology on how women should look. Maybe Vogue should consider a more diverse choice in models.
Vogue’s changes have also largely corresponded with innovations in design technology, as the development of the camera, lighting and editing has allowed artists to be more creative with the covers.
What are your thoughts on the development of Vogue covers? The Vogue 100 is on until the 22nd of May.
Text: Afua Aidoo