Fashion & Beauty

The History of Harper’s Bazaar

September 1, 2020

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@Harper’s Bazaar: First in Fashion by Éric-Pujalet-Plaà and Marianne le Galliard, Rizzoli New York, 2020.






PARIS IS a no-go destination for us U.S. denizens, at least for the foreseeable future. Which means we’ll probably miss the city’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ exhibition celebrating fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. But history buffs and fashion and photography lovers can still enjoy the show through a grand, coffee-table-size tome, Harper’s Bazaar: First in Fashion, published this September by Rizzoli.

Launched in New York in 1867, the magazine has always showcased the work of the best and the brightest, from designers, such as Madeleine Vionnet, Cristobal Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen, to photographers like Adolphe de Meyer, Edward Steichen, Man Ray, Hiro and Richard Avedon.  From the outset, literary contributions were an integral part of the magazine’s story. Colette, Virginia Woolf and Eudora Welty, as well as Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote all wrote for Bazaar. One of the influential forces behind the ’60s Pop Art movement, Andy Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator for the magazine in the early 1950s.

The magazine’s first editor, Mary Louise Booth, a francophile and feminist, who promoted the suffragist movement, set the tone for a long line of visionary, creative editors-in-chief, including Carmel Snow, Diana Vreeland, Liz Tilberis and Glenda Bailey, for each of whom there’s a section describing their accomplishments and impact on the magazine. Snow had impeccable taste, could spot talent and forecast trends; the larger-than-life Vreeland championed unconventional beauty and coined catchphrases like “Pink is the navy blue of India.” In the early 1990s, under Tilberis and her creative director, Fabien Baron, supermodels (Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, to name a couple) became celebrities. The duo favored black and white photography and clean lines. When Bailey—who stepped down this past March—took over in 2001, she and creative director Stephen Gan made their mark with humor, fantasy and theatrical staging.

Most delightful are the book’s abundance of photos—both in color and black and white—by Avedon, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh and many more talented men and women behind the lens. Likewise, it’s a treat to see the evolution of the magazine covers, from Art Nouveau illustrations to a photo of actor Steve McQueen (Bazaar was the first women’s fashion magazine to put a man on the cover in 1965) to a photo-booth cover shot of Jean Shrimpton (1965) by Avedon to Demi Moore feeding a giraffe (2010) and Rihanna lying inside the mouth of shark, accompanied by the cover line “Killer Fashion” (2015).

—Janet Kelly



LEFT: Balenciaga haute couture cerise short evening dress with décolletage scalloped in lace and skirt with layers of folds over a lace petticoat. Spring-Summer 1955, Paris  ©MAD Paris. RIGHT: The super-elegant model Dovima on her final cover (December, 1959) for Harper’s Bazaar ©Avedon Foundation.


LEFT: Jeanne Lanvin, drawing for a collection. Gouache on paper, Pénombre evening gown, Spring-Summer 1929. Lanvin Archives, Paris. RIGHT: Anonymous. Madeleine Vionnet gold and silver lamé haute couture evening gown, Fall-Winter 1936. ©MAD Paris.


LEFT: Harper’s Bazaar,  December 1992 cover. Model: Kate Moss. ©Patrick Demarchelier. The snow globe in Moss’s hand refers to Citizen Kane, the character in Orson Welles’s eponymous film. RIGHT: Copy of Christian Dior’s Chérie dress, based on the Spring-Summer 1947 model.  ©MAD Paris. According to Christian Dior, “Chérie was the most ostentatiously New Look dress, with a tight bodice, tiny waist and 80 yards of pleated white faille …”


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