From Louis XIV to ‘Vogue’, the origin of fashion magazines | Style

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What was before, fashion or fashion magazines? This may not be as circular a question as if it were the chicken or the egg before, but neither is its answer as clear as it might seem if it were said that fashion magazines are much later than the appearance of trends. It is not like this. “Fashion and magazines are inherent”, says María Prego, one of the exhibition’s curators Extra fashion! The one considered the first publication with fashion content Mercure Galant, founded in 1672 in the France of Louis XIV, it already talks about what it takes and what it doesn’t. There are points in which it is not comparable with what is understood today by this type of press: with its websites, its social networks and its news appearing on any device at any time, but there are many more similarities than you can imagine.


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First issue of ‘Vogue’, December 17, 1892.

Showing these similarities is one of the objectives of the exhibition that can be visited from November 22 to March 1, 2020 at the Museo del Traje (Madrid). “Fashion is an industry and the fashion press is its spokesperson. We intend to teach that this was not invented in the 20th century, which is over 300 years old. You can not understand a publication of this type without an image, it is what prevails, now and before. That is why one of the most important elements of the exhibition are the figurines, “says Prego. Neither she nor Ana Cabrera, the other curator, wants the start of the tour to be revealed. Her intention is for the visitor to be surprised in this jump towards last.

It starts with examples from Dürer (1471-1528), who makes drawings and engravings of people whose costumes are so highly detailed that they could be taken as a precedent for the figurine, and leads to the creation of two headers that remain and continue to be leaders in the sector: Harper’s Bazaar, first released in November 1867, and Vogue, whose number one dates from December 17, 1892. They are not far from other periodicals such as The New York Times, founded in 1851.

Spain is going at a different pace, a century after the creation of Mercure Galant, is published The Cádiz thinker (1763-1764), who was born in Cádiz with content on fashion, social life, family, politics, and which is a reaction to the attacks against women that José Clavijo y Fajardo writes in his newspaper, The Thinker. While in France, the birthplace and still today the center and axis of the fashion industry and everything it carries, the Paris brand was exported from the beginning, in Spain, Cádiz plays an important role that currently sounds strange. It is the moment of the Enlightenment, of the diffusion of thoughts and of a cosmopolitan city that is the entry and exit of ideas and goods that come from America and the United Kingdom, among other places.

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17th century men's shoes.enlarge photo
17th century men’s shoes. Disseny museum

With respect to the press, everything changed from 1791, when under the reign of Carlos IV, the Count of Floridablanca prohibited the publication of any type of newspaper in fear of the entry of revolutionary ideas from France. In that country, after the Revolution, a decree of freedom of clothing was issued: “No one may prevent any citizen from dressing in a particular way, everyone is free to wear any garment …”. Clearly, different times.

Extra fashion! It is not a flat, two-dimensional exhibition. On the contrary, what he intends is to show how those paper ideas that were disseminated in publications could be carried out, thus, they are accompanied by garments such as chapines (shoes of the 16th century, long-lived brothers of current platforms, apt to appear in any video clip of Rosalía) or one of Louis XIV’s favorite accessories, the shoes adorned with large bows, buckles and red heels, which was a symbol of high status. There are current concepts such as that of influencer that all he has done is change his name. This French king already set trends as did the Empress Eugenia de Montijo or Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who made the white wedding dress, among many other items, fashionable, only suitable for high society.

Chapines of the sixteenth century.
Chapines of the sixteenth century. Disseny museum

It is necessary to take into account the exclusive public to which these magazines were dedicated: women, bourgeois or aristocrats and the city, since from the 19th century on, men turned gray. Thus, those figures inserted in magazines with the indications of the fabrics and the stores where to find them were a precious object of desire. Nothing different from what any current caption can indicate in which it indicates the signatures used for the styling created. Thus the costumes were made in the image and likeness of the figurine or versioned to more affordable materials, but following the models. Nothing that low cost fashion does not do now with designs by major brands.

The curators want to highlight an idea at the end of the exhibition, something that has changed: the need for more sustainable and responsible consumption also in fashion.

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