Showing posts with label vogue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vogue. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


That's Diana Vreeland above, the editor of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue in their peak years from 1936 to 1944 when those magazines were undergoing a Golden Age. Theory Corner owes a lot to her influence, although I almost never read her magazines, and I only discovered her name a couple of weeks ago. 

My connection with her comes from the magazine editors she might have influenced, and who in turn influenced me: Harold Hayes (Esquire), Hugh Hefner (Playboy) and  Harvey Kurtzman (Mad).

I discovered Vreeland while researching Horst, the photographer. Horst credits Vreeland and Alexey Brodovitch with introducing Surrealism (above) to American women's magazines.

She had a vision that fashion photography could be elegant and lighthearted at the same time.  

She favored models (above) with personality. 

She also had a taste for the mystical and eerie, as in this photo (above) by Cecil Beaton. It reminds me of the female vampires in the film, "Dracula."

Her photo essays frequently told a story, or rather they suggested a possible story which the reader was invited to construct. Her dramatic models were often thoughtful and in the throws of moral choice. The photo above is by Dahl-Wolfe.

Most impressive, in my opinion, was how she inspired the great photographers she worked with. The examples above and below are from a photo shoot she commissioned, where the models were to pose in furs in far away Japan. For any other fashion magazine that would be a simple matter of photographing models in front of temples. Not so for Vreeland. She wanted more.

Vreeland wanted an indescribable fantasy that exceeded what was possible in the real world. To underline the unreality of it, she chose models who were incredibly tall and lean and, in the case of the man, philosophical. The shoot took place on a plain field of snow-covered black volcanic temples, no cherry trees.

I'm guessing that this approach influenced Hugh Hefner whose fantasies were equally audacious and unreal. 

This is a room in Vreeland's apartment. Haw! I wonder what her husband thought of it.  It's right out of her outrageous "Why Don't You...?" column in the 30s Harper's Bazaar.  

I'll end with the unlikely story of how Vreeland got the job at Harpers. After all, she was an indifferent student in high school, she never went to college, she had no experience in publishing, and she was considered plain-looking by her friends and family.

She got it because she had the good fortune to social dance at a night spot where Harper's editor Carmel Snow was in attendance. Snow was the rare executive who realized that her business was operating far beneath its potential and needed fresh blood. In Vreeland, a total stranger up to then, she saw someone who was passionate, theatrical, charismatic, poised, well-dressed, danced well, etc., etc.

Snow offered Vreeland the job of fashion editor the very next day on the condition that Vreeland work her way up through the ranks, albeit on a fast track. The rest was history.

Interesting, eh?

BTW: There's some nice books about Vreeland, but the one essential thing to see is the documentary film: "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel."

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Horst P. Horst 1906 - 1999 may have been the best fashion photographer ever. He worked for Vogue mostly, but also for Chanel, and did memorable portraits of the notables of his era.

The man was heavily influenced by surrealism.

Who'd have thought that a style as offbeat as that could be bent to commercial use?

According to Wikipedia he frequently used only four lights for his studio photography, one of which was directly overhead.

He experimented with still lifes (above) and used the best ideas in his human photography. 

He also shot interiors. The text usually suggested that they were pre-existing, real-life rooms but they were often enhanced by Horst's own collection of furniture and accessories. 

He had a sense of humor (above)....

...and a flare for drama.

Outdoor problem. 

Like Cecil Beaton he had a flare for elaborate, prop-intensive portrait photography, but he also excelled in simple, straight-forward portraits, like this one of fashion editor Diana Vreeland.

Interesting, eh?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


This is about beatnik girls. "Why not beatnik guys?" you ask. Well, Beat girls had their own take on Beat culture, and it was a bit different than what the guys were doing. Read on, you'll see. 

The amazing thing is that something as esoteric as the beatnik ideal appealed to girls at all. Only a generation before girls were bobbysoxers (above) who liked to giggle and go nuts at Frank Sinatra concerts.

Then rock and roll came along and everybody young bailed into that. Rock had its own culture and beatniks were just a side line. While millions were doing the Twist and having fun, the handfull of Beats were living in poverty and listening to horribly depressing jazz. It seemed like a movement that was destined to fail. How odd then, that in the long run it turned out to be the Beats who changed the world...through the hippies, I mean.

I just looked at a lot of old pictures of beatniks and my favorites are the ones that portray them as jovial Maynard G. Krebs-types, who wear berets and play the bongos. I like that image. It's the way Shag (above) pictures them. That's the way they should have been.

Unfortunately, they were probably weren't like that. In pictures and memoirs they seem like a pretty serious lot: confrontational, smug, very ideological, and very intolerant. A lot of them were actually kind of mean.

In my last year of high school I briefly went out with a beatnik girl and she was hard as nails. It was the hippie era but she preferred to be a beat for some reason. She made it very clear that I was beneath her and she was only seeing me because she had nothing else to do. She had that distant, far away look like Peggy Cummins (above) in "Gun Crazy."

Mostly we just hung out and tried to look cool. What I remember about her is that she was bored all the time, and had terrible disdain for the ordinary people who passed in the street.        

She liked to perch somewhere and chain smoke with a pained expression.

She didn't look like she was having much fun.

Beatnik women hardly ever looked like they were having fun. Guys on the other hand, at least looked like they were getting by. Haw! Maybe that's because they had something to look forward to. The beatnik code included free love and the guys were no doubt salivating at the very thought of it.

In the pictures beatnik girls frequently have a look that says, "Life is a drag, Man! Life is a DRAG!" That strikes me as tragic. Only a generation before girls looked effervescent and optimistic...the way young people are supposed to look...and now here are the Beats in the 50s looking neurotic and nihilistic. Yikes! Maybe they were just tired of wearing sunglasses indoors.

You have to wonder how that ennui came about. My guess is that they were copying the world weary look of Hollywood superstars like Dietrich (above) and Garbo.

 The cold, icy look had been standard in women's magazines for years.

Maybe girls out on their own for the first time, living the life of rebels, wanted to live the be icy and aloof like the models they secretly admired in fashion magazines. Maybe beatnik girls were always sneaking peeks at Vogue. Maybe fashion magazines contributed as much to the Beat movement as somebody like Alan Ginsburg or Jack Kerouac.

Well it's possible, isn't it?

Before I sign off I have one more picture to post (above). It's a really neat picture of a beatnik walk. I don't think anyone ever really walked this way but they should have.

For more on the history of Beatniks see the archived 6/4/10 Theory Corner post,
"Who Came Before the Beatniks?"

Saturday, October 23, 2010


My local library just gave away a bunch of magazines, among them some Elles and some Vogues. I took home some samples which I'll share with you. It's pretty weird stuff.

How do you like this cover (above)? I haven't read the article which explains it, but it appears to be about Drew Barrymore who has just fallen into a pool in her new bondage evening gown. She managed to pull herself out just as a gunman came along and announced that he's going to shoot her. Wow! Heavy stuff!

Vogue ran a "Daring Evening" article (above). Boy, it's daring alright! Let's see...a cheetah bra with thick satin drapery pants, and gold ultra-heel snakeskin shoes wrapped in white velvet ribbon.  Wow! I wish I could have seen the Lucy Ricardo moment when she brought it home and showed it to her husband.

Photos like this always come with quotes. They're surprisingly deep. Does the magazine hire philosophers?

Here's (above) a "Daring Duo." It's a super thin, skin-tight body stocking with a breast-eradicating bra and chattering teeth necklace. Add to that jewel-studded raspy pantaloons and black peek-a-boo heels.  Less than $4,000 before tax. A steal!

Wait a minute, the article doesn't tell us what the handbag costs. It's a tiny thing, so maybe they throw it in for free.

  Most handbags in the ads (above) are enormous. I guess a woman needs a big handbag to set off her feathered crotch.

Here's (above) another picture associating handbags with crotches.  The signifigance of this will probably hit me when I'm walking down the street a month from now, but right now I haven't got a clue.  Boy, women are hard to figure out!

A lot of the pages in Elle and Vogue are devoted to ads. Here's an ad for Bed Head Foxy Curls. It takes five Foxy Curl products to get that zombie look. You've got your Foxy shampoo and "moisturelicious" conditioner, your "extreme" mousse, your Foxy contour  cream (whatever that is), and your Foxy hair spray.

Bare skin abounds in women's magazines, but the gay men in the ads never seem to be turned on by it. This guy (above) is positively repulsed by the idea that his girlfriend took her blouse off.  His whole day has been ruined, you can tell.

By the way, the guy is wearing black lipstick and has slicked-down fascist future hair. Is that what lies ahead for men?

Haw! Cartoon Steve (  sent me this picture of me ogling the Calvin Klein girl. Thanks Steve! I hope I get a modeling job out of it!