The war years were a fantastic time for the photography-based general weekly magazines and their high sales continued into the start of the 1950s, as this chart from the Financial Times in 1959 shows (April 16, page 10). Just these four titles – Picture Post, Illustrated, Everybody’s and John Bull – had a combined sale of about 4.5 million copies a week. That is a staggering figure by today’s standards.
Television was gaining a foothold in Britain’s households and, as the chart shows, first Picture Post and then Illustrated folded. Everybody’s also was not long for the world, merging into John Bull in 1959. A year later, John Bull relaunched itself as Today, but that only delayed fate and it was subsumed by Weekend in 1965.
The BBC took away readers and from 1955 commercial television took away both readers and advertisers. Magazines still had a monopoly on colour advertising over newspapers and television, but then the Sunday Times launched its colour supplement in 1962 and colour TV appeared in 1967, with Britain becoming the first country in Europe to offer regular programming in colour – four hours a week on the BBC. Two years later, both the BBC and ITV were regularly broadcasting in colour and 12 million households owned a colour TV set by the early 1970s.
These TV and newspaper trends saw off other weeklies, such as Tit-Bits and Weekend in the 1980s. It’s been a similar story for women’s weeklies. In 1959, market leader Woman was selling 3.2 million copies a week, alongside three other titles over the 1 million mark; today it’s less than a tenth of that at about 250,000. Of course, new titles have come along with market leader Take a Break was selling 1.2 million in 1990; today its ABC sale is half that figure.
>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016, V&A Publishing)
The A.G. Nauta fashion blog has put together a nice sequence of Isabella Blow photos from magazines, including pages from the 1993 London Babes feature shot by Steven Meisel and conceived by Blow – the fashion muse’s brother has described it as the most expensive Vogue shoot of the era.
The blog quotes Blow, who wore some astounding creations from the likes of Philip Treacy – you have to see them live to really appreciate them:
Why the hats? To keep everyone away from me. They say, Oh, can I kiss you? I say, No, thank you very much. That’s why I’ve worn the hat. Goodbye. I don’t want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love.
Most of today’s tabloid newspapers were founded by magazine barons – the Mail, Express and Mirror. The exception is the Sun, but it is well aware of the selling power of its supplements, so much so that when parent company News UK closed down the News of the World in 2011, its Fabulous magazine was moved across to the new Sun on Sunday when the daily started coming out on Sundays six months later.
Last Sunday’s edition plastered images of the supplement across the front page to promote five covers devoted to the members of boy band One Direction: Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, with a fifth cover of the boy band members together. There was similar marketing online and the special 1D magazine was also pushed in the Sun on the previous four days. The aim is to attract younger readers – and hopefully get people to buy more than one copy of the paper. It’s a strategy that appears to pay off – sets of the five One Direction magazines have sold on eBay for up to £49.99! A classic piece of brand marketing using popular celebrities.
The promos in the paper read:
With Zayn Malik’s departure and the decision to take a break in 2016, it’s been a tumultuous year for One Direction. In this week’s Fabulous, Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam reveal how they reacted when Zayn quit the band, what they plan to do with their time off and why this is definitely not the end for 1D.
There are also five covers to collect – share yours with us using the hashtag #Fabulous1D!
Don’t miss Fabulous, free with The Sun on Sunday. For more, go to Fabulousmag.co.uk
Magazines like this also allow the paper to focus on a specific part of the readership – presumably teenage girls in this case. It’s a strategy that the Mail on Sunday has played really well over the years with its women-focused You supplement and the Financial Times with its How to Spend It monthly for millionaires. Yet, when Fabulous was launched, former Guardian editor Peter Preston argued in a column that it was too far removed from the paper’s main readership.
Here’s one of the covers – but don’t ask me who it is!
>>>Britain’s national newspapers profiled
Can this have been what the designer wanted to do with this Woman’s Own cover from 19 May 1955? The cover from the ‘national women’s weekly’ certainly focuses on the ‘playtime jacket’ cardigan being modelled by Dawn Addams, a British film star. But the masthead covering the actress’s face looks crude.
Her eyes peer just between the letters, but the magazine photographers usually famed the cover model to allow space above or had the title covering just part of the head, as in the cover design below from two weeks earlier.
Dawn Addam’s career is summed up by IMDB: ‘Maybe because her beauty was too smooth or because her acting talents were limited or both, [Addams] had an undistinguished film career, in which second-rate pictures far outnumber quality ones.’ Inside the May 19 Woman’s Own, she is shown with her baby son, Stefano. She was married to Prince Vittorio Massimo of Italy.
For the weekly magazine Woman in 1987, cover star Joan Collins was the world’s biggest sex symbol and ‘The greatest glamour queen of them all’.
Collins – or Dame Joan as she now is – had been a cover model and film actress since the 1950s but her career was brought back to the boil when she landed the role of Alexis Carrington in a struggling US soap opera, Dynasty. She took the series by the scruff of its neck and made it into the biggest soap, overtaking Dallas and played the role for eight years.
Collins was nominated six times for a Golden Globe, winning the US TV acting award in 1983. In December that year, at the age of 50, Collins appeared on the cover of Playboy magazine, photographed by Hollywood glamour portraitist George Hurrell.
Thirty years earlier, she had starred in Cosh Boy, ‘the year’s most controversial film’, according to the 13 March front page of Answers – and the first to be given the new X certificate.
It’s difficult to see her popularity and longevity being surpassed, even by the likes of Madonna and Kate Moss.
Lilian Hocknell was renowned for her drawings of charming children, but nowadays it’s difficult to imagine children being dressed with so many perfectly-arranged woolly layers, as on the Home magazine cover above. But then I came across the wartime Woman’s World cover from 1940, below. And there it all is, 13 years later the complete outfit to knit at home on the cover of a weekly woman’s magazine! The only thing is, it’s for a boy.
It’s been a dire few years for the big magazine publishers with many closures. Yet, things could be worse – as they were soon after the outbreak of the Second World War. Just as householders ripped out their iron railings and every scrap of metal was collected up for the war effort, so was paper.
People went around recycling their magazines and newspapers – as portrayed in this Everywoman cover by Clixby Watson from 1942. Even local libraries donated their bound volumes. Another form of recycling was reusing – the public was encouraged to hand their old magazines in to Post Offices so they could be sent out to the troops, as had happened in the Great war.
By 1942, the amount of paper publishers could use was reduced to a fifth of what it was before the war! Page sizes were reduced, print runs reduced, the number of pages cut and weeklies became fortnightlies, but even this was never going to be enough.
So titles had to close. And dozens of them did. You can see a clue as to what was happening below the title on this cover Woman’s Pictorial cover from 1940:
And this one,
Home Journal, The Humorist and Bystander. Just three examples of the many magazines that were closed by publishers in just six months so they could meet their paper ration. And, look back above at the Everywoman magazine cover and you’ll see it had swallowed Woman’s Fair. There’s a particular poignancy in the loss of the Bystander, for that was the magazine that introduced Bruce Bairnsfather’s Old Bill cartoons – a great morale booster during the Great War.
The 1980s marked a decade of change in the way that celebrities were treated. Magazines, particularly the weeklies, became either more fawning – as in Hello! – or adopted the techniques of tabloid journalism, as in this new magazine, Celebrity.
The language of this profile is sensationalist, with words like ‘raunchiest’ and the aggressive, red-boxed quote:
I’ve been called a tramp, a harlot, a slut, and the kind of girl that always ends up in the back of a car
Of course, Madonna played up to this raunchy image as a singer and actress as a way of generating massive publicity. And many magaziness and newspapers were keen to play along. The strapline is a pun on Desperately Seeking Susan, the film with Rosanna Arquette that made her name in 1985.
Chilprufe was once one of the biggest British clothing makes – the name derives frim ‘chill-proof’. It favoured illustration for its advertising of babies in its clothes, and the artist of choice in the 1920s and 1930s was Lilian Hocknell (1891-1977).
However, by the 1960s the company had turned to other artists, as this illustration from Queen magazine in 1961 shows. Chilprufe’s sans-serif typeface is still vogue, however. Bonhams sold a set of 12 drawings in 2008 and Hocknell’s work is also held by the V&A.
I don’t know the 1961 illustrator, but it has a more ‘modern’ feel. Would it be more appealing to potential customers though? Compare it with the 1936 advert below and make your own mind up.
By 2012, Chilprufe’s Leicester factory was specialising in lingerie and knitwear but the 90-year-old firm closed that year and the name was bought up by Manchester Hosiery Manufacturing of Hinckley. Goods are still made under the brand and can be found online.