Archive for the ‘women’s magazines’ Category

Blow by Blow in Vogue

November 20, 2015
Why the hats? ‘To keep everyone away from me, said Isabella Blow

Why the hats? ‘To keep everyone away from me, said Isabella Blow

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.

>>>Women’s glossy magazines


‘Fabulous’ pays off for the ‘Sun on Sunday’

November 12, 2015
The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

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

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!

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

>>>Britain’s national newspapers profiled

Magazine cover design: whatever happened to this Woman’s Own cover?

November 6, 2015
Woman's Own title covers the model's face on this cover from 19 May 1955

Woman’s Own title covers the model’s face on this cover from 19 May 1955

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.

Straightforward treatment for the title on Woman's Own two weeks earlier

Straightforward treatment for the title on Woman’s Own 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.

>>>Women’s weekly magazines


Joan Collins – the world’s top sex symbol

October 26, 2015
Joan Collins was the world's biggest sex symbol according to Woman magazine in 1987

Joan Collins was the world’s biggest sex symbol according to Woman magazine in 1987

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.

>>>The glamour of Joan Collins


Wartime woolly reality for Hocknell’s charming children

October 25, 2015
Lilian Hocknell and two of her charming children on the cover of Home magazine in March 1927

Lilian Hocknell and two of her charming children on the cover of Home magazine in March 1927

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.

The real thing - Hocknell's children come to life on the cover of Woman's World in January 1940

The real thing – Hocknell’s children come to life on the cover of Woman’s World in January 1940


When magazines dropped like flies

October 24, 2015
Recycling paper in the war, as shown on the cover of Everywoman magazine in January 1942

Recycling paper in the war, as shown on the cover of Everywoman magazine in January 1942

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:

Woman's Pictorial magazine cover from 1940 -wartime rationing had already started to bite

Woman’s Pictorial magazine cover from 1940 – wartime rationing had already started to bite

And this one,

London Opinion magazine's cover from September 1940 reveals that another magazine has closed

London Opinion magazine’s cover from September 1940 reveals that another magazine has closed

And another.

And even Tatler has swallowed upon of its venerable rivals. This issue is from 1943 but the takeover took place in October 1940

And even Tatler has swallowed upon of its venerable rivals. This issue is from 1943 but the takeover took place in October 1940

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.

Madonna’s belly button – the ‘world’s most exploited’

October 19, 2015
Madonna feature in the first issue of Celebrity Magazine in 1986

Madonna feature in the first issue of Celebrity Magazine in 1986

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 and Lilian Hocknell’s babies

October 7, 2015
Chilprufe advert from Queen magazine in 1961Chilprufe advert from Queen magazine in 1961

Chilprufe advert from Queen magazine in 1961

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.

Lillian Hocknell advertising illustration for Chilprufe children’s clothing. From Mother magazine 1936 – note the spelling error

Lillian Hocknell advertising illustration for Chilprufe children’s clothing. From Mother magazine 1936 – note the spelling error

Needlecraft and the craft of the magazine

September 12, 2015


‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

Needlecraft. Now there’s a topic I know next to nothing about. As children though, we sat around a table every Christmas with a tablecloth that had been decorated with colourful robins and holly by my maternal grandmother. She had been in one of the Dublin orphanages run by nuns where the girls were trained to make and repair linen for the city hotels and later worked as a seamstress for a tailor in Prescot, just outside Liverpool. Her fingers could do magic with a needle.

It was a world of tracing and transfers, often found free in magazines such as Needlewoman. Magazine formats like this were pioneered by Samuel Beeton – husband of cookery’s Mrs Beeton – with the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine from 1852. Beeton’s Book of Needlework was published in 1870 (though Isabella was just a brand name by then, having died five years earlier). The quality of work such magazines encouraged is superb, as I saw when leafing through copies of the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine at the V&A’s National Art Library when researching my forthcoming book on magazine design.

Needlewoman magazine was printed and published by Tillotsons in Mealhouse Lane in Bolton. The company also had an office at 23 Fleet Street in London, where it used an advertising agency, Sells Ltd. The magazine was probably an offshoot of the Bolton News group, certainly the paper was founded by the Tillotsons and based in Mealhouse Lane from 1860.

The illustration for the ‘Mother Christmas’ cover above is reminiscent of the work that would usually be seen on Vogue at the time, but is not credited. One of the projects inside, a fish-shaped bag, seems in contrast to Christmas theme cover, but provides a superb graphic spread with the same-size pattern (one half of the spread is shown here). This was the Art Deco era. How many of these bags were made up I wonder?

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman merged with Needlecraft Practical Journal to become Needlewoman and Needlecraft, which was published into the 1970s. Copies are regularly traded on eBay and at craft fairs. Craftylittlebugger is one of the many people inspired by such magazines, whose contents are finding a new lease of life. Her wartime copy of Needlecraft shows a ‘beautiful bit of bias binding’ that caught her attention. Her issue is just over A5 in size – half the page size of my 1925 issue because of wartime paper rationing – but, as Craftylittlebugger says, it ‘packs quite a punch’.

Magazines from Bolton are rare, but in the 1920s Lancashire was still at the heart of the cotton and spinning industry and there were big advertisers such as Clark’s whose marketing for ‘Anchor’ thread below would have been vital it keeping the magazine profitable. The Anchor thread brand is still going as part of the Coats group, which traces itself back 250 years to the Clark brothers and weavers in Paisley, Scotland. The wealth of Lancashire from the industrial revolution was on display this year at 2 Temple Place in the Cotton to Gold exhibition.

Colour advert for Clark's 'Anchor' thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

Colour advert for Clark’s ‘Anchor’ thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

These crafts have made a huge comeback, and magazine publishers have spotted the trend. Hachette found itself in a ‘crochet part work hell’ a few years ago when it misjudged demand for its Art of Crochet part work. Copies of the Art of Crochet now sell on eBay for up to £5 each and individual patterns for £1. The century-old Woman’s Weekly has produced a Vintage View spin-off carrying past articles and Pretty Nostalgic is now in its fourth year of publication and has built up an industry around itself.

One of the Needlewoman articles carries the quote: ‘The thing of beauty is a joy forever’. How true.

One for the magazine collector

August 15, 2015

I spoke to James Hyman last year who runs the Hyman Archive and I send people there when they start thinking they have a problem storing their magazine collection. This is just a great picture (and links to a video from his website):

James Hyman in his archive - happy as a...?

James Hyman in his archive – happy as a…?

Hyman has 50,000 magazines. My collection is trivial compared with this, but then I do say I spend my time trying not to collect magazines. I look for evidence of change and watersheds in the industry. However, even if I were to have just the first, last and one other copy of every one of the 7,000 titles published in Britain today, that would be 21,000 magazines!  And in that context, even Hyman’s archive is just a toe in the water.

Take the monthly fashion glossy Vogue, just the British edition, first published in 1916.

Vogue from 1918 - beware, it's bigger than it looks

Vogue from 1918 – beware, it’s bigger than it looks

That’s 100 years of a monthly. So, you think, 100 x 12 magazines = 1200. At 25 in a box, that’s 48 boxes. Manageable. But then you discover that Vogue came out pretty much twice a month into the 1970s (notice the dateline on the one above – late May 1918). So it turns out you need 80 boxes, each with a footprint larger than A4. Have you ever tried moving a box of 25 Vogues? Believe me, you won’t want to do it very often.

And that’s before you discover the spin-offs, such as Vogue Knitting and Vogue Beauty (which were merged into the main magazine because of paper rationing during the wars). Surely you will be tempted by a few French, Italian, US and Japanese issues? (Don’t be – there are 125 different editions; I think one of the Indian issues was the biggest, the thickness of a telephone directory.) But you’d have to let in the classy 1960s Men in Vogue (luckily it was only two or four times a year for five years). Then what about Men’s Vogue (again, didn’t last long)? The dress patterns? Media packs? Band-on supplements? Cover gifts? – the tacky flip-flops, beach bags and paperbacks really mess up the 25 in a box plan.

Before you know it, the collector in you has amassed 5,000 magazines, is still only halfway to satisfying that acquisitive urge – and that is just one title.

So, before you get into too much deep paper, do a bit of planning. Limit your storage space, and, once it’s near full, adopt a one-in, one-out strategy. Don’t use wine boxes because a full wine box will be too heavy to lift 10 years from now; also, the weight will flatten the spines of perfect-bound magazines such as Vogue. Keep them downstairs. But do use sturdy boxes so they don’t fall apart, offer some protection when dropped (I once had a wall of shelves full of magazines collapse on me at college) and can be sealed to keep out spiders, insects and mice.

If you collect more than one magazine, how are you going to arrange them? By date? By title? By sector? Depends on why you want them and plan to use them. Be careful of individual storage bag sizes if you plan to store them that way – but watch the pages don’t catch on the bag’s sticky sealing strips as they come in and out. Also, the bags slide off each other very easily, so the magazines can’t be just piled up. Do store them well though, because the condition is so important when you come to sell them.

Finally, you’ll want to catalogue them. I have 3 essential lists, all 2.5Mb-2.9Mb wordprocessor files with basic facts such as title, date, price, publisher and editor, along with notes about writers, designers, illustrators, unusual features, etc. And if you want to trade, don’t forget sources and prices. My files aren’t online (total lack of planning), but the saintly Phil Stephensen-Payne and his Philsp website are an absolute boon for research into the contents of so many magazines.

You’ll find some more (hopefully useful) comments on my Magazine Collecting page.

In the meantime, I find myself asking myself: why haven’t I taken my own advice? Happy collecting.


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