Words by Leah Hocking
When Vogue was bought by media conglomerate Condé Nast in 1909, it was transformed from a weekly journal for the upper-class into the infamous women’s fashion magazine that we all know and love today. As one of the best-selling fashion magazines, Vogue has taken the fashion world by storm for well over a century; predicting the most up and coming trends, influencing modern pop culture, and revolutionising the publishing industry on more than one occasion. To celebrate the history of Vogue and its lasting impact on the fashion industry, let’s revisit some of the magazine’s most iconic covers to date:
For arguably one of their most iconic covers, American Vogue placed the first colour photograph of a woman holding a beach ball on this July cover in 1932. This innovative move ended Vogue’s long-standing tradition of illustrated covers by replacing them with photographs, ushering in the widespread decline of fashion illustrations in magazines throughout the following decade.
Photographed on the set of her 1965 film ‘Lady L’, Oscar-winning Italian actress Sophia Loren graced this July cover at the height of her fame in the 1960s. Along with featuring one of the first celebrities to appear on Vogue, the unconventional cover-lines introduced a more minimalist style which has since become an integral part of Vogue’s aesthetic over the years.
Beverly Johnson made history in 1974 when she became the first black model to appear on the American cover of Vogue, which has since been hailed a historical moment for the magazine and at the time led to a greater prominence of people of colour gracing fashion magazines in the 70s. Along with launching Johnson’s modelling career into stardom, this cover also paved the way for supermodels such as Iman, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks.
Anna Wintour broke all the typical Vogue conventions for her first cover as editor of American Vogue in 1988. This issue starred 19-year-old model Michaela Bercu wearing a Christian Lacroix jacket and a pair of Guess jeans – the first time a model had worn jeans on a Vogue cover. The picture itself was also less polished and elegant than those featured on Vogue previously, featuring a more natural, candid photograph with Bercu’s hair blowing in the wind and her eyes squinting at the sun. Wintour has stated that this cover is one of her favourites, as it signalled a fresh change in direction for the magazine.
To mark the beginning of a new decade, this British Vogue cover featured a handful of the up and coming models of the time: Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista, all of whom came to epitomize the 90s supermodel era. This cover also landed the girls a spot in George Michael’s music video for ‘Freedom! ’90’, directed by no other than David Fincher.
The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle guest-edited this 2019 cover, making it the first co-edited September issue of British Vogue. Titled ‘Forces for Change’, this cover celebrates a variety of female trailblazers, including climate-change activist Greta Thunberg, one of the magazine’s youngest cover stars, and Laverne Cox, the first trans person to feature on a British Vogue cover. This issue was also the fastest-selling issue in British Vogue’s history, selling out in 10 days.
For this momentous July issue during the Covid-19 pandemic, British Vogue ditched its usual model and celebrity cover-stars for a group of 3 key-workers – a midwife, a train driver, and a supermarket assistant. This cover pays tribute to the many courageous workers on the front line during the pandemic and is sure to be an issue which goes down in history.
Among the slew of Coronavirus-related Vogue covers, Vogue Portugal featured models Bibiána Baltovičová and Adam Bardy kissing through their face masks. If you didn’t see this cover being reposted all over Instagram last year with captions like ‘goals’, where were you?
Singer Harry Styles made history by becoming the first man to appear solo on the cover of American Vogue in December 2020. Dressed in a lace Gucci gown and a black tuxedo jacket, Styles exemplified the blurring of gender lines when it comes to fashion, leading to much praise but also some controversy online. But it’s Harry Styles, so what’s really to criticise, right?
Vice-President Kamala Harris made history by becoming the first female, first black, and first Asian-American VP in American history. Despite her historic achievements, this February issue sparked controversy online as some claimed it was ‘too casual’ due to her wearing a pair of Converse trainers, with others stating it was poorly lit and ‘disrespectful’ to the VP. In response, Vogue released a digital version of the cover which depicts Harris in a Michael Kors pantsuit standing against a gold background.