While the rising demand definitely helped launching new fashion magazines in the last few years, the crisis pushed many others to close down.
The high costs of fashion books that usually require quite a lot of images possibly in colour also caused publishers to reduce the number of volumes dedicated to fashion related matter in more recent years.
I love reading and, despite the Internet offers a quick fix to the needs of many reading addicts, the fragile state the publishing industry is lying in has been one of my preoccupation for a long time now.
A while back I decided to do a little research about early fashion publications to see if centuries ago things were a little bit better for what regarded works about fashion and this post is a sort of summary of my research.
The first books about fashion and trends were produced in the XVI century and, though they were mainly about the costumes and traditional attires of various populations all over the world, they featured quite a few interesting illustrations.
Enea Vico was the first author to represent through 98 illustrations the costumes worn by various populations across the world in the Diversarum gentium nostrae aetatis habitus (Venice, 1558), further examples of such volumes are Ferdinando Bertelli's Omnium fere gentium habitus (Venice, 1563) and Jean Jacques Boissard's Habitus Variarum Orbis Gentium (Malines, 1581).
In 1590 Cesare Vecellio published in Venice Habiti antiqui et moderni di tutto il mondo, a rather interesting volume since the author illustrated and described the costumes with great precision.
Throughout the first half of the 1600s more collections of illustrations were published: Giacomo Franco published in 1610 in Venice Habiti delle Donne Venetiane (you can find further information about this volume also on the MetMuseum pages) and Habiti d’homeni et donne venetiane, both the volumes described the clothes worn in the 1500s.
Quite a few volumes dedicated to fashion and the upper classes were published in France a few years after, among them Jacques Callot’s La Noblesse (Nancy, 1624), Jean De Saint Igny’s Noblesse française à l’eglise (Paris, 1625), Abraham Bosse’s Jardin de la noblesse française and De Saint Igny and Isaac Briot’s Divesitez d’Habillements à la mode (Paris, 1630).
In the second half of the 1600s this sort of publications were in decline and images of costumes occasionally appeared only in almanacs, books about travelling or biographies.
In the 1500s and the 1600s fashion trends were dictated by the courts and followed by a small group of people, but things changed in the following century.
The attention for costumes and fashion was indeed revived in the 1700s: Antoine Watteau published Figures de modes (Paris, 1706-1710) and, a few years after, Antoine Hérriset released Recueil des différentes modes du temps (Paris, 1729).
Hubert François Bourguignon (1699-1773), better known as Gravelot, published instead a lot of incisions after his return from England that allowed English fashion to reach France.
Yet the main aim of these volumes of illustrations was mainly cultural, so the early volumes did not contribute to spread any particular fashion trends.
In the second half of the 1600s and in the 1700s fashion trends were indeed promoted by the so-called "poupées de mode" or "piavole de Franza" (French dolls) who were dressed according to the French fashion and were supposed to help spreading Parisian trends all over Europe.
In Carlo Goldoni’s Memorie, though, the writer recounts that, by mutual agreement, the Venetian tailors dressed the dolls according to their taste.
This was confirmed by the fact that two particularly popular trends in Venice, the polonaise and the mariage, were unknown in Paris.
Apparently, this would happen since society was on the lookout for foreign fashion and trends (the same thing that is happening nowadays and that is actually impeding many young Italian fashion designers to actually enter the Italian market…), despite the fact that at the time there were strict laws punishing those tailors who imported fabrics from abroad.
The first fashion magazines appeared in the 1700s. Actually a few articles about fashion had already appeared in the Mercure Galant, a magazine launched by Jean Donneau de Visè in 1672.
The fashion articles published in this magazine between 1678 and 1679 were illustrated by images that could be considered as ads since they were accompanied by the names of the suppliers of the clothes and accessories.
Further fashion articles were published in 1729 and 1730 in the Mercure de France.
Magazines with proper fashion columns started coming out around the end of the 1700s, among them we should remember the Journal du Goût ou le Courrier de la Mode (Paris, 1768-1770) and The Ladies’ Magazine (England, 1770).
The first magazine entirely dedicated to fashion was the Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Françaises that started coming out from 1778 and was illustrated by many different artists.
From 1785, a new magazine became more popular, it was entitled Cabinet des modes ou les modes nouvelles. This quarterly publication was characterised by a handy format and a rather affordable price and it featured eight pages of news and literature and at least three fashion illustrations.
It was a very successful format and soon further magazines inspired by the Cabinet were published all over Europe, among them the Journal der Luxus und der Moden (Weimar, 1786), the Giornale delle dame e delle mode di Francia e d’Inghilterra (1787), the Giornale delle mode principali d’Europa dedicato alle dame italiane (Milan, 1787 and 1794) and the Giornale delle mode (Florence, 1788).
The fashion magazine La donna galante ed erudita. Giornale dedicato al bel sesso was published in Venice from 1786. It was edited by Gioseffa Cornoldi Caminier and was available from Albrizzi's, one of the oldest and most important Venetian bookshops.
Throughout the 1800s new magazines mushroomed and diversified finding new readers: sophisticated publications featuring fashion, art and literature articles were dedicated to the upper classes; magazines with pattern cuttings that could be copied or ideas on how to furnish one’s house were aimed at the middle-classes.
Adverts started appearing towards the second half of the 1800s; coloured illustrations were substituted with black and white images, alternated at the end of the century with fashion photographs.
Further magazines flourished also in Italy: the weekly Corriere delle dame, edited by Carolina Lattanzi, was published from 1804 to 1871 in Milan and included features and columns about literature, culture and even politics.
Fashion articles mainly focused French and at times Italian or Viennese trends (from 1815 to 1859 Milan was part of the Lombardy-Veneto Reign and depended from Vienna).
The Corriere delle dame closed in 1871 to be replaced by the Giornale della famiglia – La Ricamatrice.
In Milan La Novità – Giornale della moda e dei lavori femminili (1864-1895) and La Stagione (1882-1914) also became popular. From 1879, a new publication arrived, Margherita. Giornale delle Signore Italiane, a magazine that paid homage to Queen Margherita and that, in 1914, closed down converging into La Stagione.
Regina. Rivista per le Signore e le Signorine was instead published in Naples from 1904 to 1913. The magazine featured articles about culture, lifestyle and fashion columns.
From the First World War on, society and women in particular went through a dramatic transformation.
The demand for new and exciting fashion publications increased, while existing magazines either closed or had to change their contents in accordance with the transformations that had occurred in the society.
The Gazette du Bon Ton, a refined magazine about art and fashion directed by Lucien Vogel and illustrated by famous artists such as Lepape and Erté (who also worked for important fashion houses at the time such as Poiret’s) closed down in 1925, while Vogue, originally published for the first time in 1892, opened up to a wider audience.
New editions of Vogue were published in the States and in the UK and, from 1950, also in Italy.
Further publications were launched in the following decades, though the final revolution in publishing arrived in the last few years with blogs and websites about fashion mushrooming every single day all over the world and in many different languages, chronicling the fast changes fashion and society are going through.
Despite the choice is extremely wide, I still feel there is something missing for what regards fashion publications, for example intelligent fashion columns, commentaries that can provide us with more food for thought and fewer 'this is what you should buy'/'this is what you should wear' pieces.
Yet the latter are a direct product of our superficial, cultureless and consumer-led society and I guess that, unless we change, publications from all over the world will continue to be full of such short feats and columns.
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