Out of Vogue
By KATHARINE WHITEHORN
PUTTERING about in a Hertfordshire bookshop the other day I picked up a couple of dusty old volumes . . . that sort of remark usually heralds the discovery of a rare edition of Leviathan or a remote social document with a name like Ye Compleat Husbandrie.
What I actually found '4`ts• bound copies of the Vogue of ten years ago the Compleat Gentlewoman 1949-50. And a lenlote social document is exactly what it was. L.Seinaparelli said that fashion consisted of autiful things which become ugly; ten years is Bust the wrong length of time for appreciating this w211 any pleasure. It is too soon for the clothes have a period charm; too long ago for one t- be able to imagine oneself ever liking them. t, Is the small things which shock one most. One en" just manage to realise that hems were once l "ger and shoulders heavier: but for some reason it is almost impossible to imagine that one ever liked different shoes. The faces of the models were different ten 'rears ago. Two years after the New Look had made woman look more feminine again, the faces still seem, by present standards, both tough and e°nInion. The corsets were as plain as wash- boards compared to the current lacy-looking items; and the advertisements were obviously aimed at people who were not eager to wear them at all It doesn't hurt to be beautiful,' they Urged. There is a picture of an early false bosom; It IS pathetically small and frilly, and nothing ekPuld remind one more how the Monroe doctrine s blown out the female figure. Colours were handled very differently: `Brown,' said Vogue r 41171*. `Pink and Purple.' Nowadays it is Tor- ,.1°iseshell and Lilac and Vin Rosé and African violet (purple, indeed!). But the most interesting change is in the atti- tude to formality, which has shifted like a sand- bank. At first sight, the fashions seemed more formal: the photographs were more static, the women had a battened-down look, their hats were firmly in place, they kept their gloves on, there was nothing fly-away about any of it. Nowadays the models stand with their feet apart, they laugh if they can manage it, their hair blows about freely. Last month's Vogue even had a picture of a well-dressed girl being hauled about on the shoulders of four begrimed colliers.
But today's really magnificent pictures are more formal, not less : the great dressed heads of 1960 make the grande tenue of 1950 look almost slapdash. Partly it is presentation: since Richard Avedon in the memorable summer of 1957 suddenly got all his models on the move, had them laughing, running, blurring the outline of their clothes and flickering in the half-dark all over Paris, it has become a convention to make at least some of the pictures lively (the following year, everybody's models had their mouths open). It is likely, too, that the Vogue girl of 1960 expects herself to look chic more of the time: on the beach, in the kitchen, under the veteran car.
But the main point is simply the obvious one: that the present vogue in dressing is younger than it was. This is a general fact for all the glossies, since the young things have more spend- ing money these days—and since Brigitte Bardot; in Vogue's case it is the crucial fact.
It is no secret that Vogue, by dropping to 2s. 6d., coming out oftener and filling its pages with things like jazz, little-girl dresses and young male models, is aiming at the vast teenage spend- ing potential for its advertising. But just at the moment it is in a serious state of confusion. It —Harper's. Bazaar, too—used to work on a suc- cessful formula that was the exact reverse of the normal woman's magazine prescription. Vogue knew perfectly well that the 160,000 or so women who bought it did not winter in Bermuda, entertain Princess Margaret or change into jewelled pinafores for dinner at home: but the gimmick was to pretend that they did; they relied on a woman feeling deliciously included in a world smarter than her own. Now they have the job of adapting this formula to the teenager— or at least to the young woman—and at the same time convincing her that Vogue is not remote, stuffy, unobtainable. This has some odd results, in phrases like `Now that there arc no debutantes proper there are more girls whose mothers think of them as debs' (implication : 'You, too'). And the New Year issue gave us, as an example of something off-beat and new, our dear old friends the fried grasshoppers and chocolate-covered ants, who have been crawling around the pages of other magazines for nearly two years now. Vogue has recently switched editors as well as policies, by acquiring Ailsa Garland from the Daily Mirror; it will be interest- ing to see how it all works out.
In the meantime, there is another trend to con- sider. In the old copies I was looking at, there were occasional pages that contained something other than clothes—but most of the emphasis was on appearance. Look at today's glossies (especially, of course, the Queen), and you see articles about painters and refugees and Russia and archaeology and Tennessee Williams. True, People are Talking About never meant people are thinking about, but it's a start.
In one of my ten-year-old Vogues I found that classic and superb article by Marghanita Laski on the nature and habitat of the Intellectual. Many of the intellectuals' habits are unchanged : they still have some very expensive and some very cheap cosmetics, they still avoid fashionable resorts, they still don't polish their taps. But in some ways the picture has dated. They are less sure where they stand about television; their gardens less consistently full of nettles. It would need an article on Intellectuals Revisited from the same pen to cover the matter. accurately : but my impression is that gracious living is creeping up on the intellectuals, just as some form of thinking is creeping up on gracious living. I doubt if Horizon and the old Vogue had many readers in common; but people who read Encounter are not above reading the Queen. It is smart, these days, to be smart.