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A Century of Style

Posted on 24 February 2016

Vogue Logo
the prevailing fashion or style at a particular time, to mean popular or fashionable, to dance to music as to imitate the poses struck by a model on a catwalk, and of course, the most popular and influential fashion publication in the world.

British Vogue is turning 100. 

Jean Patchett by Clifford Coffin, Vogue Cover, July 1951

To celebrate its centenary the National Portrait Gallery will showcase the remarkable range of photographs that have been commissioned by British Vogue since it was founded in 1916. Vogue 100: A Century of Style is running from 11th February to 22nd May and will feature prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections being shown together for the first time to tell the story of one of the most important fashion magazines in the world.

First Vogue Cover - September 1916

Over the last 100 years the fashion industry, and society as a whole, have evolved considerably and Vogue has been there every step of the way. Founded in the middle of the First World War, British Vogue was the result of an American publisher, Condé Montrose Nast, shrewdly calculating that if American Vogue’s sales had quadrupled since 1914, then a British edition might also thrive on the news stands.

Cecil Beaton - Fashion is Indestructible

But it was during the Second World War that British Vogue established its character and proved how important it was, and is, to the fabric of society. The magazine was granted access to paper to increase its page number, despite strict rations, because it was considered highly important for morale. Photographers Cecil Beaton and Lee Miller worked what can only be described as magic and somehow transformed the ‘digging for victory’ mentality of the time into art, glossy images steeped in elegance and beauty, finding a niche amongst other publications.

Peter Lindbergh January 1990 Vogue Cover

It is this magic touch that has kept Vogue at the fore front of the fashion industry for the last century, capturing moments that have remained iconic parts of our culture; from supermodel Twiggy’s first cover in 1967 photographed by Ronald Traeger to Peter Lindbergh’s 1990 cover featuring the five biggest supermodels of the day.


Linda Evangelista by Patrick Demarchelier 1991

The magazine does more than creates an ideal world which we all desire to escape to, it allows us to indulge in luxury and elegance; it is optimistic and full of life. It creates a balance that has ensured its success over the last century; a balance between reality and fantasy. As current editor Alexandra Shulman puts it: “[British Vogue] allows people to indulge to some extent in a world that is not necessarily their own but something they enjoy looking at.”

Dakota Johnson Vogue February 2016

Vogue has become more than just a fashion bible, it chronicles fashion at each point in history, it captures who we are as people, or at least, who we aspire to be. It is a cultural record of our society.

In the end, British Vogue can be described no better than the way it was introduced way back in 1916: “‘the time has come' designers say, 'to talk of many things - of shoes and furs and lingerie, and if one flares or clings, and where the waist-line ought to be, and whether hats have wings’. They have confided in Vogue all the most intimate things about autumn fashions. Really and truly, such amazing things are going to happen to you that you never would believe them, unless you saw them in Vogue."

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