Vogue Covers 1909 – 1940: my favourite art book

The Art of Vogue Covers 1909-1940
The Art of Vogue Covers 1909-1940, with and without dust-jacket (with famous illustration by Eric on the right)

This book is one of my favourite things in the world. It’s what I’d save if the house was burning down. I bought it at when I was studying at Morley College – an old student had donated her book collection, and we had a little sale with the proceeds going to Haiti (it was just after the earthquake there). It was a bit of a free-for-all  so when I saw the spine of this one peeking out I grabbed it and held on tight!

It’s a book of selected Vogue covers from 1909-1940 (did you know that Vogue was a weekly publication until 1973?).  Every page is phenomenal, the colours are intense and the illustrations beautiful. Covers were much simpler then – obviously there was no cover model photo, but there was also no headlines except the name of each edition, which are charmingly described as ‘numbers’ – ie. ‘winter sports number’, ‘spring fashions number’, ‘millinery number’.

The earliest covers show ladies with massive hats and long elegant lines. 




Vogue Covers from the 1910s

There’s more under the cut, as I’ve uploaded about a million photos of this book, I love it so much. It doesn’t seem to be very rare – there are copies going on Amazon UK for for £11.50 upwards. If you like vintage fashion, you should definitely get yourself one!

Helen Dryden’s first covers start in the 1910s. She drew for Vogue over 13 years, and I love her style. I wish it was easier to buy prints of these works. The four below are all by her, from 1917. I love the lady in the red Chinese jacket, top right, reading a book under a tree by a thatched cottage.

Vogue covers Helen Dryden 1917

My favourite covers are the ones from the 1920s. They’re a great view of how fashion changed over the decade.

The covers above are all by Georges LePape, an art deco illustrator. I love the scalloped yellow dress (or is it a top and skirt?) on the left.

This are from the end of the decade, 1928. Lots of close-fitting cloche hats and cropped hair.

1920s Vogue Covers by Benito

These Art Deco heads are all by Benito, who was famous for this style, inspired by Picasso and Modigliani, and the Cubist style. Imagine seeing something this striking on a Vogue cover today.

This is the last set of covers in the book, from 1940 and drawn by ‘Eric’ (Carl Erickson),  with an ominous note of war on the left. In the 1940s Vogue started to use photographic covers almost exclusively. I wish they still did some illustrated covers, but I guess they need the latest model/actress/whoever on the front to shift copies.

Vogue do have an amazing feature on their website where you can see every cover from every year (from 1916 onwards). Also, if you like fashion illustration, Paper Doll Girls on etsy sell tons of it taken from vintage magazines. It almost seems a shame to rip up old magazines to sell them, but I guess it means that more people can enjoy them.

I’ve saved the most WTF cover in the book until last – it’s a woman in furs spearing a polar bear to death (seriously), by Georges Lepape.   I’ve cut off the year by mistake, but I think it’s from the late 1900s. Strangely enough it’s an ‘Earl August issue’, so it’s not even seasonal. What was going on there, Georges? Just having a bad day?

Vogue cover, polar bear killing

Can’t see that selling many magazines today. Although maybe Italian Vogue could get away with it – they specialise in tasteless photo shoots.


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