Courtauld Magazine Exhibit 2017

Explore images and texts from the 2017 exhibition ‘Reading Fashion Magazines: A Display Celebrating the History of Dress Journals Archive’ below!

Curated by Dr Elizabeth Kutesko and History of Dress MA students, 2016/17: Sophie Assouad, Barbora Kozusnikova, Yona Lesger, Mia Matin, Dana Moreno, Harriet Nelham-Clark, and Jamie Vaught.

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Readdressing the Courtauld’s Collection of Fashion Magazines

In celebration of our recently catalogued History of Dress journals archive at the Courtauld, this display explores the fashion magazine – as seductive image and tactile object – using items from the Book Library’s Special Collections. Ranging from the early- to late- 20th century, the rich meanings of the fashion magazines on display are twofold. Not only do they project the tastes, attitudes and conventions of the decade in which they were produced, but their materiality dictates the ways in which fashion has been consumed and thus, shaped shifting ideals of dress, body and identity. The interconnected processes of looking, seeing, being, feeling and wearing prompted by the fashion magazine are crucial in extending our study of images of dress in more nuanced ways, beyond straightforward semiological or significatory approaches.

Each magazine in this display has been chosen by a current History of Dress MA student, as an example of a key moment in the development of the genre. Particular attention has been paid to the fashion magazine as both a two-dimensional visual image and three-dimensional material object. By shifting the analytical focus away from visual content alone, the students have explored the subjective, embodied and sensory interactions that are inextricably entangled within the fashion magazine. As their magazine choices and corresponding writings demonstrate, the materiality of these sensual objects prescribes the embodied conditions of viewing, prompting responses in the viewer that are simultaneously optic and haptic. These visual and material forms of presentation are crucial to the way in which fashion has been experienced by viewers – who are inescapably also wearers – across space and through time, as image, object, text and idea intertwined.

The display begins with a March 1914 edition of Gazette du Bon Ton, the influential French fashion publication that was produced on thick, textured paper with hand-applied pochoir illustrations, and concludes with a glossy March 1986 issue of British Elle. It therefore encompasses physical change in the medium of the European fashion magazine throughout the twentieth century, whilst situating our contemporary fascination with these active and reciprocal objects from the perspective of dress historians researching and writing from within an art historical institution.

Text by Dr Elizabeth Kutesko

For more information on each magazine, please see the essays below:

Gazette du Bon Ton, March 1914

Für die Dame, January 1927

Harper’s Bazaar, October 1940

Femina, December 1947- January 1948

Femina, October 1951

Vogue Paris, April 1976

Elle UK, March 1986