Vogue's vast archives make online leap from paper

Dec 26, 2011 by Robert MacPherson
A journalist is seen looking at the Vogue Magazine archive Internet site, in Washington, DC. Bookshelves groaning under the weight of every issue of American Vogue ever published since December 17, 1892, and there have been about 2,800 of them, can now heave a sigh of relief as an online Vogue Archive has been launched.

Bookshelves groaning under the weight of every issue of American Vogue ever published since December 17, 1892, and there have been about 2,800 of them, can now heave a sigh of relief.

Two years in the making, an online Vogue Archive is being pitched to fashion designers, photographers and stylists for whom rummaging through musty back issues for inspiration is an everyday part of the job.

"That's about 400,000 pages. It's everything," said Matt Dellinger, a writer and multimedia producer who directed the digital project for Vogue's publisher Conde Nast. "When you're looking at this, you're looking at the actual pages of the magazine ... exactly as they appeared."

At $1,575 a year, or the price of a Dolce and Gabbana lace and satin bustier dress at Net-a-Porter, enjoying instant access to nearly 120 years of a single magazine title doesn't come cheap.

"If you live in a New York City apartment, and were thinking of getting a subscription to Vogue's newly-launched archive site, how does not paying your rent for a month sound?" quipped the Fashion Bomb Daily style blog.

But in a telephone interview from New York, Dellinger said the archive's real value lies in how every photograph, every advertisement and -- so far from October 1988 -- every garment has been assigned a "tag" or search label.

In this file photo, an issue of Vogue magazine is seen backstage at a fashion shows in New York, in 2005. Bookshelves groaning under the weight of every issue of American Vogue ever published since December 17, 1892, and there have been about 2,800 of them, can now heave a sigh of relief as an online Vogue Archive has been launched.

"Most of our work was creating an index so that you can find (a particular) ad or a photo," he said. "That's kind of the special sauce here" because, with most online archives, only the text is searchable, if at all.

So someone looking for, say, a pleated dress by Balenciaga from an era when pleats were all the rage -- will be swept back to the September 15, 1939 issue and an otherwise hard-to-find crisp line drawing of a black number from the Spanish couturier.

Other searches reveal that over the years, Vogue has carried 12,406 references to "Chanel," 8,970 to "Dior," and 6,136 to "Yves Saint Laurent" unless you search for "YSL," in which case that number goes up to 7,381.

Graphs at the foot of the website reflect the ebb and flow of a particular trend. "Corduroy," for instance, literally goes off the charts in the 1910s, then subsides before its notorious comeback in the 1970s.

Calling up the very first Vogue ("a weekly magazine of fashion and society") finds the first cover girl to be an anonymous New York debutante. From London, a correspondent reported: "Dogs are the fashionable fad at the moment."

The word "supermodel" first appeared in the August 15, 1972 issue to describe the African-American model Naomi Sims. (Vogue was a weekly until 1912, then a biweekly, going monthly in 1973.)

But nothing's perfect: a search for "we don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day" manages to miss the October 1990 feature in which Linda Evangelista first uttered the infamous phrase.

Karin Bohleke, director of Shippensburg University's fashion collection in Pennsylvania, one of the biggest in the United States, said rummaging through back issues of fashion magazines is a key part of the creative process.

"You get the context. You see the evolution and development, you see parallels, things like that," Bohleke, author of a study of 19th century American and French women's magazines, told AFP.

Vogue's archrival Harper's Bazaar did not respond when asked if it might put its own back issues online, and there are no plans for similar digital archives of the British, French, Italian, Japanese or other editions of Vogue.

But a spokeswoman for Conde Nast in London said in an email that the publisher was monitoring the American Vogue project "with interest."

Explore further: LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Why do grotesque fashion ads lure consumers?

Apr 19, 2010

Women's fashion magazines are chock full of ads, some featuring bizarre and grotesque images. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, these ads are effective at grabbing consumers' attention.

Major layoffs loom at Time Inc.: reports

Oct 30, 2009

Time Inc., publisher of Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, People and other magazines, plans to lay off some 540 employees starting next week, or six percent of its workforce, The New York Post reported Friday.

Recommended for you

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

16 hours ago

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

22 hours ago

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...