a good vintage: on the shelf


A few of the older editions of US Vogue I still have - how I wished I kept more. As a child and as a teenager, I was fascinated and intimidated by fashion. They were windows to an aesthetically refined world, that bore very little relation to my everyday life of as a schoolgirl in uniform. They were an education in fashion, art, film and photography, and even now I can trace my preference for certain things back to them, even as I have come to see the aspects in which they are lacking.

It seems silly to some of my friends and family at first when they learn of my library of magazines, neatly shelved, arranged by title and year, tended carefully the way I tend to my novels and other books. But there's a difference between these magazines, and publications like Cosmopolitan, or Glamour, or Cleo. The photography is among the best - Irving Penn, Peter Lindbergh, Annie Leibowitz, Patrick Demarchelier, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton. There are pictures in there I would gladly frame up, and I love that such photography gems were available for a few dollars on newstands around the world, every month. Now that some of these photographers have passed on, I often think, why didn't I keep more of them?

Anyway I thought since I'm on a nostalgia trip - it must the end of the year making me sentimental for lost time - I would go through an issue thoroughly and see how I feel about these pictures a decade on.

This is one of the oldest issues I still have around, from April 1999. By then, my magazine habit was full-fledged - I didn't buy every issue but every month, I diligently went to Tower Books (just above Tower Records) and decided which titles were worth parting my pocket money with. (Tower Books and Tower Records were a browser's heaven, I spent hour in them choosing books, magazines, and music.)


I remember I loved the ball skirt and tank top look on the cover because I'd loved Sharon Stone wearing her then-husband's shirt with her Vera Wang ball skirt to the 1998 Oscars and I thought that was terribly glamorous and offhand at the same time. I've lost my taste for this look by now, but Sharon Stone's look? Still utterly timeless.

I loved this Ralph Lauren campaign with Gisele - the purity, the ease, the feel of luxury. I wonder whether a designer could build a luxury business now on such designswhen people can get the same looks at Zara and Uniqlo? The quality might be crappier, but not everyone cares.


This Liz Claiborne look is so very Ashley Olsen now -


I liked this editorial more for the mood than the clothes -


The Yohji look on the right, I'll always love. It's sculptural and easy, somehow -


There's also nothing especially interesting about the clothes in this editorial, but the all-American styling is a great frame for Lauren Hutton. These preppy, WASP-y editorials were very common in Vogue then.


Everything in this editorial of white shirts prove what a staple white shirting is (okay, as if we need anyone to tell us that). The actresses may not faded into obscurity, but the clothes live on.


This feature of the Star Wars prequel costumes was one reason why I bought this issue. I liked Star Wars as a kid and was pretty excited by the prequels. Who knew they would be so blah? The costumes were great though. Audrey Marnay is really working them.


The Fendi Baguette! Not an issue went by without one for at least two years, I think. For something hyped as a new classic, I think they look quite dated. What do you think?


Katherine Betts, who went on to a short-lived stint at Bazaar, created the Index section still found in the current Vogues.


I prefer the way Vogue does these shopping pages now, because they cram relatively less products on the pages and usually center it around a model or society It Girl so it doesn't look just like rows of product.

I really wanted one of these then. I wonder what happened to them?


There are lots more I haven't bothered to capture - including a timely article about how the new dot-com rich spend their money (this was before the tech bubble burst in 2000) and women working in the IT sector. Those really captured a portrait of the era: confident, optimistic, a shift from traditional sectors to the new. There was also a funny piece on being suckered by sample sales, and an essay by the legendary fashion journalist Amy Spindler, former style editor of The New York Times Magazine, on her battle with cancer. She died, but passed away in 2004 from a brain tumour.

I'm a tad surprised at how much of what I saw in the magazine I would still happily wear, although perhaps 12 years isn't all that long ago. Still, with the Kurt Andersen essay in mind, I feel like it's not a bad thing that not ALL clothes have evolved and innovated beyond recognition - surely sometimes good design endures to become a classic?

Which are the magazines that captured your style imagination?


catssaymeow said…
Hi Lin, ever since picking up my magazine collection from my parent's place I have been meaning to do some posts like this... I just can't find the time... This post is very inspiring for me!

To answer your question (and is going to seen totally vacuous compared to the magazine that started it all for you...) but the very first magazine which captured my style imagination was an issue of Cosmopolitan! Not so much the "articles" (of course not!) but rather the shopping pages. It was a time after highschool when I started going out to 'clubs' and 'discos' with my friends and the endless pages of dressy top, jeans and strappy coloured heel combos really kicked off my fashion obsession. I still have this issue somewhere... alas, unlike your experience there's not much pictured in that issue that I would still wear today :)
miss sophie said…
what a lovely post. i've a few very poorly looked-after issues of Vogue from the 90s in my bedroom in my parents' house, and how i do wish i had developed a habit of collecting the old issues when i was a teen! like you, i was fascinated by the editorials, repelled by some of the 'out there' looks, and intimdated by the mystery of understanding it all. ah, what a great look back on some of these enduring images!
Anonymous said…
Early polish Elle editions and sneaked Burda (German magazine) from 70s...
leclubdustyle said…
Elaine Constantine! How I love her editorials, always fresh, fun and full of movement.

For me it's always been about 1990s Harper's Bazaar, Liz Tilberis era. No other magazine managed to excite me as much after that.
lin said…
catssaymeow: I didn't actually come across magazines like Cosmo etc until much later (not to mention Cosmo was banned in Singapore until a few years ago for being too heavy on the sex talk). In terms of making me want to shop, Seventeen magazine did it for me, haha.

miss sophie: Considering how expensive the magazines were for me then, I'm appalled I didn't keep more. A few years ago, I actually bought an issue of Bazaar on ebay, that I loved but threw away. I still enjoy combing ebay hoping to come across an issue I really loved that doesn't cost a bomb.

Anon: Did you keep any of them?

aclubdustyle: Liz Tilberis was no longer at Bazaar by the time I started to read it so I missed out on her work, but I love her thread on tfs, and when I started getting interested in Peter Lindbergh I was so blown away by his that appeared appeared in Bazaar under her tenure. Thank goodness for tfs for keeping her work alive!

You've got me wondering what Elaine Constantine is doing now..
That image of Gisele in the white dress in the RL ad is beautiful. So perfect. That Sharon Stone look is unforgetable and good call on the Olsen/Claiborne. She's really picked up on the chicer aspects of 90's style. I used to enjoy Harper's Bazaar as a kid.
Anonymous said…
Sadly I got rid of most of it! as not much storage space.I kept only few pages, sadly Now I have a huge pile of UK Vogues and Elles and anlready worried how to store it properly???They are next to my books, equal to books:)
Anonymous said…
Thanks for this lovely review. I totally remember this issue - I had just moved to Korea and I brought this with me because I loved the Gisele-on-vacation editorial so much, which I plastered all over my walls. Dubious racial politics notwithstanding, you're absolutely right - there was just something about the mood that I couldn't let go of.
I'm really happy to find your blog and your thoughtful posts!
Petrichore said…
Thanks for the trip down memory lane! It's interesting to realize how much more body-conscious (read: tight) fashion has gotten in the intervening decade.....

jooooops said…
Ah! I thought it was only my family that kept old magazines. This brings me back to my high school years where I would bring Vogue to school while my friends would be Seventeen and they thought I was craaazy. And who could forget the Star Wars shoot? I love this set. It doesn't seem so long ago that this issue came out. Thanks for the throw-back. It brings a smile to my face.
Anonymous said…
When I was in high school, I had so many magazines under my bed, the legs of the bed didn't touch the floor.

But I don't regret chucking them all; I can't stand clutter. They will always be in a library, or, in the case of Vogue (and many of the French magazines I had), on the internet.
Ammu said…
You are making me wish I had held on to my Vogue issues from the 1990s! Still, four countries and multiple moves later, I suppose I see why I clipped a few articles and editorials and chucked the rest.
These pictures are beautiful - how gorgeous is Gisele? Just ridiculous ;)
I also loved Sharon Stone's Gap turtleneck and ball skirt look from the Oscars, I remember she wore a stunning pair of earrings. Today I suppose Caroline Herrera wears the white shirt with ball skirt look consistently and elegantly.
And yes, Tower Records rocked - such a fun way to spend an afternoon, with a stack of magazines and books and an iced coffee at the Coffeebean.
Anonymous said…
What a great tutorial! I like how well-kept these magazines look and what a wonderful collection you have.

I remember Tower Records.. that was so long ago!
lin said…
Pret a Porter P: When I picked up Bazaar, it was the Kate Betts years and I actually quite liked whats she was going. Bazaar under Glenda Bailey seemed promising for a while but in recent years it seems to have lost its way a bit.

Another 90s red carpet look I love is Nicole Kidman in Dior Couture, that chartreuse, chinoserie one. I loved that whole couture collection because it was so glamorous.

Anon (8.24): I've thrown out a lot, kept mostly some clippings, it's just not practical to keep them all I guess. I'm running out of space too...

Jenny: I can't think of too many travel editorials that was somewhat off in terms of racial politics...but that aside, I do have a weakness for them.

Thanks for the kind words abt my blog!

Petrichore: I'm quite glad the body-con thing has retreated a bit, but I;m pretty sure it'll be back!

Jooooops: My friends thought my Vogue habit was weird too. I liked Seventeen looking through actually, because it had all the clothes we couldn't get in Singapore, but Vogue really inspired me.

Anon (7.18): Yes, thank goodness for the people who scan edits on forums like TFS - I love looking through old issues, both the ones I know and love, as well as ones new to me. I can't stand clutter as well, but there are some issues I won't let go off.

Ammu: Haha practicality has to come first. I haven't had to move around much but at some point I had to throw out so many too.

Gisele looked so fresh, quite different from the glamazon image she acquired later, she looks so girlish here.

justeileen: I keep all my magazines shelved, like books, but I'm running out of space, haha.

Tower Records was the backdrop of my teenage years, I do miss those afternoons of checking out new albums and debating whether to part with precious money for them. They had such a great magazine selection for browsing too.
rachel said…
Wow! I remember a lot of these images. Totally took me back. Kate Moss always reminds me of my college years.
Maria said…
Woooow thanks for sharing! I once found a lot of 90s US Vogues at my local charity for 20 euro cents a piece, I can tell you I was happy for weeks. I would love to own these, all this easy luxury thing is right up my alley. Thanks for sharing again!
Anonymous said…
Love this post. That Gisele campaign was amazing. I have lots of Tilberis era Bazaars (totally agree about G Bailey - that magazine doesn't seem to have its own voice, although some of the novelty shoots are amusing) and boatload of 90s British Vogues. I also have a few Mirabellas from then. Their fashion was so idiosyncratic (90s minimal but with a lot of sculptural jewelry) and they really tried to create a thoughtful magazine that also had fashion and beauty editorial, which may be why it didn't last very long.

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