Vanity meets vogue in fashion magazines

As each seasonal change settles into its typical temperature, designers jump ahead to the next season and take fashion magazines with them. While sitting near a roaring fire and sipping cocoa, one stares blankly at glossy pages that display the latest in beachwear. In the midst of Independence Day and heat advisories, one is accustomed to cranking up the air conditioning as models sport the latest parkas and ski wear. This standard occurrence is known to spark new trends and old frustrations all at once.

Those who are not ready to gaze longingly at wool overcoats in the midst of July or bathing suit layouts in the dead of winter are the ones who are new to ingesting fashion magazines. Those who have been avid readers for years are accustomed to such trends.

However, one trend that these high-end fashion magazines do not take into account is that most of their readers are not the high society wives of overpaid husbands or independently wealthy heiresses, but typical college students who would love nothing more than to actually be able to afford the clothing and accessories pictured.

Junior Denise Moore, 20, said that she does not read a lot of fashion magazines because they lack celebrity gossip.

"I read People and The Washington Post," Moore said. "I love celebrity gossip."

Moore added that fashion magazines do not necessarily appeal to everyone physically and financially.

"Chances are I'd say, 'Oh that's nice - I can't afford it,'" Moore said. "I usually feel that the models are so skinny. I would just look at the pictures unless they had an article talking about clothes that make you look slimmer."

Freshman Brooke Peloso, 19, said she reads fashion magazines, but only those with substantial articles like Glamour.

"With a lot of fashion magazines I don't read the articles," Peloso said. "I just flip though [magazines like] Vogue. The stories seem a bit superficial, not really of interest, so I don't bother."

However, Glamour does pique her interest, which is why she buys it every month.

"The stories on the cover always get me," Peloso said. "I'm on my way to pay for something and I just pick it up. It's complete marketing."

The marketing tools that do not affect her as much are the advertisements.

"I like to look at the stuff in the magazines and keep it in mind when I go shopping, but I would never buy the $200 Gucci shoes," she said.

Fashion Magazines: Friend or Faux? Fashion magazines have been around for decades. They have brought haute couture to coffee tables and nightstands around the world, and many would argue that they, not designers themselves, set the trends. What they choose to feature between their pages is on everyone's list for the current and next season. Items have been known to sell out before ever reaching the shelves of stores due to the high demands of the masses who are in search of the next hottest thing.

"Fashion editors and other journalists are important players in the industry," said Bonnie Fuller, the editor for US Daily, in a Newsday article published in January 2003. "What they put in their pages influences what appears in the stores and what women are going to wear ... Fashion and style have really pervaded America's lifestyle. Fashion is part of pop culture."

And who better to perpetuate the ideas of pop culture than the generation that helped define and create the expression? It's become ingrained in our culture to live above our means in order to appear a little more comfortable than we really are, and what better way to display presumed wealth than on your sleeve?

Yet these magazines weren't created just to give those with average salaries a reason to be behind on their bills. The explosion of fashion magazines was primarily due to the merger of advertising and the selling of clothing: Fashion coverage was an added bonus.

"The belle of the ball is still fashion," said Belinda Luscombe, editor of In Style & Design, in a Newsday article published in January 2003. "It's the most dynamic area, and where most of the money is. Clothes can be made more quickly than buildings, and there is a bigger market for people who must dress themselves every day."

The most noted and coveted fashion magazines are Vogue, Teen Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, GQ, Harper's Bazaar, Lucky and In Style. Outside of In Style and Harper's Bazaar, all of these magazines are owned by Cond? Nast, Inc.

These publications have shaped the ideals of what is considered the latest in fashion and have affected the minds of teenagers across the globe.

Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue and the editorial director of Teen Vogue, has noticed that girls barely big enough to see over the edge of the catwalk are interested in what look is featured there.

"They see media coverage on television and in the weekly celebrity magazines," Wintour said in a January 2003 article in The New York Times. "They are so much more aware of what is going on in fashion than girls used to be."

Amy Astley, the Teen Vogue editor in chief, said parents who have had nightmares about their teenagers getting fashion advice from an icon of high-priced fashion should rest easy.

"I don't think it's relevant to their lifestyle or budget for teens to be wearing Gucci or Prada," Astley told The New York Times. "We want to show them looks and clothes they can afford."

Lucky magazine has a good display of designer look-alike items that could save the reader a few dollars without falling behind on the trends, much like Payless.

The layout of the "magalog," as it has been affectionately dubbed, features catalog-style layouts of clothing, shoes and other trendy items with price tags ranging from low cost to luxury. Purchasing information is displayed next to every item featured, which makes it easier for readers to decide on its worth. A page of stickers in each issue allows easy bookmarking of items, easy reminders to buy them later.

Yet, consumers are not as moved by Lucky's "magalog" style to actually buy the items that are featured. They are, however, more inclined to buy the publication to see what alternative spending options they have.

"I flip through Lucky," Peloso said. "I like the stickers, but I never bought anything because it was featured there."

"Although Lucky's circulation is smaller than competitors Vogue, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, its performance stands out because it has grown so quickly in such a short period," said Lisa Singhania in an article in the Daily Herald in April 2003. "Particularly impressive are its newsstand sales: Single-copy sales rose 21 percent in the last half of 2002, compared with the previous year, according to the Audit Bureau."

For all their worth, fashion magazines have carved out a space for themselves with the help of advertising, co-sponsored promotional events and capitalizing on the market of fashion-obsessed youth. Though they all claim that getting the newest tote bag for the season onto their glossy pages is their primary goal, it appears that they are all scrambling for the same advertising dollars.

What consumers should realize is that fashion magazines are first and foremost businesses and are in competition for ad sales that keep the magazine in print and consumers in the stores. It's quite the business - on the runway and off.

The decadent details of popular fashion magazines

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Glamour GQ Harper's Bazaar Vogue Lucky Vanity Fair
Fashion, health and dating tips for single women. Men's fashion and current events/ news of interest. Women's fashion geared towards a much more affluent reader. Stories about high-end fashion and spending, and advertisements for pricey items. Page after page of clothing and makeup laid out in a catalog format. Articles about celebrities, trendy places to be seen and artfully photographed subjects.
Women into looking and feeling good in the hopes of finding a mate. Metrosexuals who seek style and sophistication. High-society women with expensive taste. Chic women who want to stay on the cutting edge of fashion. Young women who are willing to spend lots or little to stay trendy. Women who have a lot of time on their hands to devour pages of advertisements and lengthy articles
Profile Clothing choices range from H&M to D&G, which means prices range from cheap to costly. Suiting and casual wear by designers Giorgio Armani, Prada, Gucci, Dior, Versace and the like. All high-end couture designers priced between the mid-hundreds to the low- to mid-thousands. Labels such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent scream wealth and frivolity, with costs up to the lower thousands for a hand bag. The clothing is trendy and stylish. Depending on what your budget is, you can acquire a shirt for under $50 or for close to $300. Prices for the clothing range from the mid-hundreds to the lower thousands with designers Saks Fifth Avenue and Burberry.
Cost $3.50 $3.50 $3.50 $3.99 $2.95 $4.50
cat5 The focus seems to be on makeup and dating tips. In some instances where clothes are pictured, only the prices of the beauty products are listed. It seems that Glamour's main goal is to put a woman into a Prada dress only to have a man help her remove it at night. GQ is one of the best and oldest men's fashion magazine. In a business surrounded by women's fashion coverage, GQ has set the standard for magazines like Details. It's the men's magazine that makes it cool to know more than just fashion's basics rules. Harper's has been in circulation for decades, making it one of the capstones of fashion coverage. There is a strong readership with informative articles about designers and celebrities, and layouts of the trendiest bags and shoes. It can be a guilty pleasure, as there are no substantive stories. Vogue defines fashion for many women since its creation decades ago. The name itself is a household one, and no other women's fashion magazine can compare to its in-depth coverage. With well-written articles, one not only gets to see the clothing but learn about them as well. Each issue contains pages of assembled outfits with prices and ordering information. There are no articles and the look is reminiscent of Seventeen. However, it's much easier to tote than catalogs with hundreds of pages; it also serves as a great reference guide to current styles. If Lucky has catalog-like qualities, then Vanity Fair has catalog-like girth. Each edition often contains over 400 pages, most of which are beautiful advertisements. The articles seem to be well-reported and quite lengthy.
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