Fashion magazines demand to be judged by their covers. A mysterious alchemy of glossy photography, inspired styling, and graphic design that somehow perfectly captures the zeitgeist, the magazine cover is at once timeless and also a precise reflection of right now. The fashion magazine – so often erroneously seen as merely superficial – is a significant window into the current cultural mood. Throughout its storied 100 years of publication, L’Officiel has produced more than 1,000 covers that, when viewed together, are a crash course not just in the history of fashion but also our modern moment. As each decade develops its own unique stylistic personality – drawing on fashion trends from previous cycles while forever searching for what’s new, and always reflecting shifts in social attitudes – L’Officiel ’s covers, issue by issue, build a framework through which to understand the nature of the fashion system, changing trends, and society itself. From its early days as a chronicle of the burgeoning fashion industry in Paris, to its current position at the center of global culture, art, celebrity, and design, L’Officiel has always had its finger on the pulse of the present while eagerly anticipating the future. The covers of L’Officiel are significant markers of bygone eras in fashion, each encapsulating a shared moment in our cultural history and creating a visual timeline of a century of style. Please enjoy our highly subjective selection of our favorite covers by decade.
On July 20, 1921, L’Officiel de la Couture et de la Mode released its very first issue. The simplicity and refinement of the original cover encapsulates the magazine’s origins as a trade publication, created with the singular objective of protecting and promoting French fashion – and more importantly French elegance – without betraying its secrets. This same design appears on the first three issues of the magazine and features a simple red medallion depicting a couple as they stroll through a lush park, presumably in the fashion capital itself. Written across the cover in simple black lettering, “Organe de Propagande et de défense de toutes les Industries de la Nouveauté [Organ of Propaganda and Defense of all Novelty Industries],” elucidates the gravity of fashion to French industry and commerce. Although the original cover design was quickly usurped by more glamorous iterations, this first issue recalls L’Officiel’s initial conception as the official voice of all things French fashion.
Relishing the freedom and excitement coming from post-war Paris in the ’20s, the first decade witnessed by L’Officiel was a moment of cultural revolution. Modernity was the word on everyone’s lips, and women’s fashions reflected an avant-garde and increasingly liberated attitude toward life and style. This cover photo from April 1926, taken by the photographer Madame d’Ora, perfectly illustrates the pre-war trend for Eastern-inspired styles made popular by Paul Poiret and Jeanne Paquin, coupled with the post-war tendency toward ease and movement. The ensemble, designed by J. Suzanne Talbot, is named after the Roman military commander Titus, and here the model appears ready to conquer Paris in her black silk velvet dress and helmet-inspired head scarf with golden details and embroidery. At once mysterious, inviting, and luxurious, this is one of many L’Officiel covers that captured the unending possibilities of this exciting new era in fashion.
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