Harper’s Bazaar March 1919

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Fig. 4, Maria Belen, (1919), Harper’s Bazaar Cover [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/546131892284781290/ [Accessed 04 March 15].

Extract from a thesis written by Sofia Arvanius for her final year studying for a BA in Visual Communication titled How has the image of women changed over time in the fashion magazine industry in America, looking specifically at the covers of the US magazine, Vogue, between the years of its first publication in 1892 until the present day?

According to Marnie Fogg in her book Fashion: The Whole Story, Erte was a designer and illustrator commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar from the 1910’s up until 1938. His first cover of Harper’s Bazaar was published in 1915. Figure 4 shows his cover the Seven Seas published in March 1919. A statuesque woman is standing to the left of the cover clothed in a highly detailed dress, shawl and hat. A bird is flying away from her arm to join the flight of other birds. The day is just breaking. (Fogg, 2013)

Erte was known for creating female archetypes such as the Assyrian princess, Egyptian queen, ingénue and siren. The woman in fig. 4 is clearly following Ertes’ earlier work. She is presented in a powerful pose, appearing to be wealthy based on the material and intricate nature of her clothing. There is a futuristic theme to the illustration evident in the various elements of the dress. Underneath the draping of the gown, a workman-like bodice is attached to the hat designed in the style of a flying helmet. The illustrated birds on the cover seek to reinforce the futuristic theme of the cover. Erte uses the birds to represent aeroplanes, which he described as ‘great instruments of progress’. The illustrator wanted this illustration to portray that women are ‘facing the sunrise of a new world era’. (Fogg, 2013)

Unlike the cover of Vogue in fig. 3, which shows an image of a pretty and delicate woman, the image of the woman in fig. 4 is very different. The Harper’s Bazaar cover is telling us that times are changing for women. World War 1 has just ended the year before the publication of this cover. (EyeWitness, 2013) This cover is implying that women are about to gain more power. This is interesting considering that a year later women gained the power to vote in America, gaining more political freedom, social welfare benefits, career opportunities as well as more status next to men, among other things. (Lee, 2001)

Fogg, M (2013). Fashion: The Whole Story. London: Thames and Hudson. 111.

Lee, M (2001). What Effect Did Women’s Suffrage Have on the Politics of the 1920’s?. Available: http://classroom.synonym.com/effect-did-womens– suffrage-politics-1920s-10875.html. Last accessed 10 Nov 2014.