Vogue and Harper’s Baza(a)r December Holiday Covers

Vogue and Harper’s Baza(a)r December Holiday Covers

Happy Holidays to all Femme Fashion Forward readers! I decided to dedicate this post to the holiday season, and admittedly, primarily Christmas. I thought it would be interesting to compare holiday covers for Vogue and Harper’s Baza(a)z throughout the FFF timeline (1880-1930), and inevitably, the seasonal messages that were shown for December on major fashion magazine covers during this period were geared towards the celebration of Christmas if a specific holiday was mentioned.

Vogue and Harper’s Baza(a)r would also specifically publish additional “Christmas Gift” or “Christmas” editions around December.  For Vogue readers around 1911, an extra $0.25 could purchase this special gift guide that “Let Vogue do your Christmas Shopping,” as their ads proclaimed. Acting as a catalog, Vogue selected fashionable items from “the leading shops of New York,” and would deliver them to the reader as selected with no extra charge for delivery.  A foreshadowing of Amazon Prime? Not to be outdone, Harper’s Bazaar offered a similar holiday guide issue and gift ordering service.

I hope in analyzing the stylistic details of these covers from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar (and Bazar) there is something interesting for all to take away regardless of personal holiday celebrations, in terms of insight into the art world and society at large. Overall, I think you’ll enjoy the following fashion magazine covers for the month of December!



Vogue December 1892
Vogue, Dec. 1892

The issue of Vogue above is from December 1892. This also happens to be the very FIRST issue of Vogue that was published. The woman on the cover is described as a “debutante,” and this romantic interpretation was drawn by A. B. Wenzell, a popular artist of the era. Vogue fairly recently looked back on this issue in an article that compared its debut to features from this 2017. One of the comparisons the recent article draws is that Vogue today will still seek out well-known and popular artists to create their covers, although today of course it would be a photographer versus an illustrator. This cover is also pre-color covers, which was not yet common for many publications. Interestingly, there is no mention or allusion to the holiday season here. Perhaps as the inaugural issue, Vogue decided to lead with fashion as a statement of what readers could expect on a monthly basis, or maybe this is because the celebration of (and commercialism of) the holidays was not yet in its heyday.


Vogue December 1915
Vogue, Dec. 1915

As you can see in this issue of Vogue from December 1915, color is now an important component of the illustrated cover as well as gift giving, in this example of an additional holiday issue. This Christmas cover is more surprising in its color choice with colors that might seem to resonate more so with springtime than the usual bold red, evergreen, and metallics we typically associate with Christmas.  This design is by Robert McQuinn, an artist who created covers for other publications like Harper’s Bazaar, The New Yorker, and House & Garden. Stylistically, this is in keeping with other popular pochoir fashion illustrations of the time, like those by Georges Lepape and Georges Barbier. The gifts strewn on the bed are fashionably wrapped, and we can see that now it is not just the gift itself that is important, but the way it appeals when wrapped as well.


Vogue December 1930
Vogue, Dec. 1930

Keeping in mind this cover above from December 1930 is about one year after the stock market crash, the restrained and somewhat conservative design makes sense. The 30s began an era of returning to more traditional values for a period of time, with more formality in social settings and hemlines dropping back to the floor from the shin-bearing years of the 1920s. This woman on the cover holding a gift has a Grecian look to her dress. Not necessarily warm, but a classic design, which may have echoed the stability in classic forms and ideas that readers were seeking after a devastating year. The single gift in the “O” of Vogue may have been more tactful than a lavish display of gifts and food.


Harper’s Baza(a)r


Harpers Bazar 1894
Harper’s Bazar, December 1894

Yes, this is back before Bazar changed to Bazaar with an added “a,” and this appears to be another example of a holiday catalog-style edition. I liked that the design of this cover is very different from a lot of the Gibson girl types we usually see in the 1890s in tandem with fashion. This to me looks more like early Art Nouveau (more natural forms and organic shapes, sense of nostalgia) and the kind of work that was being produced as part of the Glasgow School in the late 1800s.


Harpers Bazaar 1923
Harper’s Bazar, December 1923

This beautiful cover for Bazar was designed by Erté, another contemporary of McQuinn, Barbier, and Lepape. This appears to be from Bazar‘s London office. The focus here is definitely on the extraordinary illustration itself versus a focus on gifts or a fir tree, but alludes to the holiday season with shades of green and red. The design is romantic and seems to celebrate the heyday of Erté versus the promotion of gift-giving.  Erté developed a special relationship with Bazar and created over 240 covers for the magazine.


Harpers Bazaar December 1930
Harper’s Bazaar, Dec. 1930

This cover of Harper’s Bazaar, similar to the Vogue issue from this year, doesn’t reference an abundance of gifts or food, but this approach in Bazaar is more whimsical and escapist in design. It has an exotic feel to it, which may have spoken more to those who took more of a fantasy approach to dealing with some of the harsh realities of 1930. This is also in keeping with exotic feel that the magazine would sometime embrace in 20s and 30s.


Happy Holidays


I hope you enjoyed these different approaches to designing December fashion magazine covers! They are all so different throughout the years and I think offer good insight into what was happening socioeconomically during the period and different art movements that dominated the various decades. For further viewing pleasure, check out this fun Live Journal post by Soralunii that features more turn of the century December covers!

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season!

-Danielle Morrin


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8 thoughts on “Vogue and Harper’s Baza(a)r December Holiday Covers

  1. I loved this post! In my year of reading as if I were living in 1918, magazine covers (especially Vogue and Harper’s Bazar) have been among my favorite discoveries. It’s interesting to see them through the lens of your history/fashion expertise. Vanity Fair also had a Christmas shopping edition, which I wrote about on a recent post.


    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I’ll have to check out your post on the Vanity Fair issue. I love seeing the covers from that era. I think they are so underappreciated.


  2. I’m REALLY late to the party (lol) but I’d like to add a few links that you might enjoy.

    The NYPL (New York Public Library) has digitized thousands of vintage magazine covers, going back to the latter half of the 1800’s.

    For MOST of the images, you can freely download high resolution copies.

    You can get started here:

    There’s another site that provides the actual articles (content) of many vintage magazines.
    Magazines like Scribner’s had content written by famous people like Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, etc. and this site provides them in PDF format.

    Here’s the link for Scribner’s:

    *Note: I’ve only used the site to access vintage articles. It looks like it might be run by tinfoil hatters, but don’t let that dissuade you from finding neat-o archived materials.


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