Vogue 100: A Century of Style – Youth Forum Member: Isabella’s Review:
I can’t claim that I have ever bought a copy of British Vogue, nor, that it has had an important role in forming my fundamental interest in fashion throughout the years. Considering this, The Vogue 100: A Century of Style exhibition appeared a little different as a concept from the exterior; I imagined the walls of the National Portrait Gallery sprawling with photographs of the haunting symmetry of Kate Moss’ face and occupied with the elite world of high fashion that often feels so withdrawn from the real world. Perhaps when examining the core philosophy of fashion, it could be argued that this is exactly what magnetises its appeal; the impression that it is available for the selected few: a concept that, in my mind, was previously embodied by the pages of Vogue. However, Vogue 100: A Century of Style, allowed me to gain a new form of comprehension into the history of such a prestigious magazine, one that undoubtedly challenged my presumptions about Vogue in the hundred years of its existence. As the exhibition is divided into eras, I felt myself initially drifting straight to the 70’s and 80’s section, perhaps subconsciously wanting to be amused by the days when shoulder pads and smouldering gazes filled the magazine’s pages. However, my more conscious motivation for doing so was to investigate how Vogue had represented the prominence of music culture during these decades. One spread that was displayed, ‘Punk, Danger, Stranger’ explored the aesthetic nature to the punk movement, the “non-vocal communication” that the colours and bold collage elements illustrated for themselves; something that I was surprised to learn Vogue even had an involvement with; an impressive embracing attitude to ideas that many felt hostile to at the time. From this I continued to discover one of my favourite photographs of David Bowie by Lord Snowdon in 1978; standing in a garden on a statue plinth as though he were a work of art himself, I had previously not realised the photograph’s connection with the magazine. I felt, through this, as though I was gradually starting to understand the importance of Vogue as pioneer for the focus and development of photography itself; something that the exhibition highlights beautifully. Whilst observing the display cabinets containing various copies of Vogue from all periods, I came across another element to the exhibition that I found particularly fascinating. An article from a 1938 edition of Vogue called ‘Primer of Art’ illustrated how far society and fashion have advanced in terms of the role of women. The article expressed how a “lady of quality” should recognise and talk about certain artworks, and what exactly she should say about them, less she be considered ignorant and ill-informed. The choice to display an article so shocking in light of our 21st century progression allowed the exhibition to hold a commentary, not only about Vogue, but also on the evolution of culture itself. Although I had a pre-conceived idea of what Vogue 100: A Century of Style would characterise, I found myself undoubtedly surprised about how much I gained from the exhibition and how intricately it showcased Vogue’s inherent relationship to the beauty of portraiture and a pioneering approach to both fashion and art.
For more information about Vogue 100: A Century of Style please see https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/vogue/exhibition.php