There are three women who completely changed the world of fashion magazines as we know it. Fashion editor Diana Vreeland, photographer Louise Dahl- Wolfe and Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow shared a professional and collaborative relationship that the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) has brought to life with the exhibition “The Women of Harper’s Bazaar 1936-1958” using personal letters, archives, behind-the-scenes coverage photographs and a few fashion moments that shaped fashion editorial coverage for more than 25 years.
Carmel Snow and Diana Vreeland
The exhibition features tons of quotes from the women on the wall as you enter, and Dahl-Wolfe’s sums up the charm of collaborating: “The magazine was in the greatest magazine editor ever, the magic of Carmel Snow.”
Details from the exhibition
Snow, once a Vogueista, was considered the biggest fashion traitor when she switched positions and opted for Harper’s Bazaar. There she crafted intellectually and culturally stimulating fashion content and got a one-up on the competition.
Vreeland, Snow and Dahl-Wolfe were able to speak to social issues through their magazine, whether that was with a photo essay of New York City housing projects in 1939, models repeatedly photographed wearing ballet flats while material to make high heels were rationed for World War II supplies, or pushing the envelope in 1946 by styling a model in an unlined bathing suit. The latter proved that fashion is more than clothing — it’s an idea. One Christian Dior coat on display is quite similar to what Snow dubbed “the new look,” a nod to the editor’s unwavering support for couture. “It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian! Your dresses have such a new look,” she told the 42-year-old designer at his show in Paris. The coat on display was made in New York, but nonetheless evokes the same sentiment.
One of Dahl-Wolfe’s most memorable works
Carmel Snow in her office
The few instances where exhibit curators were able to make comparable matches to clothing worn in the spreads — a suit, a day dress, a bathing suit, an evening gown — serve as a snapshot into the closets of women behind the magazine, who gave readers the wardrobe essentials they never knew they needed. Perhaps they’ll also serve as inspiration to visitors of this brief exhibit, too, just like it did to readers of the mid-20th century.