Abstract: Creating Images of Fashion: Consumer Magazines and American Competition in Britain, 1910-1940

Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt


In this essay, we explore the development of consumer fashion magazines in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. Leading British magazine publishers, led by Alfred Harmsworth's Amalgamated Press, successfully exploited the low-price weekly magazine aimed at homemakers, using the newly developed, capital-intensive printing technology. American firms, such as Condé Nast and Hearst's National Magazine Company successfully introduced high-quality, high-price fortnightly and monthly titles such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Despite a tradition of producing high-quality fashion magazines during the nineteenth century, British publishers' titles during the early twentieth century did not compete directly with those from American firms. Thus, the competing market-positioning strategies partitioned the fashion magazine market, rather than simply segmenting it. The British editorial style emphasized domesticity, while the American publishers cultivated aspirational consumerism. These approaches were fundamental in shaping the images of fashion presented to British women until the mid-twentieth century.

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