Harper’s Bazaar

American women's fashion magazine


Harper’s Bazaar is an American women’s fashion magazine. Founded in 1867, Harper’s Bazaar was one of the first publications dedicated to looking at the lives of women through the lens of fashion.

Harper’s Bazaar is published by Hearst and considers itself to be the style resource for “women who are the first to buy the best, from casual to couture”. Aimed at what it calls “discerning ladies”, Bazaar is published monthly. Since its debut in 1867 as America’s first fashion magazine, its pages have been home to talent such as the founding editor, author and translator Mary Louise Booth, as well as numerous fashion editors, photographers, illustrators and writers. Glenda Bailey is the editor-in-chief of U.S. edition of Harper’s Bazaar.


Early Days

“A repository of fashion, pleasure, and instruction” is how Harper’s Bazar described itself on the cover of its inaugural issue, in 1867. Bazar—then spelled without the double “a”—was founded by Harper & Brothers, a New York–based publishing firm run by siblings James, John, Joseph Wesley, and Fletcher Harper. At the time, the Harpers were already established book publishers. They’d also ventured into periodicals with Harper’s New Monthly and Harper’s Weekly, illustrated journals conceived to present contemporary fiction and writing on the arts, science, and politics.

Harper’s Bazaar Cover (1875)

It was the youngest of the Harpers, Fletcher, who came up with the idea for Bazarafter stumbling upon a copy of a publication called Der Bazar, from Berlin. Like the Harpers’ journals, Der Bazar featured artwork and writing on a range of topics. But Der Bazar also covered fashion, and illustrated its stories with elaborate woodcuts of the clothes that people were wearing in places like Paris, Vienna, and London. Fletcher soon discovered that Der Bazar had agreements with other publications to syndicate its illustrations—which it provided by sending electrotype duplicates of the original woodcuts—and he became interested in pursuing a similar arrangement. The Industrial Revolution had given rise to a new leisure class in the U.S., which was obsessed with all things European; and there was room, Fletcher reasoned, for a publication aimed at affluent women that operated as a kind of guide on how to live—and live well—in the modern world. Fletcher presented his brothers with his plan, and after a bit of convincing, Harper’s Bazar was born.

Fletcher’s first order of business was hiring an editor. For that job, he selected Mary Louise Booth, a 36-year-old writer, journalist, and translator who was proficient in French, German, and Latin, and who had been one of the first female reporters for The New York Times. Before coming to Bazar, Booth had received a letter of praise from President Lincoln for her translation of French Count Agénor de Gasparin’s The Uprising of a Great People: The United States in 1861, an antislavery tract used to drum up support for abolition. She was also active in the women’s-rights and -suffrage movements, and was even said to have tried to get funding for her own women’s-rights publication.

The first issue of Bazar appeared on November 2, 1867. An unsigned editorial entitled “Our Bazar” sketched out the journal’s mission to become “a vast repository for all the rare and costly things of earth—silks, velvets, cashmeres, spices, perfumes, and glittering gems; in a word, whatever can comfort the heart and delight the eye.” But from the outset, it was clear that Bazar‘s definition of fashion went far beyond clothes. Alongside brisk reports on style and well-mannered instructions on how to tie a bow and pin a bun, there were sharp pieces of fiction and poetry and musings on family, work, and social mores. Writers such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Henry James, and later, Thomas Hardy, all contributed to Bazar. Emmeline Raymond, who founded the influential French fashion publication La Mode Illustrée, served as Bazar’s Paris correspondent, and wrote a column that offered glittery glimpses of French society and style. As the U.S. entered its Gilded Age, there was also a fascination in America with the predilections of the larger-than-life characters of Victorian England, which the novelist James Payn chronicled in his recurring “English Gossip” feature; while George William Curtis wrote about culture and domestic life in a column called “Manners Upon the Road” (which he signed, “An Old Bachelor”); and the magazine’s society maven, Mary Elizabeth Wilson Sherwood, explored the realms of etiquette and social grace.

One area that Fletcher Harper explicitly identified as beyond Bazar‘s purview was politics. Bazar would be a window on the world, but pleasingly so, to appeal to a cross-section of people on different sides of the modern divide. That ethos, later characterized by Bazar editors as “the early doctrine of ‘always affirming, never denying,’ ” might have appeared to clash with Booth’s more progressive leanings. Booth, though, seemed to understand her job. She didn’t try to willfully affront Bazar‘s readers, but she did endeavor to challenge them. To be truly fashionable, Bazar intimated, was to be immersed in the culture and ideas of the moment—to be forward-thinking. Bazar was one of the first mainstream publications to endorse the women’s suffrage effort. The right to vote, Bazar wrote in the June 12, 1869, issue, was built upon “the groundwork of truth and justice” and “the awakening of the public conscience,” and regularly ran articles on the importance of work and educational opportunities for women.

Harper’s Bazar 1868 cover

Some aspects of women’s lives in the mid-19th century were easier to reconcile with Booth’s more modern sensibility than others. The topic of homemaking was one with which Bazar seemed particularly conflicted. The role of lady of the house was exalted—and the more well-appointed the home, the better. Still, Bazar bristled at the notion that being a housewife might descend into a kind of indentured servitude: A piece in the August 19, 1871, issue described those whose days were consumed solely with tending to husbands, children, and domestic affairs as trapped in an “absolute bondage,” which Bazar likened to being in a harem.

Social ambition, materialism, and obsessions with wealth and status were at once celebrated and satirized. In 1882, Bazar ran as a serial the anonymous society novel A Transplanted Rose, which was later credited to Mary Elizabeth Wilson Sherwood. It tells the story of a Midwestern girl named Rose Chadwick who comes to New York and, with her bullish aunt’s guidance, is transformed into a cultured woman. Along the way, Rose wrestles with an array of moral quandaries but finds redemption in the arms of a British lord, whom she marries with a trousseau by the English-born Parisian couturier Charles Frederick Worth. “Clothes,” Rose says to a friend while reflecting on her journey, “have a great deal to do with one’s happiness.”

Bazar also displayed an early appreciation for the theater of fashion. A piece in the July 29, 1871, issue on Worth, who is credited with pioneering haute couture, described the scene at his atelier: “Around him were a bevy of women, some pretty, some ugly, listening to his observations with the rapt attention of the disciples of a sage. He called them up before him like schoolgirls, and after inspecting them, praised or blamed their dresses. One, a pretty young girl, found favor in his eyes, and he told her that he must dream and meditate several days over her, in order to find the inspiration to make a gown worthy of her. ‘Why do you wear those ugly gloves?’ he said to another. ‘Never let me see you in gloves of that color again.’ She was a very grand lady, but she slipped off her gloves and put them in her pocket with a guilty look. … The empress, who dealt with him, sent to tell him that if he did not abate his prices she would leave him. ‘You can not,’ he replied; and, in fact, she could not, for she stood by him to the last.” To Harper’s Bazar, this was all fashion.

Modern Times

As the turn-of-the-century began in America, Harper’s Bazaar began featuring both illustrations and photographs for its covers and inside features of high society and increasingly of fashion.

During the late Victorian period, as the women’s suffrage movement was gaining momentum (American women did not all win the right to vote until 1920 with the passing of the 19th Amendment), the introduction of more tailored dresses and jackets coincided with women’s new sense of feminism. Bazaar also began profiling prominent socialites, such as the Astors and the Griscoms.

The Carmel Snow years (1933–1957)

In 1933, editor-in-chief Carmel Snow (a former editor at Vogue) brought photojournalist Martin Munkacsi to a windswept beach to shoot a swimwear spread. As the model ran toward the camera, Munkacsi took the picture that made fashion-magazine history. Until that moment, nearly all fashion was carefully staged on mannequin-like models in a studio. Snow’s buoyant spirit (she rarely slept or ate, although she had a lifelong love affair with the three-martini lunch) and wicked sense of adventure brought life to the pages of Bazaar. Snow’s genius came from cultivating the “best” people. Her first big find was art director Alexey Brodovitch, who innovated Bazaar’s iconic Didot logo. Brodovitch is perhaps best known for his work with Richard Avedon, who, as a young photographer, was so determined to work at Bazaar that he endured the humiliation of 14 canceled interviews before finally being hired. Snow also unleashed the force of nature known as Diana Vreeland, whom she brought on as fashion editor in 1936. The collaboration of these four visionaries resulted in some of the germane fashion shoots of the 20th century and ended only with Snow’s retirement, at the age of 70, in 1957.

Alexey Brodovitch (1934–1958)

Harper’s Bazar 1958 Cover

In 1934, newly installed Bazaar editor Carmel Snow attended an Art Directors Club of New York exhibition curated by 36-year-old graphic designer Alexey Brodovitch and immediately offered Brodovitch a job as Bazaar ‘s art director. Throughout his career at the magazine, Brodovitch, a Russian émigré (by way of Paris), revolutionized magazine design. With his directive “Astonish me”, he inspired some of the greatest visual artists of the 20th century (including protégés Irving Penn, Hiro, Gleb Derujinsky, and, of course, Richard Avedon). One of his assistants was future Rolling Stone art director Tony Lane. Brodovitch’s signature use of white space, his innovation of Bazaar ‘s iconic Didot logo, and the cinematic quality that his obsessive cropping brought to layouts (not even the work of Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson was safe from his busy scissors) compelled Truman Capote to write, “What Dom Pérignon was to champagne … so [Brodovitch] has been to … photographic design and editorial layout.” Brodovitch’s personal life was less triumphant. Plagued by alcoholism, he left Bazaar in 1958 and eventually moved to the south of France, where he died in 1971.

The Vreeland years (1936–1962)

When Carmel Snow saw Mrs. T. Reed Vreeland dancing on the roof of New York’s St. Regis Hotel in a white lace Chanel dress and a bolero with roses in her hair one evening in 1936, she knew she’d found Bazaar’s newest staffer. Diana, who is said to have invented the word “pizzazz”, first came to the attention of readers with her “Why Don’t You … ?” column. (A typical suggestion: “Why don’t you … wear, like the Duchess of Kent, three enormous diamond stars arranged in your hair in front?”) Before long, she became fashion editor, collaborating with photographers Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Richard Avedon and, later, art director Henry Wolf. Her eccentricity, perception and wit, as well as her sharp wit and sweeping pronouncements (“I adore that pink! It’s the navy blue of India,” “Elegance is refusal!”), were memorialized in the movie Funny Face, making her, for many, the prototypical fashion-magazine editor.

The Avedon years (1945–1965)

Richard Avedon began creating fashion portfolios for Harper’s Bazaar at the age of 22. His distinctive photographs showed both chic insouciance and boundless vitality. Avedon’s women leapt off curbs, roller-skated on the Place de la Concorde, and were seen in nightclubs, enjoying the freedom and fashions of the postwar era.

He was immortalized in the film Funny Face by the character Dick Avery (played by Fred Astaire), who asked, “What’s wrong with bringing out a girl who has character, spirit, and intelligence?”

The Derujinsky years (1950–1968)

Gleb Derujinsky’s 18-year career at Harper’s bazaar spanned from 1950–1968 and during that time produced some of the classic images of the era. Scouted by editor-in-chief Carmel Snow and art director Alexey Brodovitch, Derujinsky joined the elite group of photographers, including Richard Avedon, who shot for the magazine. Working closely with the then fashion editor Diana Vreeland, Derujinsky proved a pioneer in his field, creating stunning juxtapositions between European Haute Couture dresses and landscapes ranging from desert sands to car junkyards, fairgrounds and airports, all this at a time when air travel was yet to become as common as it is now. “Avedon shot dresses and clothes, Gleb shot women living in them”.

To mark the inauguration of Pan Am’s Boeing 707 in 1957, Derujinsky travelled across the world with Nena Von Schlebrügge, and Ruth Neumann, whom he would later marry. The latter would be his muse from the seaside harbors of China, to the Nara Deer Park in Japan, and throughout Thailand, Spain and Greece. The 1957 Paris Collections were the basis for a 25-page spread in Harper’s Bazaar featuring his photographs. “Gleb Derujinsky’s photographs evoke the best of Harper’s Bazaar: exquisitely beautiful, original, and instantly iconic images of a very fashionable life”.

Nonnie Moore (1980–1984)

Recent Cover

Nonnie Moore was hired as fashion editor in 1980, having served in the same post at Mademoiselle. The New York Times noticed the changes she made at Harper’s Bazaar, highlighting how the magazine had been “looking a little dowdy”, but that Moore had “noticeably sharpened the magazine’s fashion point of view” by showing “brighter, younger and more stylish”, complimenting her use of “young and exciting fashion photographers”, such as Oliviero Toscani.

Glenda Bailey (2001 – Present)

Bailey served as editor of Honey in 1986. She also launched FOLIO, a quarterly fashion magazine. In 1988, she was appointed launch editor of the British edition of Marie ClaireMarie Claire earned her three Magazine Editor of the Year Awards, five Magazine of the Year Awards and two Amnesty International Awards, for her coverage of human rights affairs. In August 1995, she was named as International Editorial Consultant for all 26 editions of Marie Claire.

From June 1996, she served as editor-in-chief of the U.S. edition of Marie Claire, before joining Harper’s Bazaar as editor-in-chief in May 2001

Harper’s Bazaar Worldwide

The magazine is published in 32 countries and regions including: Arab world; Argentina; Australia; Brazil; Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.