PITTSBURGH CONNECTIONS: Model Naomi Sims, looking over her shoulder, sits at a marble table inside the Plaza Hotel in New York City in a photo that appeared in the January 1973 issue of Vogue. Ms. Sims grew up in Homewood and graduated from Westinghouse High School.
Originally posted on Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If fashion had a bible, Vogue would be it.
Packed with pages of aspirational style and societal musings, for generations it’s served as a barometer for the creme de la creme of couture and culture in America and throughout the world.
This month, the magazine by publishing house Conde Nast kicked off its 125th anniversary with a special issue celebrating “fashion’s fearless females,” with seven of the industry’s of-the-moment models on the cover.
“The next wave of models is defying stereotypes by bringing us faces — and figures — for an unconventional, post-diversity, ultra-inclusive generation,” opens the fashion spread, which includes Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Liu Wen, Adwoa Aboah and Ashley Graham — the first plus-size model to appear on an American Vogue cover — to name a few.
Vogue made its debut in December 1892, with a black-and-white illustration of a debutante sketched by A. B. Wenzel on the cover. Its goal, as one newspaper put it back then, was to be “written by the smart set for the smart set.” It cost 10 cents a copy and came out weekly for its first 17 years.
In 1909, it became a biweekly publication, and from 1948 to 1972, it was published 20 times a year. It switched to being a monthly magazine in 1973.
Here’s a look into how Vogue evolved over the years, its local ties and ways its readers can follow along with the anniversary festivities.
Vogue by the numbers
• Vogue has had only seven editors. Anna Wintour, currently at the helm, took the position in 1988.
• As of March, 2,833 issues of Vogue have been published — and counting!
• The September 2012 issue (featuring Lady Gaga in Marc Jacobs on the cover) had 916 pages, the most of any to date. It weighed more than four pounds and was more than an inch thick.
• American actress/model Lauren Hutton has graced the cover of Vogue 26 times, more than any other model.
• Vogue loves four-legged fashionistas, too. Over the years, 90 dogs have appeared on Vogue covers.
• Only twice has a pregnant woman been the cover star: once in an illustration in 1919 and again in 2003 when Brooke Shields posed for photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Some Pittsburgh connections
One of the first black models to have a major presence in mainstream fashion magazines was Naomi Sims, who grew up in Homewood and graduated from Westinghouse High School. She first appeared in Vogue in September 1968 and went on to model alongside Ms. Hutton, Elsa Peretti, Jean Shrimpton, Marina Schiano and others. She wore pieces by Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows and Halston.
“Diana Vreeland [Vogue’s editor in-chief from 1963 to 1971] absolutely adored Naomi,” says Kilolo Luckett, a Pittsburgh-based art historian and cultural producer who’s working on a biography about the model.
Since the late 1970s, photographer Bruce Weber, a Greensburg native, also has made his mark in Vogue. He’s documented actors, athletes and, of course, supermodels. He traveled to Paris and Tangier for the magazine. His first Vogue shoot ran in the August 1978 issue and spotlighted models in classic, cozy sweaters with a golden retriever.
In recent years, Pittsburgh’s emerging food, arts and entertainment scenes have attracted Vogue’s attention, particularly online. In 2016, it listed the city as one of five “Rust Belt cities worth visiting,” and it has chronicled such developments as the Ace Hotel’s arrival in East Liberty.