Let’s Read Vogue, January 1956!

Happy fifth anniversary to this feature! WHAT? It’s true!

Vogue was founded in 1892 and has a fascinating and long history that you can read all about here on its Wikipedia page. It is currently run by a very scary woman named Anna Wintour.

I was surprised to find that I prior to this I had never reviewed an issue of Vogue. Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, sure, but not Vogue. I initially put it down to just not having access to an issue before, but then I remembered that I have a self-imposed rule about reviewing magazines with a paywalled archive, and Vogue definitely has one of those. It’s very nice. But, hey, if Conde Nast wants to come after me for making snarky comments on a very tightly curated selection of scans from a 66 year old issue, let them. It’s LROM’s fifth anniversary and I wanna Vogue.

This magazine hasn’t survived in the greatest condition, but in high resolution the crinkles and scuffs kind of transform the cover into something approaching shabby vintage-chic. This cover was photographed by Frances McLaughlin-Gill, who was known for her natural poses and fresh perspective. She was married to one of the first photographers to use color photography and was the twin sister of a groundbreaking photographer in her own right, oh and she also made films and commercials, and I say this in so many of these magazine reviews but I’m going to say it again – why don’t they make biopics of these fascinating and trailblazing midcentury creative career women?

One of the most darling little quirks of the English language is the way that “semi-monthly” can mean either published twice a month, or published every other month. The incredibly confusing little stream of words at the bottom of the page, after I read it a few times, is indicating that it is normally published twice a month except for a few months out of the year when it is published only once a month. I have no idea why this was the schedule, or why it was somehow more viable to publish twice as many issues in, say, April and not December. Maybe the single-issue months were extra big?

I appreciate what they’re going for, as the model is quite fabulous and maybe they didn’t have a beach at their disposal, but it also kind of looks like she’s having a break with reality in the corner of a locker room. I hope she at least has something comfy to sit on.

I would murder for a vintage 1956 mushroom-print skirt. I bet it looks amazing in color.

That dog has seen things and doesn’t want to talk about it.

I don’t know what to do with this. Her dress matches the car. The car is a cast iron battleship that advertises it can be driven “with the gentlest touch of the daintiest slipper.” SHE IS DRESSED IN AN EVENING GOWN AND SHE IS ALSO A CAR.

Well, at least the Jantzen people splurged for some sand for the models to lay on, unlike Ms. Waikiki Gingham up there having a breakdown on the shower floor with her wicker basket. Say, what’s going on up there in those little illustrations?

Oh. Ohh. Well, sorry East Germany, I guess you don’t get a bathing suit.

India was having a real moment for fashion appropriation in 1956, as this is not the only time Indian riffs on western fashion show up in this issue. The dress is quite beautiful, but Indian women traditionally don’t show their legs like that…it’s very jarring.

Irish linen might be the only subtle thing about this ad.

I suppose if you’re very excited to visit South America you could bring a bathing suit the color of a bowl of old guacamole to get in the spirit of things.

Did you notice that all the men are looking deliberately away from the women? DON’T LOOK DIRECTLY AT THEM, LEWIS OLD CHAP, YOU’LL NEVER TOUCH AN AVOCADO AGAIN! OH HELEN, HELEN SHE’S FAINTED DEAD AWAY!

I know these are grandma as hell but they’re also kind of cute? I like the pink and red heels.

Gay as sunshine, graceful as a flower, about to get eaten by a bear in a little hat.

I didn’t know what Cheops was (my money was on some kind of synthetic fabric) so I did some quick research and 1) Cheops, or Khufu, was an ancient king of Egypt (so…decidedly not a kind of synthetic fabric). It looks like Cheops was in the news around 1954 due to an archaeological discovery of his long-lost ship, which was a remarkable ship as it was built without a single nail holding it together. Apparently the news was enough to launch a trend for really god-awful bathing suits.

The Ten Commandments also came out at the end of this same year, for what it’s worth.

DES COIFFES DE MER CHIC! AIDE MOI! AIDE MOI! JE COULE BLUBLBUBBLUB burbled Celine as Marie pushed down, palming her fabulous Sava-Wave swim capped head down like a water polo ball. “Ah Marie, always with the unmistakable French touch” sighed Anna, watching with delight as the bubbles slowly stopped.

I’ve always loved the directory sections of these magazines – the Swiss boarding schools, the summer camps, the finishing schools and career opportunities for women. AIRLINES NEED YOUNG WOMEN – to serve inflight beverages. BECOME A DIPLOMAT’s…secretary. Summer camps include an “Aloha Camp” in Vermont, French language immersion camp, trout fishing camp, and multiple summer camps devoted to wooden crafts.

Today Dusharme hair products are primarily marketed to the Black community. I wonder if it always was, and that’s part of why the ad uses cutesy illustrations instead of photos? I also have to wonder about that fine print that says FOR JACK AND JILL – finally, a hair creme strong enough for a woman but made for a man!

Thing went to work for the Adams family, but his sister went to secretarial school.

I know leopard was and is still a status item, but…ick.

“We urge you to remember two things about our sterling: one, that it’s haunted. And more than anything else, it will not rest until you have been driven mad by its unquenchable blind vengeance.”

A nonstop flight from San Francisco to Sydney today takes about 15 hours. In 1956 it took almost 40. DAAAMN. First class round-trip airfare in 1956? About 13 grand in today’s money. Today? Cursory research shows about 25 grand. Someone else can unpack that, I’m just here to ruminate on phrasing like “Sydney, Australia’s biggest and gayest city.”

The 1956 Summer Olympics appear to have been a complete shitshow.

It takes a lot of talent to look this elegantly sinister while wearing a basket on your head.

I love me a good “future predictions” article, of course, but I’m sad to report that this one was pretty boring despite being the cover feature. It was mostly four pages of things like “1956 – DARING HOSIERY?” But check out the tiny footnote about modular/prefab housing. Monsanto’s all-plastic home never got past the Disneyland attraction phase, but the idea of prefabricated housing did in fact become a fully legitimate industry in with the first modular homes launched in 1958.

There’s SO MUCH on this page that invites further research and demands context that I could spend a whole week cross referencing every line. Enjoy that lovely picture of Shelley Winters. Throw back a new-fangled Margarita to quench your thirst for shirtless William Holden in Picnic, put on the Lotte Lenya cabaret album (it’s on Spotify – it rules), something something WIZARD BABY?

The dresses themselves are far enough removed from their inspiration to not cause much of a stir, but those hats are BIG YIKES.

MRS. EXETER. Whenever I’m reading these old magazines I wonder what part I would always flip to first had I been given the pleasure of reading them in their respective time, and for this I would have been a devotee of the Mrs. Exeter column. Mrs. Exeter was a fictional character of a chic middle aged woman, portrayed in photos by a model named Margot Smyly from 1948 to 1964. For more history and appreciation of her wit and voice, please turn your attention to this excellent Vogue retrospective of the Mrs. E years. All I can say is that I desperately hope that whoever wrote this one is making up the “apple diet.”

You have to admit this is fabulous as hell.

Midcentury career woman alert! Melanie Kahane, legendary interior designer and radio show personality, twice divorcee, businesswoman, give this woman a biopic! And ask your beautician about Miss Clairol now!

And finally the back cover. Huh, I wonder what a micronite filter is? It’s – oh dear. Oh dear.

Direct exposure to crocidolite asbestos occurred when smokers inhaled Kent Micronite cigarettes and increased the risk of developing diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. The asbestos fibers travelled from the filter into smokers’ lungs with every inhale.


Kent stopped producing the micronite filter in mid-1956.

…Thanks for reading!

This is my first try at using Photobucket as an image host and god almighty I hope it works because it was so much work to upload.