Stone Washed Jeans, Oh My! The Impact of Wintour’s Vogue Debut
“Well it was totally unplanned” Anna Wintour, Vogue’s Editor in Chief, told CBS News in 2011.
In November 1988, Wintour initiated a cultural milestone by putting stone washed jeans on her first cover of Vogue.
A shock to the fashion community, jeans had never graced the cover of the fashion Bible; deemed “too casual” and contrary to the magazine’s fantasy offered within its pages.
Wintour’s decision shifted Vogue’s attitude by showcasing fashion’s accessibility on the street rather the grand poses on a studio set.
Prior to Wintour’s entrance, portraits by renowned photographer Richard Avedon shouted Vogue’s mission on the newsstands. The “glamour shots” pronounced a defying beauty reflecting what a magic mirror calls “the fairest one of all.”
With supermodels appearing on the front cover, the magazine was sold to the working women of the 9 to 5 and Working Girl generation; at their fingertips, fantasies of lands far and wide manifest on the commute.
Wintour rebranded the magazine’s attitude for evolving readers. She teamed up with fashion editor Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele who dressed cover model Michaela Bercu.
The striking and bedazzling cross on the Christian LaCroix jacket was originally paired with a matching skirt, but was scrapped for being “disgusting”.
de Dudzeele mentioned to Moda Operandi in 2015, “I don't remember if it was [Bercu’s] jeans or my jeans.” She encouraged Bercu to throw the jeans on because that’s how people were dressing. Couture presents beauty and elegance for the average walk-in-the-park look.
Snapped by Peter Lindbergh, the image captured the wonders and excitement of an ordinary day. Bercu’s natural pose reflects confidence and a girl just having fun, while the expensive and captivating jacket sparks a fashion dream that anybody can achieve in their worn jeans.
Reflecting on the final product, Wintour said “I remember the printers called us up because they thought we made a mistake.” A radical departure from Vogue’s formula, Wintour’s vision kicked off a new era for the iconic magazine.
Inspiring the MTV generation, The blatant religious imagery and the underlying connection to sexuality was a prelude to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” just a few months later. The controversial accompanied music video provoked a necessary political statement about the ironic backlash to sex, and racist terrorism in the name of religion; all displayed by holy-esque wardrobe, a church setting, and the Christ figure portrayed by Robin Givens.
The jeans alone foreshadowed the grunge movement coming in the 90s. Laid back was “in”. Kurt Cobain’s dirty blonde locks and ripped jeans channel Bercu’s liberating energy.
Vogue is more than a fashion statement, it’s a culture influencer. Flipping through the pages inspires a reader’s expression of identity and predicts fashion’s future.
Wintour’s fresh vision and attitude shattered the looking glass between reality and fantasy. The November 1988 cover encourages the average reader to strut through the hard times like a goddamn runway.
Shit, if I had access to the Taylor-Burton Diamond necklace, I’d be rocking that with a AC/DC crop top and tight black jeans on a midnight stroll to my local bodega.