Where do I start?
Nostalgia in Vogue, a compendium of essays written for American Vogue and edited by Eve McSweeney is, by a hair, my favourite fashion book this year. If every there was a book tailored to my personal taste (long essays, personal introspection, nostalgia, vintage and magazines), then this is it. When it arrived in the post, I spent four hours reading it and poring over the pictures. Then, when I had finished, I turned back to the first page and started again.
Published by Rizzoli and featuring work from the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Joan Didion, Patti Smith, Angelica Huston, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, this is a sumptuous publication not just because of it’s physical quality and weightiness, but also because of the strength and depth of the essays within. It is brain candy.
Delving through the Vogue archive from 1931 (Artist T.J Wilcox explores the allure of the effervescent It Girl Adele Astaire) to 2007 (Phyllis Posnick remembers Irving Penn’s body of work, accompanied by some incredible images), the essays are as varied as you might expect, running the full range of emotions, rage and despair, happiness and fond recollections, lost love and artistic inspiration.
As each essay writer chooses the pictures that accompany their nostalgic trip, the breadth and variety is almost imperceptibly wide and most likely, not something that most European readers would expect of American Vogue (we’re still under the influence of The September Issue). But it is there. The scope is massive. Anyone who reads this book will most likely find themselves personally identifying with an essay, or two, or three. Personal attachment isn’t something we’ve come to associate with fashion, nor is looking backwards through rose-tinted glasses. It’s just not done. Yet, it is done here, in the world’s foremost fashion bible no less.
It makes perfect sense that this book was released now, in this current economic climate. Nostalgia does great business in times of crisis and this book is an excellent example of such. Nostalgia is vital. It reminds us that bad things will eventually pass and rain falls on the great and the good as well as the rest of us. Except Richard Avedon won’t be around to document it.