Thanks to the expert knowledge of Uthra Rajgopal, Assistant Curator in Textiles and Wallpaper at the Whitworth Art Gallery, I was told about 1930’s fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and how they often featured cruise liner wear and advertisements related to life on board. I thought this idealised imagery and clothing could be interesting and useful to look at considering that wellbeing and exercise on board was a crucial aspect of how transatlantic travel was marketed to the wider public.
Original copies of Vogue magazines from the 1930’s are available to view by prior appointment at the National Art Library, which is situated within the Victoria and Albert Museum. I will admit the process to book viewing the objects was quite complicated online, and involved a few phone calls to check that the items had indeed been ordered and would be ready during my visit from Manchester. The National Art Library itself is a magnificent space, and anyone can become a member (this was also required to view the items) to use the space there for work or research. I even celeb spotted Lloyd Grossman, my second spotting of him in London – I saw him in Bond Street, the first week I moved there in 2005!
I selected nine copies of Vogue from the 1930’s across the decade, selecting a mixture of spring, summer and winter. I knew that cruise liner wear was also featured in winter editions for winter cruising.
Each magazine was bound within a large book of copies of magazines from half the year, so I was actually able to view about half of the decade’s copies from the 1930s by selecting across the 10 year period– lucky me! The first item I viewed was June 24th, 1931, and it included a mixture of travel features and summer sales. This pattern continued throughout the decade, with winter cruising outfits in the winter months, and clothing articles mid year in advance of summer travels on sea. The Vogue magazine obviously was aimed at an upper middle class audience, although there were some features on shopping on a smaller budget, or a limited income as they described it.
Due to a copyright agreement, I cannot share images of my photographs of the magazines I took, which as always is a shame, as they are just so incredible. Illustrations were a mixture of predominantly hand drawn, and a few photo shoots. The content of magazines was a little more basic than I had envisaged, and there was a large amounts of advertisements for beauty products that sounded highly questionable, such as creams and basic plastic surgery procedures.
The magazines also contained most months a pattern book of designs, which also included a series on cruise liner wear, which women could select an outfit from and send off to receive the pattern in the post.
The clothing for ocean and cruise liners was often featured alongside clothing for other leisure pursuits such as driving, walking, going to the races (although this was much more formal) and visiting more local exoticised places, such as Scotland. Each issue also featured advertisements for Dorville fashions, which I had never come across before but seemed to cater highly to leisure and cruise liner wear, as was available in most department stores, such as Debenhams.
*Please note images below are from US copies of Vogue from 1930’s period.