Vanity Fair – a Frothy Bouillabaisse of Culture, Reporting and Profiles

"A place or scene of ostentation or empty, idle amusement and frivolity", is what Vanity Fair originally meant when author William Makepeace Thackeray made the expression his own when naming his widely read satirical novel in 1848.

Vanity Fair appeared in three different guises only during the 19th century; the first was a short-lived weekly magazine with a focus on humorous essays, based on Manhattan. It was published only between 1859 and 1863. The next reincarnation appeared in Great Britain in 1968, it became known for its caricatures of the society's high profiles. It was also famous for its salty prose, the edition of Vanity Fair has been said to be the most trustworthy reflection of the Victorian era. Finally, in 1890, came a weekly theatre magazine that claimed to be the mirror of the most luxurious, money-loving society.


Vanity Fair must almost be the magazine that has come in the most number of different shapes and configurations. The story continued in 1913 when the magnificent and elegant publisher Condé Nast bought the rights to the name Vanity Fair. By that time, he had already had great success with Vogue magazine. He started by introducing the newly purchased magazine with another magazine and the two together then became Dress & Vanity Fair. A magazine that came to have an almost record-breaking short burning time and was only published in four issues. Another relaunch came in 1914 with the name Vanity Fair, then under the wings of the flagrant and sometimes almost inappropriate editor Frank Crowinshield. Under his rule, Vanity Fair became a publication where artists such as Picasso and Brancusi's works could be seen and discussed. They also became known for highlighting new stars in the literature when they published articles by, for example, Dorothy Parker and Gertrude Stein. This version of Vanity Fair was also a significant contributor to popularizing the celebrity portrait as a craft.


During the '20s and '30s, Condé Nast and Frank Crowinshield, like Vanity Fair's almighty, became the creators of an intertwining by their various contacts via the magazine. This when the most prominent figures in literature, sports, art, film and the highest society in Manhattan partied together at events hosted by Nast and Crowinshield. Vanity Fair as a magazine did not have as great success as the parties during this time, the recession after the financial crash together with increasing fascism winds made the magazine put its publication on ice in 1936.


In 1983, it was finally time for another rebirth for Vanity Fair, something they had become experts in at the time. It was a tentative first year, and it was not until Tina Brown took over the editorship in 1984 that it took off with great success, then with an aura of luxury, wealth and a mixture of high and low culture. Even a large portion of scandal could be seen on the lacquered magazine papers.


Vanity Fair in the splendour it is in today had its starting spot after the very experienced magazine veteran Graydon Carter took over the helm of the magazine in 1992, at the same time their international edition was also launched. His leadership brought with it an ever-higher quality in all different parts, everything from the journalistic approach to the work with photographs for the various portraits. He also highlighted news and business on the pages and added a magnificent portfolio of photographs. Furthermore, Carter introduced what has become Vanity Fair's most eminent cornerstones in the form of the annual editions of "the Hollywood Issue", "the Establishment rankings" and "the International Best-Dressed List". "The Hollywood Issue comes every year in connection with perhaps the most famous party in the world, the Vanity Fair Oscar gala.


Today, Vanity Fair is best known for its in-depth portraits of the world's most successful and attractive people. In many cases, they even get people to raise their eyebrows with their almost equivocal images. Vanity Fair has a good reputation for its lively writing, in-depth reporting and insightful comments about today's society. The readership, which for the most part consists of women, amounted to just over 1 million readers per edition in 2019.


As previously pointed out, Vanity Fair has a long list of iconic editions and covers, below are some copies that are truly symbolic and legendary. And since it is your lucky day, they are available to purchase here from us at Pete &Harry.


One of the most iconic covers out there, starring the legendary Marilyn Monroe. This October edition from 2008 is an extraordinary collector's edition to celebrate Vanity Fair’s 25th anniversary.



In April 2010, actor Michael Douglas made the cover in connection with that he would once again play the famous Gordon Gekko. This when the classic Wallstreet film from 1987 was about to have a sequel.



It simply does not get much bigger than this. In June 2007, Vanity Fair had the honour to present a rare sitting with Queen Elisabeth II. With its unique images and excellent portrait, it is a true classic.


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Linus Johansson