This Week I Love…

May 2007 cover featuring Gwen Stefani

Harper’s Bazaar.

Now hear me out, friends: Lady magazines are notorious for pushing overpriced clothing, weight-loss tips, and demeaning sexual advice. And while Bazaar generally skips that third category, it hits the first two in nearly every issue. Nevertheless, I find the actual fashion- and style-related bits fascinating and valuable. Here’s why:

  1. Bazaar boils down the season’s runway trends into digestible chunks.
  2. Loads of photos with helpful descriptors make it easy to create your own versions of high-fashion looks.
  3. Everything is SO outrageously expensive, that I never even feel a twinge. Other mags that mix high and low can lure me in with the occasional bargain piece, but Bazaar is pure inspiration.
  4. They manage to showcase trends without being irritating about it, and typically offer several takes on each hot item or look.
  5. I find the writing, layout, and overall feel of the magazine less snotty and intimidating than Vogue. Even though much of the same ground is covered.
  6. There is some truly entertaining, compelling, and thought-provoking writing in there.
  7. Even looking at the preposterous “Buy, keep, store” and “In/Out” features that seek to manipulate me as a consumer, I feel less condescended to somehow. Writers and designers are genuinely thrilled about their subject matter, yet refrain from beating the reader over the head with overly-enthusiastic adjectives. (I’m looking at you, Lucky.)
  8. I get more amazing ideas for color pairings from Bazaar than anywhere else. For really.

Are you a fan of Harper’s Bazaar? If not, do you prefer a different high-style mag? Avoid fashion rags altogether?

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  • I have to admit that I’ve never actually read Harper’s before. I do buy Vogue (UK) out of some sense of history more than anything – the writing is rubbish, but I like keeping up-to-date with ad campaigns and the editorials, and I like browsing issues from years ago just because. Otherwise for reading I buy Monocle and The Gentlewoman.

  • I prefer Bazaar as well. I like the fact that they include the FABULOUS AT EVERY AGE section and I can use it for ideas for my age group…and around it!! After reading Anna Wintour’s bio, I now understand why VOGUE does not relate to my world…she doesn’t know women like me exist. I completely agree with you on the content of fashion magazines..I think that is why I now prefer to read the blogs and get better info!!

  • That dress on the cover is so right up my alley it’s ridiculous. The colors, the color combination, the cut, the tiers… I could even live with it being asymmetrical (gasp!). I want it, like, right now! 😀

    About the whole women’s magazine scene: What you said is exactly what made me turn to blogs. Ok, at first it made me turn away from German women’s magazines to UK and US ones. I found out that UK glossies have a biting sarcasm which I love. They also tend to be a little more “scandalous” with in-your-face home stories like “My family was at my funeral but I LIVED!!!”. US ones (the ones I read, InStyle and Glamour I think) had about the same intellectually harmless jokes that made me turn away from the German ones, and I felt like there was more advertisement. But maybe they were also thicker in return, I don’t know. I would still read UK mags, but it got a leeettle bit expensive to buy them here also, I don’t fly THAT often. So essentially, that is what turned me to blogs.

    I haven’t read Harper’s Bazaar and I admittedly only ever owned one copy of Vogue, which I found nearly unreadable (and I have a university diploma, lol!). So my answer to your question would probably be: I avoid them altogether. I have to admit (to myself mostly) that I don’t really have the “eye” for converting high fashion into wearable things. Or say, into things that *I* would wear. Just yesterday, I actually did that a tiny bit for the first time with my Inspiration Monday contribution, which is linked at the bottom of this post. I added my train of thoughts as well, as it took some deconstructing and rebuilding of the idea first. So, I can honestly say that I don’t go through fashion mags thinking “Oh I will wear that trend like this, and it will look great” or even “I will just leave the hot pink knee socks out of this and wear a skirt instead of a belt and maybe remove the hair palm tree and it will totally be work-appropriate!”. My actual thoughts are more like “Ugh, as if THEY would wear that” or “Oh my, who are they kidding?” or “That looks f*cking butt ugly if you don’t bend and scrunch like this model” or even “WTF?!/§§”§%§/)==($/”. I would probably have to spend days on it if someone told me to make Vogue’s ideas into things most normal women would wear. I don’t say I couldn’t do it, but it would take forever and probably don’t even resemble the source of inspiration in the end…

    So, the verdict is: *No thanks*! I found blogs to be a much greater source of wearable, livable inspiration! Two months of blogging have influenced my style WAY more that 20 years of women’s glossies! [Have to admit though: That dress on the cover? I probably wouldn’t have found that in the blogosphere :-D]

  • I am an avid Vogue reader – and for the same reasons you like Bazaar. I want to read about fashion, and I am okay with it being expensive – it is beauty to be inspired by and they have interesting non-fashion articles, too. I really appreciate that they leave the sex tips out, and honestly leave weight loss tips out, normally. There is a Health and Beauty section – but it never leaves you feeling bad about yourself and the way you look. Have a great weekend!
    Much love,
    B

  • Actually, yes, that is one of the few fashion magazines I enjoy reading. In fact, it was one of the very few of which I had a subscription. To me it seemed more like a story book I would read as a child. The photographs draw me in and I feel more like I am imagining what I could do with my oh-so not couture wardrobe. I guess for me it is mainly a small indulgence AND inspiration.

  • Agree with every point you make. I end up holding on to Bazaar longer than Vogue, that’s for sure (even though the photography in Vogue is sometimes so awesome). Do you hate Lucky or just the hyperbole? Because I get a lot of ideas from Lucky, too.

  • I’ve never ready Harper’s before….I may check that out. I’ve never been a fan of Vogue’s condescending tone, so I let that subscription lapse and I’m thinking about doing the same with InStyle.

  • Polly

    Bazaar is my favorite too . I do enjoy Lucky, but also like to make fun of their descriptions — “Amazingly delicately feminine in the most masculine way.” LOL.

  • Cel

    I’ve never really read fashion magazines (I didn’t even read magz as a teen) but my interest in fashion is still quite new and I’m only starting to delve into high fashion. This definitely has me willing to give an issue of Bazaar a look over next I see one though…

  • Mrs.M in MI

    Yes! I subscribe to five monthly fashion magazines, and Harper’s is one of my favorites, for all the reasons you mentioned. I’ve subscribed to Vogue for almost 15 years and Harper’s for five, and I have sometimes considered cancelling my Vogue subscription in favor of Harper’s because Harper’s does the same thing more succintly and practically.

    Another thing I also really like about Harper’s is that they put different celebrities on the cover. Vogue, Glamour, InStyle, even Lucky – they pretty much put the same celebrities on the cover over and and over. Harper’s doesn’t seem to be afraid to put up-and-coming or under-the-radar celebrities on their cover.

  • Diane

    I’m happy I’m not the only one who cringes at Lucky. I like to play a little game where I find the most overused word in each issue. It’s really easy 🙂

  • Oh, magazines, my old nemesis. I really have to keep a rein on my tendency to accumulate and not read them. Vogue, like the New York Times book review, hasn’t spoken to me in a while. I tried Harper’s, but it felt aimed at an older reader, but that was years ago, and since I’m 43 now, perhaps I’ll try again. I liked Lucky in my 30’s, but find it too young, and too annoying now, though I agree it’s great for ideas. I tried In Style for a year, and found it good for ideas, then switched to Elle, which seemed to have some of the things you like about Bazaar, good articles, higher end pretty things, but lately they’ve had annoying actresses on the cover (Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, no one I admire) and the insides are so crowded and the type so small that it annoys me. I’ll have a look at Bazaar again.

    • Sal

      Totally. I want to like Elle, but trying to read the layouts gives me a migraine.

  • Anna

    I used to love fashion magazines, thinking that one day I could hope to approach the looks they presented. The result was years of frustrated aspirations. Having lived for the past several years in deep rural Northern New England, I pretty much ignore fashion and just dress to look presentable and perhaps somewhat artsy in a subdued kind of way. But now that I’ve stumbled on this blog and a couple of others (thank you, Sally!) and taken a few steps—probably barely visible to the people around me—to perk up my wardrobe, reading this post has activated my long-buried desire to at least see what is happening in the fashion world and enjoy the show. Next stop, Harper’s Bazaar, on the strength of these recommendations!

  • It has been a while since I have read Bazaar. Your post has inspired me to pick one up today. thanks.

  • Lisa W.

    Working so hard to rid myself of debt, I have curbed all my mag viewing to the salon and waiting rooms only, so I can make no educated comparisons of fashion magazines other than to say that they pretty much all make me want to spend money on the latest accessory or feel like I’m completely out of touch with what is current! I do want to say WOW to that cover you pictured above as it not only showcases a gorgeous dress, but Gwen’s pose and the styling, the design of how well the photo is integrated with the type—simple and gorgeous. Art direction at it’s best. I’d buy that issue of Bazaar in a heartbeat!

  • Sal

    Hey friends! Just wanted to say that I nabbed this Harper’s cover from an array of Google Image search results and it’s an OLD one. I’m completely in love with Gwen’s dress, too, but hope I haven’t misled anyone into thinking they can get this exact issue on the newsstand today …

  • Cat

    I love it too… but where is Gwen’s other foot/leg? If I squint, I can imagine her other arm is behind her and covered by the dress – but the other leg?? I dunno.

  • JennyDC

    Am laughing about the Lucky comments. I really liked that magazine when it first came out – a nice mix of affordable and aspirational, and I really liked the home decor articles. Now it seems they mostly feature much more expensive stuff and the styling just looks kind of sloppy to me – maybe I’m just too old to do the Olson twin layering that seems to be their thing now.

    I used to really like Marie Claire, but I have to say that since Nina Garcia took over, I don’t like it so much anymore. Hate the piece where they highlight some “real woman” who is always a designer or photographer and/or incredibly wealthy, wearing something that 99% of women couldn’t possibly wear and wouldn’t want to. Tim Gunn’s column is okay, I also like the “life as a big girl” piece, or whatever they call it.

    Plus, the changed layout and font sizes are incredibly difficult to read!

  • All the fashion mags blur together to me. But I fully admit I love to read them as bubblegum distraction when I’m traveling! On an airplane, I have zero attention span & I’m so uncomfortable & jittery that I can’t read a proper book (I can’t sleep either unless drugged ;-)). So I always buy a stack of whatever glossy fashion mags look most shiny & mindless. I flip thru those for the 3-10 hours of a flight (I take at least one international flight a year). The ridiculousness of it all is perfect!

  • Louise

    I stopped reading all fashion magazines over a decade ago. They made me feel ugly and inadequate, so I stopped cold turkey. I’m much more interested in what women are wearing in their real, day to day lives, so the explosion of fashion blogs has been fascinating to me.

    My only exposure to the runway is whatever photos bloggers link on their posts. They have edited the looks down to what appeals to them, and I in turn read the blogs that appeal to me. Total win-win.

  • Hm, I like this post a lot. I don’t typically purchase magazines (oh but I did in years past and kept every. single. one. for far too long) but I do like flipping through the occasional glossy while in line at the grocery store. HB is one that I’ve always been drawn to for the features you outlined- specifically the so-expensive-it’s-purely-inspirational spreads and the lack of condescension thats found elsewhere (ahem, Vogue). Thanks for reminding me to stop by the bookstore to flip through the summer issue.

  • blackdogramona

    I haven’t looked at Bazaar in a long time but will check it out again! The only one I read is Allure, at the hair salon, because it is mostly useful makeup and beauty ideas, a little fashion, and not too much movie/book review stuff which I read elsewhere. Must say my pet peeve is More which is aimed toward women over 40 – why so many miniskirts & high heels on size 2 models, is this supposed to make us fell worse about ourselves and shop more? Obviously.

  • rb

    I am a Bazaar subscriber. I also get Vogue and In Style. I prefer the articles in Vogue and the more realistic suggestions in In Style, but Bazaar is my absolute favorite for pure fashion.

  • I love UK Vogue (well-written, well-researched, beautiful layouts, lots of inspiration) and InStyle (lots of inspiration, love how they show how to wear trends). Apart from that, I don’t find magazines very interesting. I definitely have brand loyalty.

  • M

    I have rarely been a massive fan of high end fashion mags like Harper’s simply because they only show case stuff I could only dream to afford, it doesnt seem real or identifiable. However, I do like your point about it being pure inspriation for that reason. I have also never been a fan of mag’s like cosmo either – i find them a bit degrading. On occasion I will ingulde in a super trashy gossip magazine 🙂

  • I love Bazaar, although I was so behind on my reading that I recently let almost all my magazine subscriptions lapse. The only fashion/style one I receive now is Vanity Fair, and that’s not even all that much fashion/style (my other reads are Sports Illustrated and the Atlantic). I agree with your point about the articles (although I also really enjoy Vogue’s articles)…there is some really amazing, well-researched, and well-written stuff in those pages, and I enjoy the stories even more than the eye candy for most issues. And the fabulous at every age…I love all the styles they choose for the women in their 50s and 60+ (just my style…really!). Now you’re really making me think about re-starting my subscription. 🙂

    Oddly enough, I get a lot of outfit inspiration from advertisements, so it really doesn’t matter which magazine they’re in. 🙂

  • Thursday

    As a rule, I avoid women’s magazines like the plague – I find not just the content but the tone on the whole to be horrifying. But…every now and then I will pick up a copy of Harper’s when I am seduced by the designs within. I still avoid reading most of the articles (don’t need another article on the latest weight loss fads or plastic surgery, thanks) but they can put some very visually intriguing things together.

  • I’m glad you posted this. I have always felt a little embarrased about liking Harper’s Bazaar! As glossy fashion mags come, I think it really doesn’t get much better than HB. The fashion writing is very good, the layout of the magazine is reader-friendly, and the fashion editorials are inspiring. Yes, Vogue may have more artistic ambition when it comes to fashion, and yes, HB is rich-lady mag just like Vogue, but HB is somehow so much more approachable. There is even a part of me that loves the whole in/out features, as well as the dress for your age nonsense. I often stuff on the basis of what is supposedly “out” according to HB – inspiration has many faces!

  • Gillian

    I hoard magazines, so I’ve tried to stop buying most that I think I’ll only read once because I know once I take them home they never leave. I have a large stack of Vogue, Elle, Teen Vogue, and Elle Girl, a bunch of Martha Stewart Living, a lot of People Style Watch, and a few special foreign mags.

    Martha Stewart Living I’ve just loved since I bought the children’s versions as a kid and learned to make all kinds of popsicles and beaded animals. I find Vogue often obnoxious and condescending, but pretty; when Elle is good I really love it, but when it’s bad it’s very cluttered as some of you have mentioned; Teen Vogue had a lot of fluff articles and expensive clothing but was stylistically miles ahead of Seventeen and its ilk. I adore Elle Girl and would still subscribe though I’m no longer a teen if only it hadn’t folded. It had a lot of DIYs, street style photos, and inspirational ladies. You are missing out if you never got to flip through an Elle Girl. I also loved YM through the early 2000s before it too ceased publication.

    Honestly even though I like aspirational, artistic shoots and long articles sometimes, when I just want to relax I love People Style Watch. It is fairly trendy which sometimes is a turn off, but it is extremely seasonal, which I like. By the time summer finally rolls around, I just want to look at pages of swimsuits that I could potentially buy, not the Vogue-style thousand-dollar suits that can’t get wet. Style Watch always lists prices, store locations, and often discount codes. There are also less ads and clutter than magazines like Lucky and InStyle.

    I also can’t recommend Lula magazine enough. It can get expensive, especially when you can only find marked-up versions on ebay, but sometimes you will find them at Borders. Those of you in big cities probably have better luck tracking one down. They’re beautiful. http://www.lulamag.com/

    I could go on and on…I love magazines. I always wanted to work in magazines, but now I think I may appreciate blogs even moreso.

  • S

    I generally avoid most fashion magazines. I have tried reading Vogue and failed. Glamour is somewhat approachable but I still find it a bit too er…fluffy? It’s a nice past time though. And others like Cosmo simply have no appeal. I read O and strangely enough I like that Oprah is always on the cover, we already know about her so I know there won’t be an entire feature inside! I must be one of the few people who does not care to read about celebrities and their lives. O is not a ”traditional” fashion mag but I have managed to get some great tips on what to wear and how, beauty and makeup. I find it a bit more practical although they also feature some really expensive stuff.

    I am glad I discovered blogs because they serve as inspiration. I like seeing ordinary people dress as they go about their lives. However, I have noticed that though bloggers are creative, most dress alike still. I rarely see something entirely fresh or original. But the best thing is they are free and I have access to lots and lots so I never really feel cheated!

  • I’m a die hard Vogue reader. I’ve been reading since I was a teen and saving the magazines, because I can’t bear to part with them! 🙂