In the days before colour photography most magazine covers were created by illustrators (as the New Yorker still is), a situation that’s left behind a rich legacy of wonderful artwork often far more stimulating than any of the magazine contents. This site has a great collection of early Vogue covers that show an amazing amount of variety and originality at play. Some of these early issues even break with the understandable stricture for a fashion magazine of having a female figure as the focus.
Looking over this selection, it’s impossible not to compare the rich designs of the 1920s with today’s bland uniformity. Vogue now looks like any other magazine for women, with an overly made-up (often celebrity) face filling the cover and the whole picture crowded with sub-headings and a general clutter of typography. UK Vogue‘s own cover archive pages show the gradual degeneration of a stylish flagship to a condition of cultural muzak over the passage of ninety years.