Welcome back to our 'we love vintage but...' series babe! This five part series is dedicated to answering the following questions: how has vintage clothing shown up in the world today, why has it shown up like that & how can we fill in the gaps for a better, brighter and more inclusive future. And boy, we cant want to give you the low down on the VOGUE shenanigans 

Ok let's set the scene.

Its 1964 and VOGUE is the leading fashion magazine in the the west, if not the world. It's giving us high fashion, its giving us the latest trends, it's giving us beautiful models and cultural moments month after month. Basically, it's feeding the children with what it needs to feed. And like the kardashians and the influence they have, It's a trickle down system. Whatever VOGUE is feeding us, we're taking it as gospel and like Meryl Streeps says in Devil Wears Prada, it trickles down through a system eventually into the bargain basement dustbins. 

snippet from a vogue magazine referencing sewing


As you will be aware, the VOGUE cover girl is the highlight of the magazine. It's a big boy marketing tool to get people talking about the magazine and ultimately splashing their hard earned 99p - £4.99 depending on what era you were blessed to be picking it up. 

So, representation? It's going to be cute right? Even though VOGUE always had cover girls and cover girls only, we're going to see a varied woman surely?

Think again babe.

Yes, the first plus size model debuted in 2017, but today let's take a look at racial representation.

a selection of vogue front covers


VOGUE launched in 1892 and have been churning out a series of the magazine once a month ever since. In that time between launch and 2012, there have been 1416 covers, meaning there have been 1416 cover girls (with a few exceptions if models have been seen on the cover more than once).

 So how many of them were non-white?

Donyale Luna.

donyale luna with face covered

Gail O-Neill.

Gail o'neill vogue front cover

Naomi Campbell.

Naomi Campbell vogue Christmas front cover

Beverley Ann Johnson.

Beverley ann johnson 1974 vogue front cover


Four. Four women of colour have been featured on VOGUE's front cover in over 100 years.

But let's look at the nitty gritty:

  • 0.002% of the VOGUE covers have been POC. 
  • The first POC to ever appear on vogue's front cover was in 1966 and her name was Donyale Luna. However, because fashion 'wasn't ready for people of colour', they had Donyale cover up her face to cover up her features and make her appear more ambiguous 
  • Throughout the 1990s, Naomi Campbell represented the entire BAME community 


Despite that the facts presented are absolutely appalling, the ingrained systemic impact that seeps into every aspect of our lives when we wear vintage clothing isn't apparent until somebody explains it to you.

As the top selling fashion magazine in the world, VOGUE is responsible for dictating a standard that people follow. If non-white people and other marginalised groups don't see themselves in VOGUE magazine, they feel like there is no place for them in the fashion industry. That's not just speculation, history has played out in that way. 

vogue front cover in envious green


Not only does this mean that the people modelling vintage clothing in VOGUE represent a single demographic, it also pigeon holes vintage clothing to lean towards creation for the white body in mind. We miss out on cultural fabrics, cultural techniques, creating clothing for varying bodies etc and the effect goes on, meaning fashion becomes exclusionary. 

In 2021 and in front of the camera, things are improving. But behind the scenes? The top 50 most successful designers are still all white, with the exception of two asian designers. 


For vintage, this means that it's loses points on diversity and inclusion. How can we expect a product to be fully diverse and inclusive when there's no historical reference point through media or in physicality for these groups to consciously or subconsiously resonate with?

It means for fashion moving forward, we need to ensure that the styles, motifs and pop culture indicators are representative of a variety of people and not just a single ideal. This can be done in a variety of ways related to fashion and its surrounding creative areas specifically, such as ensuring our nostalgic cartoon characters are diverse, our musicians are diverse and our film and tv stars are also, you guessed it, diverse. 

the cast of sex education


This is because, for example, you're probably not going to buy a Jollof rice t-shirt if you're a white girl from Skegness because you don't eat Jollof rice. It's not from your culture and you cant see yourself in it & you'd also be communicating a message that doesn't align with you. However, you might buy a t-shirt with Victoria spongecake or fish and chips on it because its significant to British culture and your upbringing and it's something you're able to relate to and communicate to the world. It's really important we can see ourselves and relate because research has shown that it has a direct correlation to our body image and our self esteem.

vogue arabia front cover featuring three women of colour in headscarves


Sometimes this series feels like we are throwing vintage under a big red bus but that isn't the case. We love vintage for SO many qualities, but we cant ignore the facts of the gaps that are present due to oppression. We want to be part of a conversation that not only focuses on securing our future from a climate perspective, but adding to the conversation and providing safety to those that have continually been ignored. 


Until next time,

AE x