By the 1860s, stylish American women could see original designs by Charles Frederick Worth, the first true fashion designer, in the popular publication Harper’s Bazaar. As other designers appeared on the scene, their creations could also be seen in new fashion magazines. By the turn of the twentieth century, this was the primary method of spreading news of fashion trends from Paris, the seat of fashion.

At first, the gowns were illustrated with drawings, but as photography became more sophisticated in the early twentieth century, the fashion press used more and more photographs of new designs. At the same time, fashion and art were merging in the eyes of the artists, who dabbled in many of the arts. These artists not only painted, but also created textile designs and fashion illustrations. Some journals of the day printed both fashion illustrations and photographs, along with short articles on fashion by modern writers. Until the Second World War, even mainstream fashion journals like Vogue and Vanity Fair continued to publish fashion illustration by modern artists, encouraging the connections between fashion designers and visual artists.

Vogue functioned in America not only to provide sketches and patterns of fashions derived from Paris models, but also to promote French couture. One of France’s premier designers, Paul Poiret, wrote in a special thirtieth-anniversary edition of Vogue that the magazine "is today one of the best methods of communication with a distinguished clientele," revealing the importance for him of reaching the American clientele.

In America, wearing Paris fashion ensured that others would recognize the wearer’s status as a cultivated and wealthy person, perhaps able to travel to Paris, certainly able to afford the best her own locality could provide, be it local cultural life or the best dressmaker in town. For the Tirocchi clientele, nothing less would do to proclaim their status as wives and daughters of newly wealthy industrialists, a new elite of active and intelligent women in a vibrant city with a long history and a monied elite.

The Tirocchis subscribed to both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. No doubt many of their clients also subscribed to these magazines at home, but they were able in the shop to consult the magazines and could order a dress made from one of the sketches they saw illustrated. Vogue illustrated as many as 33 models from Paris in each issue, and about twice as many American dresses. Advertisements provided many more images.

As a result of their familiarity with fashion magazines, by 1920 clients were asking for couturiers by name instead of favoring designs sewn and trimmed by Madame Tirocchi herself. The sisters turned this development to their advantage by embracing it and offering their customers copies of Paris couture from supply houses in New York that had paid for the right to copy them in the same materials as the original, then stitch up copies to order for retailers like A. & L. Tirocchi.

Custom dressmaking declined for many reasons in the early twentieth century, but the increasing popularity of the fashion press, which championed couture and a worldwide fashion industry, was a major factor hastening its demise. Women saw what they liked in the pages of fashion magazines and were no longer satisfied with dresses that were not identified with the style of a particular fashion designer.

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  The Family
      Couture   |   Art
      Magazines   |   1900s
      1910s   |   1920s
      1930s   |   1940s
  The Business
  The Clients
  The Workers




Think about how fashion trends are spread today. What is the influnce of television, movies, fashion magazines and more general music and culture publications?