Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Covers of La Femme de France, 1926 - 1938


I've spent most of the last month working, but luckily work included reading old issues of La Femme de France, a delightful interwar magazine for women.


 

I like the way women are shown on the cover. They're impossibly thin and beautiful, of course, and wearing clothes almost nobody can afford, but they're also doing things. They're driving boats or playing tennis, reading books or looking at globes. If they're relaxing in a garden or going to a party, they're usually in the company of another woman (or a peacock) rather than a man. They have some fantastic articles on themes for costume parties, including suggestions for how to dress as a nineteenth-century periodical or a pavilion at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs. There was also an article arguing in favour of interracial marriage. La Femme de France feels, for its time, relatively progressive.


I really like the covers which show women in the company of one another, strolling or reading or sitting by the lakes. It makes La Femme de France feel sort of like a letter from some utopian place totally shaped, controlled and inhabited by women. Inside, most articles were written by women, and there were profiles of impressive women (including the Director of the Buddhist Institute, who had worked alone in Cambodia in the 1920s).



There are some amazing outfits, as one might expect. The most outlandish items of clothing are those featured in the late 1920s; these are also my favourite pieces.


I also like the eggs displayed on the covers for Easter. For some reason, these are always enormous, bigger than the model's head.



And I'm very taken with all the images of women actually doing things. They read, drive, ski, captain boats...



And sometimes they turn away from the viewer, refusing to show their faces, which I choose to interpret — perhaps inaccurately and anachronistically — as a radical act of resistance to a media landscape driven by possession.


The magazine came out every second week from 1926 and 1938, and almost every cover is beautiful. The content is just as great. I'm limiting myself to covers today, but I might post about some of the articles at some point in the future. I like the illustrated covers of the 1920s and early 1930s, but La Femme de France began to use photographs around 1935, and some of these images are lovely, too.


And before La Femme de France, there was Les Modes de la Femme de France... which perhaps I'll also write about at some point in the future!


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