I can't quite remember when I stopped, though I can certainly remember when I started reading magazines, having graduated from the weekly comic, from Playhour to Jack and Jill, Princess, June & Schoolfriend, Diana, Judy, Jackie and then to Honey back in the 1960s, and thence to Cosmopolitan and since then heaven knows how many magazine phases I have passed through.
There was Craft magazine...does anyone remember that?
In more weekly parts, adding up to more hefty volumes costing lord knows how much, than I care to think about, and for some reason the sad staple of our lives as student nurses, though really there has to be a limit to how many macrame plant hangers a nurse needs in her room. Maybe it was a welcome diversion from all the stresses and angst of the job to come off duty and do some knotting, and I think it had plenty of patchwork projects too, all kept us amused when the feet were too tired to go partying.
In fact I can remember when I stopped reading magazines, it was Country Living and having been a devotee since the very first one I suddenly thought 'what on earth am I buying this for when I live here?'
So it was all a bit of a surprise to find myself craving the occasional magazine to read in my deckchair in the garden this summer, and having heard that Justine Picardie had taken over the reins as the editor of Harper's Bazaar, I splashed out and bought one back in June...and then July...and then August..
... because this is what happens, a whim becomes a bit of an addiction, besides which the free gifts are worth the cover price. I'm still using the double-ended nail varnish that came with July and it's far and away better than anything I have used before.
Now the fashion world is a complete mystery to me. I head to Port Eliot and wander around the fashion sections and I have to admit that, apart from Barbara Hulanicki of Biba, I have never heard of any of them, but three editions of Harper's Bazaar and I am certainly beginning to know my Miu Miu (quite stripy and spotty) from my Valentino (not much use in the potting shed), and my Louis Vuitton (nowhere near warm enough) from my Fendi (unusual) and to be honest it's been so different, and so beyond my ken that it's been interesting.
And some surprises too once you get beyond the first 100 pages of things you can't afford and would look a little odd wearing in rural Devon anyway.
Take the September edition, actually published on August 4th...
A brilliant piece by Margaret Atwood on how fashion is at the heart of the fantasy she creates. Clothes as social cues in fiction, and she talks of fashion deprivation which turned her into an early knitter and teenaged tailoress..
'The orange dirndl skirt block-printed by myself with a design of trilobites was appealing to me, though it took some explaining in a world in which other girls had poodles and telephones on their skirts...'
A piece about Angelina Jolie and William Hague's unlikely alliance to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. The 'powerful alchemy of politician and film star' is opening doors and I learned more from this article than I have from any number of newspaper columns.
A reprint of a short story by Virginia Woolf, romance meets fantasy in Lappin and Lapinova, and first published in Harper's in 1939, had me dashing to the letters and diaries for any references. It would seem Virginia's relationship with Harper's Bazaar did not always run smoothly...
23 January, 1941
Your letter of 21 January astonishes me. Three months ago you wrote to me saying that the American office had cabled to you "clamouring for" a story from me. I was not prepared to submit a story unless commissioned and you then wrote to me saying that "it would definitely be a commission from America" and "if you can let me have a story for them as soon as possible we would use it ourselves this side in the next issue to press." You acknowledged receipt of the story on November 4, nearly three months ago. Since that date I have heard nothing from you, my letters remain unanswered, and the story was not used in your next issue. You now write me a letter from which I gather that you propose, without apology to repudiate your agreement.
But I had no idea that Virginia Woolf had written for Harper's Bazaar, nor that the magazine itself dates back to the nineteenth century and has such a strong literary heritage. The story itself a potent mix from the depths of Virginia's imagination and I read it with fascination...she really was a woman of many facets.
There was a fascinating rags-to-riches piece on a beguilingly beautiful Russian model, Natalia Vodianova, who at seven was working on a fruit stall as well as caring for her disabled sister, living in one room, alcoholic step-father, a real catalogue-of-disaster-come-good. Now one of the world's most sought after models, living in Paris, happily married, three lovely children and I am lapping it all up in my deckchair as well as checking out the clothes she is modelling... alpaca top £602... skirt £1,505... even the trainers are £150...
' It's another world out there' I think as I stare at my Crocs.
I feel slightly more at home when I turn the next page (now on p260 something, this thing weighs a ton) and see the title...
Dark Star... Part governess, part queen of the night, this season's heroine is a vision from a gothic romance on the wilds of Dartmoor...
Ah this will be more like it, Craghoppers and Scarpa boots...
Well not exactly and a shower of rain would certainly see tens of thousand of pounds-worth of ruined clothes. I can confirm this £7430 frock is not what we are wearing out on the moors this year...
and I'm not sure this necklace wouldn't garner some funny looks over coffee in the Two Bridges, in fact you'd need a straw,
..and there'd be talk of alien invaders and pictures on the front page of the Tavistock Times. But it's all very surreal and lovely and quite a refreshing change, and as Justine Picardie suggests in her Editor's Letter...
'...that fashion's flights of the imagination are as likely to arise from the pages of a novel as a more prosaic fabric swatch..'
This is definitely all about the unexpected, and letting go of the realities and the practicalities for once and having a bit of a dream.
And still another hundred pages to go...
I'm now well versed on Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge's favourite designer Erdem Moralioglu, and a lovely piece on the style and fashion of Princess Grace of Monaco, and so it went on and on, at 386 pages the magazine felt endless and maybe the most enjoyable £4.20 I've splashed out in a long time.
In her Editor's Letter Justine Picardie suggests that readers..
'..enter and take flight with the same freedom of expression and creativity that we cherish ourselves, and nurture at Bazaar,'
and I have to say I did.
I feel duty-bound to drop these into the doctor's surgery next time I'm passing and hope they will offer some flight-of-the-imagination balance to what was on offer last time I was in there, Amateur Yacht Builder, Camping Monthly and Hello Magazine from two years ago, and the next big question is can I walk past the October edition of Harper's Bazaar this week without buying it?
So how about you and magazines...