The Story of the Gloss: Where does Fashion Come From

Valeriia Serova
4 min readMay 1, 2018


Image Credit: Instagram/ @dilettamenta

Fashion journalism has been through a lot since its inception. The palm of supremacy in the “glossy” field belongs to the Parisian magazine Mercure Galant, dedie a Monseigneur Le Dauphin. It has been published around 1679 in Lyon in the form of a book, size of one-eighth of a page. The first far from being glanced pages open the door into the fashion world with the Princess of Orleans, Mary-Louise, and the King of Spain, Charles II’s wedding.

Over the next few centuries fashion journalism has shaped into what we now see behind the glossy cover: skinny models, shiny smiles, fashionable outfits, and, as a cherry on the cake, “sassy” and scandalous content. By the second half of the twentieth-century fashion magazine has built up its own criteria: a certain number of articles, photographs, interviews, and a specific text layout.

Image Credit: WordPress/niviudasnihuerfanas

First magazines were published in the yellow, mate paper. Initially, magazines were black-and-white. Many illustrations were painted. Back then, illustrations were the only visual reception of fashion magazines. Only much later, when the printing industry disclosed the production of the glossy paper, those magazines became “glossy” and drawings were replaced with the professional pics and artistic illustrations.

“Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.” — Vivienne Westwood

The 1920s and 50s are considered to be the golden age of “gloss.” The heyday of all kinds of women’s magazines was primarily due to the development of the printing technologies and, consequently, the decline in the cost of production. The growth of magazines’ circulation and an increase in the quality of illustrations made the magazines a sweet spot for both advertisers and readers. Publishers of the “fashion press” start close collaborations with well-known fashion houses, designers, and celebrities.


In the 1970s static studio photography was riding the crest of the fashion magazines’ world. It was different to the previously used photos because of its originality and, sometimes, pretentiousness. The number of texts and their length was reduced, the opposite happened to the illustrations. Fashion magazines became practically impossible to read; they could only be watched. That is not such an unexpected change since fashion has always been a visual art to some extent.

Today, the gloss world consists mainly of magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, l’Officiel, Vanity Fair. These are magazines with are produced by the major publishing housesa, have a rich history and a strong editorial team. Sometimes publishing houses have a multitude of magazines in their portfolio. For example, mass media company Condé Nast produces such magazine brands as Vogue, Glamour, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Wired, Condé Nast Traveller, Tatler and Vanity Fair.

Image Credit: Valeriia Serova

In the XXI century, a huge reform of glossy magazines came in with major changes. Modern technologies, Internet, and social media sent the majority of printed editions to the past, leaving only the best out of the best in the kiosks. The bulk of information is now transmitted online in various forms.

Thanks to the technological progress, now you can subscribe to the monthly dose of gloss online. Today, a mobile phone with an access to the Internet is all you need to get into fashion. It allows subscribers to read their favorite magazines on the laptop screen (or any other gadget) as if they were in print. Even though such development fits the need of the modern society — have everything, everywhere and everytime — the fashion world is now overcoming the issue of maintaining the glossiness online.

Image Credit: Valeriia Serova

The glossy world has always had its own unspoken and accepted secret rules, laws, and requirements. Many of them have evolved since the release of the first fashion edition, but their primary purpose of expressing the lifestyle of the society persists up to the present days. Glossy magazines have become an integral part of the culture of everyday life, an illustration of the perfect life.