Grace Mirabella, Diana Vreeland’s right hand woman, became Vogue editor when her boss was ousted in 1971. She remained in the job until 1988 and is credited with boosting readership, acknowledging women entering the workforce in droves, and promoting clothes that real women could wear. According to the Voguepedia, “Mirabella’s genius was to understand that American women of her era needed more than just castles in the air: They were working in record numbers while raising families; they were politically aware; they had their own money; and they needed unfussy yet stylish clothes that would move with them.”
When she suffered the same fate as Vreeland, replaced by Anna Wintour, she was approached by Rupert Murdoch’s company to start her own magazine. Named after her, Mirabella existed for a little over a decade, from 1989 to 2000. Each issue contained a statement from her, like a short manifesto, called Mirabella Dictu. (Get the joke? The Latin phrase “mirabile dictu,” found in old literature, means “wonderful to tell.”) In the first issue, she tried to elaborate what she meant by the word style. “Style has nothing to do with money,” she wrote. “Style is not what you wear, but how you wear it.”
Who was Mirabella for? Leafing though it today, at first glance it doesn’t look all that different from a standard fashion magazine. The first issue has coverage of the Paris and New York fashion shows, shots of beautiful actresses, and advertising by clothing and cosmetics companies. A closer look reveals a different tone, though. The articles are longer and more thought provoking—a look at the beauty industry’s cult of the youthful face, an examination of the pro choice movement, an in depth article on Josephine Baker. A thinking woman’s fashion magazine, perhaps.
And the fashion is different as well. While Mirabella offered its share of evening gowns, there was a decided emphasis on clean, comfortable sportswear. Listen to the descriptive adjectives in one photo shoot—“breezy, easy, simple, clean.” A short write up of the then young designer, Marc Jacobs, quotes him as saying: “Fashion, as opposed to clothing, is more of an entertainment. People need clothes; they don’t need fashion.”
More to come on Mirabella—the woman and the magazine.