Edna Woolman Chase was a powerful woman in the world of fashion. She began at Vogue in 1914 and continued until 1952, eventually becoming editor in chief of American and foreign editions launched under her tenure. Yet despite this prominence, I do not get the impression that she was personally very interested in clothes. Unlike her successor, Diana Vreeland, or her rival at Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow, Chase’s clothes did not make news.
This photo of Chase published in Life in 1937 is revealing. She is around sixty here and hard at work in the Vogue offices. She is wearing what looks like a shirtwaist dress in a small printed pattern, a style often recommended to older women. Although hers might be silk and hand sewn, it does not look that different from the dresses that millions of American women wore during the Depression. Many older women would have recognized a similar dress in their own closets.
In her autobiography, Always in Vogue, Chase praises the virtues of coverage as a fashion rule, believing that aging flesh was not appealing. “For the older woman, misty tulle scarves for the evening or little jackets or stoles are pleasant bits of decorative flattery.”