women’s press

women’s press
   Over the last forty years, women’s magazines have changed from offering advice to wives and mothers about their families and homes, through the singlegirl sexual revolution of the 1970s, to catering for diverse consumer markets in the 1990s.
   The 1960s saw many more changes in the magazine world than the previous two decades. Many magazines folded, even more merged (because of various takeovers, particularly by the Mirror Group), and over a dozen new titles were launched (including Honey, FAB, 19, Petticoat and the best-selling Nova, ‘the new magazine for the new kind of woman’ of the 1960s). The launch of Family Circle in 1964 began the trend for selling magazines at supermarket checkouts; it became the top-selling women’s monthly and even achieved the unheard of figure of a million sales. Fashion was (unsuccessfully) launched to challenge the hegemony of Vogue, Queen and Harper’s (the latter two soon to merge as Harpers and Queen), and a new kind of magazine was created when a husband and wife team brought out Slimming and Family Nutrition.
   The 1970s saw still more intense activity. Most notable was the new launch of Cosmopolitan in 1972 (incredibly, it was first sold in the USA in 1886). The principle behind the magazine, to encourage and enable liberated career girls to succeed for themselves and not through men, was forged by its first editor Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl. The frankness and intimate discussions that informed every topic were an instant success, and have of course been imitated countless times in magazines (Company was the most important in the 1970s) which have the same set of concerns: careers, relationships, body maintenance, fashion, health, food and most of all, sex. The previously cardinal subjects of the home and babies were discarded. When Cosmopolitan was launched in Britain, following unprecedented success in the USA, the first issue sold out on its first day (the second, which increased its print run by one-half to 450,000, sold out in two days). In the same year the radical, unglossy, political and uncommercial Spare Rib was launched, describing itself as a ‘women’s liberation magazine’. The magazine folded in 1993, but its remit is still fulfilled by Everywoman and Women’s Review. Other new magazines were Look Now (for the 18–24s), Candida (an upmarket weekly), Personal (on readers’ sexual problems), Good Life (cashing in on the image of the television programme), Womancraft (promoting and catering for multiple hobbies) and numerous teen magazines.
   In the 1980s, Options tried to catch the ‘Cosmo Girl’ before she turned to Good Housekeeping; EMAP Maclaren launched Just Seventeen, followed by Looks; Working Woman tried to cater for the professional ‘realist’; Chic and Candace were aimed at black women; In Store focused on furnishings and shopping; Cachet was for women size 16 and above; Essentials was a compendium of practicality from index cards to cut-outs; House Beautiful in 1989 was stuffed with detail about the modern home for the millions who did not own the houses that appeared in House & Garden; and Rupert Murdoch launched Elle in the UK in 1985. Perhaps the big launch of the 1980s was the Spanish Hello!, which followed on from the success of Prima, Bella, Best and other German imports. By 1993 Hello! was selling nearly a half a million copies a week (the European invasion of the 1980s was completed by the UK launch of the French Marie Claire). The 1990s has seen further fragmentation, specialization and proliferation. The latest kid on the block is the competitions and puzzles magazine Take A Break which, at 1.4 million copies, became the biggest selling women’s weekly magazine in the 1990s. Sex became more pictorially explicit in For Women, Women on Top and Bite. Supermarkets began to produce their own checkout magazines, and OK! arrived to rival Hello!.
   Further reading
    Braithwaite, B. (1995) Women’s Magazines, London: Peter Owen.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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