out of print ~ mirabella

August 7, 2014 in good reads, photo play by editor


Grace Mirabella had a career that ebbed and flowed with the changing tides of fashion.

When Grace Mirabella replaced Diane Vreeland as Vogue editor-in-chief in 1971, a minor uproar took place in the fashion community. How could someone as practical as Mirabella — who was Vreeland’s assistant — ever replace the flamboyant, ground-breaking, larger-than-life Vreeland? Actually, very easily. Mirabella knew that a great change was occurring in America. Women were on the go, working full-time and living busy lives. Suddenly the lavish fashion imagery set forth by Vreeland looked dated and she was unwilling to change. Vreeland was fired and Mirabella took the reigns, ushering in the age of the liberated woman. She put sportswear on the pages of Vogue and touted designers with a more pared-down aesthetic, such as Halston and Geoffrey Bene. She then replaced Vreeland’s waifish ingenues — Twiggy, Penelope Tree, Jean Shrimpton — with the likes of Patti Hansen and Lauren Hutton, models with fit, athletic figures. The first editor to put a black model on the cover (Beverly Johnson), Mirabella’s no-nonsense, inclusive attitude helped to democratize fashion for all women. Before the end of the decade, Vogue’s circulation skyrocketed from 400,000 to 1.2 million.

But in a pendulum swinging sign of the times, in 1988, Mirabella suffered the same fate that Vreeland had endured almost two decades prior. The 80s had brought opulence and extravagance (and giant shoulder pads) back into fashion and Mirabella’s understated approach to style no longer seemed relevant. So she was out. The younger, hipper Anna Wintour was in. Ah, fashion — so pretty, so fickle.

Five months after Mirabella’s ousting from Vogue, she was approached by media behemoth, Rupert Murdoch. Looking to add a women’s title to his ever-growing magazine empire, he asked Mirabella if she’d like to run it, with her own name splashed across the cover. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse and in June 1989, the premiere issue of her eponymous magazine hit the newsstands. And unbeknownst to everyone, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because again, the excesses of 80s fashion were on the verge of bottoming out; they were on the cusp of the more grounded, minimalist movement of the 90s. But beyond fashion, Mirabella was also a lifestyle and design magazine, aimed at women in the 30-50 year old demographic who had no need for make-up tutorials or articles on how to play dress-up. Mirabella was also against chasing fads and the “celebrity machine”, choosing instead to be ‘selective’ in her fashion content, explaining at the time ‘The words will ricochet as to whether we think this is good or that is good. And the good will not be 20 designs. There will be two. We won’t say, “Find the best out of these 100.”‘ The debut issue boasted interviews with Diane Sawyer and a somewhat unknown Marc Jacobs, a travel feature on Chicago, a story celebrating a new Josephine Baker book, and an endless parade of fashion editorials. On the cover was not a model, but a close-up of documentary film producer, Diandra Douglas.

Thanks to synchronistic timing coupled with a Publication Director determined to stay true to her vision, Mirabella flourished in the early 90s. However, the magazine began to lose its focus after Murdoch sold the title to Hachette-Filipacchi media in 1995. Shortly thereafter, Grace Mirabella left soon and — likely exhausted from all the drama — retired from publishing altogether. Subsequently, the magazine lost its editorial focus and folded for good in 2000.