Saturday, September 7, 2013

Back to School with Flair: College Review Issue, August 1950

I've always loved magazines. It's with pleasure and anticipation that I turn the pages of my favorites, dipping into another world of color, glamour and possibilities. More than "wish books" the best ones open windows to inspiring lifestyles and spark concrete ideas that I can incorporate into my wardrobe and home and what I want to see, read and do.

One of the best, Flair, was created by Fleur Cowles, and published from February 1950 to January 1951. Cowles was a visionary and created a magazine that was unlike anything at the time or since. Covering fashion, travel, art, interior design and literature. In addition to the fabulous articles featuring contributors such as Jean Cocteau, Katherine Anne Porter, Gypsy Rose Lee, Salvador Dali and Tallulah Bankhead, each issue is a thing of art in itself, with an artful mix of photography, illustration, intricately cut pages.

Once again, it was my BFF (Best Fashion Friend) Karen, who introduced me to this wonderful find and loaned me the original copies that she's collected. And because it's back-to-school season, below are some spreads from the college issue with excerpts from the actual copy. The writing is a bit quaint and fun to read. All the issues are so visually rich, I have plans to feature more in upcoming posts.

Inside front cover. 

Big men on campus. Such as Bob Jennings, president of the Triangle Club, the local high-kicking, song-hitting drama and social group. He majors in English, is polishing up a script to try out on
Hollywood and will round the world on a three-year cruise in a private schooner after graduations.

The mouton-collared greatcoat originated in the stiff cold weather bouts of the upper Midwest, has in the past few years blown into every northern campus town, many a big city. Collegians find these coats recapture the rah rah of flask-era raccoon without as much weight. They also recreate the bygone swell's mink or caracul-collared coat without like expense.

The photo on the left: Commonsense fashions have a way of spreading from East to West, or West to East. This Princeton man looks right, is right, in his Eton cap with backstrap. Today's high fashion news in shirts, the round-point pin collar; a constant favorite, the madder foulard tie.

 On right: A well-thought-out wardrobe relies on color and shape and endless combinations, is best when compact. It is, at first, as basic as freshman courses. Color is the first consideratjion. Which basic color is basic enough to take us through the entire year? Bright red. A good contrast and companion to red 365 days of the year? Black. We need a third color to accent and relieve the intensity of red and black. White. A well-thought-out wardrobe comes close to being, like college, a four-year plan. Work and fun, but worth it.

How to combine red and black and white into, first, eight costumes; and then, by turning all the flaps, another eight costumes. You take it from there...

Gray Matter -- Gray, dark gray, is a matter of moment at the moment and the darker it is, the better it looks.

It is little effort for Marjorie Clarke, Smith, '51 to maintain her position as a BWOC (big woman on campus). Marjorie is good-looking, hard-working and serene, combines her hearty interest in local Smith doings with frequent weekends at Yale and Dartmouth.

Tall, brown-eyed Charlene Weiss, a junior at U.C.L.A., has the energy, good health and independent mind which characterize the California coed.

Cocktail parties in upperclassmen's rooms are a Harvard classic, a pause in the day's occupation between the football game and an informal House dance...Short, bare-topped dresses with jackets are a fashionable hedge for uncommitted evenings...The incoming generation knows the ropes, takes the sacred code of student taboos with a grain of salt, recognizes that the simple habit of being agreeable is the secret of that mystic word, poise.


  1. Hey Lesa,
    Flair was a very artsy view of the times! I have the Feb and Mar 1950 issues if you'd like to read next SLO visit. Always enjoy your posts!

  2. Hi Jennie,
    I would love to see them! How did you come across Flair? Thank you for being a loyal BV reader.

  3. Oh my goodness. To think that Flair actually influenced the fashion of college students. Amazing how times have changed. I know very few very fashionable fully grown adults who would take the time to dress like this nowadays. As always, your posts inspire.

  4. What fun it was to "leaf" through your vintage fashion mag! I was in high school in 1950 so the mid-calf skirts, sweater sets, and loafers with bobby socks pictured in Flair brought back memories. At Santa Monica High School, the required dress code for girls was skirts or dresses. But on Fridays the dress code was relaxed so we could wear slacks. And, incongruously, we could also come to school on Fridays with our hair in pin curls (under a head scarf) in anticipation of the Friday night dances. My mom, however, wouldn't allow me go to school pin-curled and head-scarved; she thought it wasn't logical to walk around looking our worst all day in order to look our best in the evening.