Magazines occasionally stress me out. Like, I love them. I devour them. But as someone who wants to spend my life making them, I feel like I need to savor every last morsel of Harper's Bazaar and Elle, gleaning from each page what I enjoy and what I hope to imitate in my own writing and wardrobe. I buy them in bulk at the drugstore, sit down with a steaming mug of wild cherry green tea and read them cover to cover, dog-earing pages to denote looks I want to copy or references I want to check. No halfhearted treadmill skimming for me: where a normal person might flick lazily through an editorial, I am studying the fine print names of stylists and photographers, testing myself to see if I recognize designer pieces from their respective runways. I attack magazines with the same fervor my more literary fellow English majors attack Joyce and Tolstoy. So it seems only fitting that I have, as a result, acquired a similar level of surface expertise.
There's a fairly wide smorgasbord of magazines out there, enough to target a fairly wide audience of potential readers. To read them all would be time-consuming and costly. Apart from an element of style, what do you look for in your magazine experience? Celebrity culture? Current events? As the end of the calendar year (and likely end of your subscription) draws near, consider the menu of options hovering at the forefront of the industry: the good reads and the guilty pleasures. Which publication was made for you?
If you want to draw inspiration from impeccable photo spreads full of things you will never be able to afford: Vogue. There's a reason this magazine is often cited as #1. Aesthetically, Vogue is virtually flawless. Creatively, it's also the most forward-thinking; the number of designers, models, and photographers discovered and nurtured by Vogue is astounding (chicken or egg: did Vogue pick up on their raw talent, or did we decide they must be talented because Vogue thought so?). However, being on top comes with a flip side: in this case, a snootiness that makes Vogue a bit inaccessible to anyone who isn't a) extremely knowledgeable about fashion or b) rolling in the Benjamins. Steel yourself to see a $400 top described as "a steal." This is a place to gather ideas, not to compile a shopping list.
If you want to literally see something in a magazine, then go buy it: Lucky. Pretty much the opposite of Vogue. Not a ton of high fashion happening here, but if you want to save yourself the energy of synthesizing runway trends and just see a well-executed take on what you might actually be able to add to your wardrobe, this is the mag for you. Perfect for those who like to look current but aren't particularly interested in devoting a lot of time to personal style. Lucky is an easy read full of great deals, with a well-developed online sector positively overflowing with coupons and giveaways.
If you want to read articles that will make you think about fashion in a whole new way: Harper's Bazaar. Provocative, sweeping, sophisticated yet tongue-in-cheek. Think Vogue with a bit more irony. Similarly focused on couture but with arguably more attention paid to written content, Harper's Bazaar is Vogue's biggest rival (and wins my prize for number of covetous gasps elicited per issue). Not the best choice to flip through while waiting to get your hair cut; Bazaar's wit demands a focus from its readers that may or may not be your cup of tea.
If you want to feed your intellect at the same time you indulge your materialistic side: Elle. One thing's for sure: Elle is not afraid of words. If you're into fashion, but just as into literature and the state of your soul, Elle is a savvier take on the classic women's magazine. Don your most geek-chic pair of glasses and spend an afternoon poring over it in a coffee shop, but don't try and take it on the treadmill. Check out one of my favorite articles from the last issue here.
If you want to put your consumerism in the context of what's happening in the world: Vanity Fair. Best summed up by its own Google summary: "From world affairs to entertainment, business to fashion, crime to society, Vanity Fair is a cultural catalyst that drives the popular dialogue globally." So there you go. Issues! Politics! You may like fashion, but you're not shallow! You're informed! Go forth and prosper, Michelle Obamas of the world!
If you want to see how the other half lives: InStyle. InStyle has a not-entirely-deserved reputation as being geared toward more mature readers. This stigma aside (and really, I love InStyle and think it has plenty to say that is relevant to us young ones), their big thing is celebrity culture - not in a trashy US Weekly kind of way, but more in the vein of red carpet coverage and celebrity home tours. For the fashionista who is enthralled by famous faces, InStyle is a cocktail of sartorial splendor and superstars.
If clothes are fine...but really you're all about the make-up: Allure. Speaks for itself.
If clothes are fine...but really you're all about the men: Cosmopolitan. Also speaks for itself. Find out how to please him. Many times over.
If you don't take life (or fashion) too seriously: Glamour. The perfect potpourri of fashion finds, empowering tidbits, heartwarming stories and boy advice. Reading Glamour is like having a conversation with your "rah-rah, girl power!" best friend. Funny. Satisfying. Glamour might be a Jack of all trades and a master of none, but it's a pretty damn good Jack.
There are several more that I feel unfit to judge due to lack of experience (W, Nylon, and Marie Claire spring to mind). Any thoughts, peanut gallery?
So there you have it. Be picky with your readership, but remember that each publication requires an intense amount of manpower and creativity to come to fruition each month. Let's give all those magazine-makers out there a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.