Much has been made (and mythologized) of Anna Wintour‘s debut issue of American Vogue: namely, what a statement it was that the young EIC opened with such a casual image (above), just a beautiful blonde in denim. It was 1988 and famed photog Peter Lindbergh had snapped Israeli model Michaela Bercu in a Christian Lacroix couture jacket and a super ’80s pair of stonewashed Guess jeans. Wintour has since maintained that wearing a pair of jeans can be chic, and some refer to the cover of her debut Vogue as the moment the fashion world realized that.
…The reason for Wintour’s decision? Delicious Isreali food, turns out.
It was November 1988, and starred the gorgeous Israeli model Michaela Bercu, photographed by Peter Lindbergh and styled by Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele. Michaela was wearing an haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket with a beaded cross, all very “Like a Prayer,” and stonewashed Guess jeans. The jacket was actually part of a suit, but the skirt didn’t fit Michaela; she had been on vacation back home in Israel and had gained a little weight. Not that that mattered. In fact, it only served to reinforce the idea to take couture’s haughty grandeur and playfully throw it headlong into real life and see what happened.
What none of us expected was to run that picture on the cover, least of all the magazine’s printers, who called up and asked with some consternation, “Has there been a mistake?” I couldn’t blame them. It was so unlike the studied and elegant close-ups that were typical ofVogue’s covers back then, with tons of makeup and major jewelry. This one broke all the rules. Michaela wasn’t looking at you, and worse, she had her eyes almost closed. Her hair was blowing across her face. It looked easy, casual, a moment that had been snapped on the street, which it had been, and which was the whole point.
Wintour mentions that the cover inspired a number of interpretations–that it was about “mixing high and low,” that it was a “religious statement,” and… because the fashion industry has and always will be the fashion industry… that “Michaela was pregnant.” Some things, we guess, are better left without an origin story.