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You are here: Home / Conferences / Antwerp 2018 / Programme

Didot and fashion

Idealisation in historical contexts
When Fri 14 Sep 1100
Where Arenberg Theater
What
Who Craig Eliason
In the 1940s, the two most prominent American fashion magazines underwent redesigns. Condé Nast’s Vogue magazine and its great rival, William Randolph Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, created nameplates for their covers that announced their titles in capital letters adopted from a typestyle invented by the Didot family in late-18th-century Paris. Both publications have continued to use Didot-like letterforms on nearly every cover for the last three-quarters of a century; other fashion brands have followed suit. Didot’s letterforms have been described as elegant and sophisticated, thus fitting the needs of high fashion. But a contextual analysis of the typestyle carries us further. Didot’s letterforms demonstrate a radical rethinking of the relationship of written language to type design: they are an abstract idealization of pen-written letters. This presentation suggests that it was this idealized character that drew art directors of fashion magazines (Alexander Liberman at Vogue and Alexei Brodovitch at Harper’s Bazaar) to Didot. Reinterpreting modern-face types like Didot’s as abstractions of writing contributes to a better understanding of their emergence during the Enlightenment in France, but it also helps to explain their appeal in the context of fashion from the middle of the 20th century through today.

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