Grace Mirabella, the director who turned ‘Vogue’ into a magazine for all women, dies | People

How to dress for a job interview? What to wear to an important business meeting? What to pack on a business trip? These questions, which today many women will be able to answer in seconds and with their eyes closed, were quite an odyssey at the beginning of the seventies, when many, all over the world, began to enter the labor market, becoming the first university students and workers in the world. your families. And the answers were then given by the fashion magazines’ offices. The pioneer was then, in the United States, a header, Vogue, which had just been renovated and left behind the legacy of glamour, as fabulous as something stiff and vintage, by Diana Vreeland to give way to a young, fresh director who thought of her readers, those women who had to share a boardroom for the first time with a handful of men in ties. That woman, Grace Mirabella, designed a path for these hardworking, entrepreneurial and new women in a world in which they were making their way for the first time. At the age of 91, Mirabella died Thursday at her home in Manhattan, New York.

Fashion was not Mirabella’s main interest. He did not study to dedicate himself to her, his first steps were never focused on her and, although it was part of what he did in VogueIt was by no means the only thing. Born in 1930 in New Jersey and of Italian descent, she graduated from Economics and began working at Macy’s department store before moving on to the world of advertising at another famous New York department store, Saks Fifth. At the age of 21, he entered the magazine as an assistant in the purchasing department, but left in 1954 to manage the press for the Italian dressmaker Simonetta, for which he lived for several months in Rome. When he returned to the US already Vogue, a year later, everything changed.

It was Diana Vreeland, the then head of the bedside, who noticed her and went on to make her its deputy director throughout the 1960s. “It was very difficult to work for her,” Mirabella de Vreeland said, as her obituary states in Vogue, “But you can get on with someone difficult if you admire him. I admired Diana Vreeland, for her style and her knowledge, for all that she was. But their lives were very different: if the director’s parents were friends of the kings of England and attended the coronation of George V, those of his deputy were a player and a feminist who instilled in their daughter that the most important thing was to work and be financially independent.

The passage from one decade to another caught the magazine on a different footing. The old and beautiful opulence of the historic director, her aristocratic sense, did not finish changing with the modernity of the new bourgeoisie that the reader of the seventies demanded. The publishing group saw it and in 1971 it made Mirabella its director; in fact, she found out while she was in the middle of a photo shoot.

Grace Mirabella, former director of 'Vogue' in the US, pictured in New York at the end of 1988.
Grace Mirabella, former director of ‘Vogue’ in the US, pictured in New York at the end of 1988.Mario Ruiz (Getty)

Then came naturalness, great fashion left and made way for practicality. One of Mirabella’s early decisions reflects well the headboard’s reversal: Vreeland’s red-walled, leopard-upholstered office was immediately painted beige, the same shade the new director wore so many times. The naturalness was implanted in the clothes, makeup, hairdressing, the topics that were talked about, the covers. They opted for singers and actresses, but also for young models, for authors, for women from the world of politics. “I wanted to return Vogue to real women, journalists, writers, actresses, artists, playwrights, businesswomen, “he wrote in his memoirs, entitled In and Out of Vogue, published in 1995.

Mirabella wanted women to not be “forced to reinvent themselves every day” and for that reason, although she claimed to love fashion, she opted for the utilitarian and gave voice and visibility to great designers who were then prominent for that very reason, such as Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani , Calvin Klein or Donna Karan. “I remember people used to say that I liked practical clothes, and it killed me. I like the style, but the latest trend never really interested me ”. She was looking for “a more relaxed, healthy look, a look closest. It’s a style that looks good, but not too polished. “

That practicality was also driven by her personal life. In 1974 she married William Cahan, a renowned lung surgeon. Hence, healthy life became one of its workhorses: sport and health began to fill the pages of the magazine. Cahan, 15 years her senior, had graduated from Harvard in 1935 and Columbia in 1939 and after fighting in World War II she worked for more than 50 years at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she devoted herself to body and soul to warn of the damage caused by tobacco smoke, both inhaled by oneself and passively. In fact, Mirabella and Cahan became a lobby of great pressure in front of the New York authorities to ban smoking inside restaurants and public buildings in the city, something they achieved in the late eighties.

The editor’s efforts in Vogue They also paid off, and the circulation tripled, going from selling 400,000 copies a month in 1971 to 1.2 million at the end of the 1980s, according to a review. The New York Times, which also highlights the affable profile of Mirabella, without any interest in media prominence.

However, the late 1980s were more difficult for the director to digest. She said it herself: “I couldn’t stand the ruffles, the glitters, and the $ 40,000 party dresses.” Fashion changed again and his management was no longer so praised. In addition, an external factor arrived: in 1985 the magazine She it burst onto the American publishing scene, with more than 800,000 copies sold each month. It was time for a change. Three years later, the magazine’s creative director became its director: the age of Anna Wintour was born.

Wintour, who has been in office for 33 years, has assured the publication that “Grace guided Vogue through a pivotal moment in U.S. history: emancipation [femenina], sexual liberation, and the vital and hard-won rights of women, and he managed to make that time come alive in the pages of the magazine ”. The current director praises her predecessor’s work: “She avoided fantasy and escapism in favor of a style that was chic and minimalist and that spoke clearly and directly of the newly liberated ways of life that we all wanted to live. Grace exhibited Helmut Newton at his most daring and championed many American designers: Ralph, Calvin, Donna, and Mr. Beene. He always exemplified the best of America in his vision and values, and changed Vogue in a way that still has its echo and that we deeply appreciate today ”.

His departure from the head did not end his ability to take on new commissions, and in 1989, after a commission from Rupert Murdoch, Grace created a magazine of the same name, Mirabella, more focused “on style than fashion”, as she explained herself. “Fashion and beauty had a hole, but also politics, humor, psychology, health, business, fiction.” It started with 400,000 readers, but the drop in sales and the constant changes to which the magazine was subjected made it abandon the publication five years after it was founded, in 1994. It closed permanently in 2000.

Since then, Mirabella has dedicated herself to writing columns and articles. He had no children with Cahan – who died in 2000 – but he had two, as well as seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. That is the family that has confirmed the death of the editor who, with all discretion, turned the fashion of the late twentieth century upside down.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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