If you have an Instagram account and the slightest interest in fashion then you’re probably following @vintage_vogue. The popular Instagram account features images from past issues of Vogue magazine with details about the photographer, designer and model featured in the photo. The clever concept was dreamed up by fashion documentarian Fiona Mackay.
Fiona is an Australian born photographer currently living between Paris and Melbourne. Since graduating from with an honours degree in Photography in 2009, Fiona became more involved with the history of fashion photography. In 2013 she created @vintage_vogue, which has since amassed over 200,000 followers and counting.
Fiona is one of a handful of fashion historians that has successfully established a major social media following while simultaneously bridging the gap between the mass appeal of fashion and the niche field of historical dress. We are fascinated by her success in this area so we reached out to her to learn more about her personal success and future endeavours.
When did you become interested in the history of fashion
I think it started when I was a young girl watching films with my mother. She introduced me to the Golden Age of Hollywood where I would idolize stars Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Katherine Hepburn and Julie Christie. At first I wanted to wear their image, a Marilyn tote, a Breakfast At Tiffany’s t-shirt. Gradually I began to shift my interested towards how these actresses dressed – who were the costume designers and people working behind the scenes. From Givenchy dressing Hepburn for the role of Sabrina to Edith Head’s work with Alfred Hitchcock were early influences. I can’t forget to mention David Bowie’s outfits in Jim Henson’s 1986 film The Labyrinth!
Would you describe yourself as a fashion historian, journalist, blogger or…
Good question. Most of the things I do tend to blur and intertwine. Right now I would say I am an assortment of a fashion researcher, digital archivist and photo documentarian.
Why do you think the vintage_vogue instagram has been so successful
I wonder that myself sometimes! When I originally started vintage_vogue it was mainly because I saw no one else at the time was quite doing what I was seeking and so I thought why not take it upon myself. I chose Vogue because it is such an iconic magazine that has a worldwide audience and vast array of a back catalogue I admired. I decided to set myself certain guidelines in order to stay true to the site and my followers, or potential followers. For example, only post one photo a day, only Vogue, only vintage (considered 20 years old or more) and high quality images. Gradually as my research skills improved I wanted to credit as much information as possible – from the model, editor, photographer, location, date, to the makeup artist, stylist, and hair stylist. I like to change up the style of the pictures to keep interest so I would say variety is one of the keys to its success. One day it might be a 1920’s black and white studio shot by Edward Steichen, the next a colour 1962 shot of Jean Shrimpton in the streets of New York City. It has definitely helped greatly having the support from highly respected people in the industry. It has been overwhelming and humbling to see how it has grown and continues to receive attention.
What advice do you have for fashion historians looking to increase their social media following as you have
I would say first and foremost, find something that interests you and stick to it. First and foremost please yourself. There’s no point posting something you don’t like but think it will please the masses. If you’re investing quality time than you might as well be passionate about it. Find a niche and focus on that. I chose Vogue simply because it interested me the most of all magazines, and it has a strong history as I didn’t want to worry about running out of images one day! And finally I would say just to be patient but persistent. Everyone starts from zero.
How do plan to grow the vintage-vogue micro-brand you’ve started via-instagram
I recently teamed up with Shrimpton Couture for a Hermes scarf giveaway that was really fun and successful. More collaboration with brands is currently in the works. Continuing to write and find new ways to research and document archives is a great passion. I’m excited to contribute to Inside The Archive, who I think are doing a fantastic job at exposing and reviewing history of fashion that’s relevant to today. And ideally the dream is to of course one-day work for Vogue!
Are you working on any projects in addition to @vintage_vogue
At the moment I’m attending a couple of courses on curating with the idea of pursuing exhibition through archives. Additionally I am collecting interviews and meeting former models and people who worked on photo editorials for a exclusive look for my ‘behind the shoot’ series. I also have an upcoming exhibition in Paris of my photography that I’m preparing for.
You contribute to various websites like Shrimpton Couture and Dazed -How did you break in to fashion journalism
It all happened thanks to vintage_vogue. When Cherie from Shrimpton Couture and I found each other on Instagram we bonded over a mutual love for vintage fashion. I admired what she was doing and as a result was asked to contribute to their blog. It felt a natural progression to then become interested in writing to accompany the research I had been doing, gather and put it in my own words.
What era in fashion do you find most interesting
Difficult question!! It varies depending on the current mood I’m in. Certainly the 1920’s Flapper Era, not just for its visual splendour but also for the cultural liberation from the Victorian Era. The Swinging 60’s for similar reasons. They were both such fascinating times and I probably have spent the most exploring them. The entire history of fashion is just a beautiful feast to admire.
What are some of you favorite websites, books or museums you explore for inspiration
I like to explore my former University library in the city of Melbourne, Australia. They have an amazing collection of fashion and photography books, magazine catalogues and DVDs. Second-hand bookshops for picking up out-dated fashion and photography books are a favourite pastime. My favourite museum to get lost in would be the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin has a wonderful gallery and bookstore.
Who are some of your favorite instagram accounts to follow