Yale University’s Digitization of Vogue Magazine, and the Value of Fashion Trend Archives

By Cynthia Sliwa — September 23, 2014

As an alumna of Yale, I enjoy the monthly alumni magazine and digital newsletters I receive from the school, although I rarely find information directly relevant to my blog. Few and far between are articles that focus on jewelry, and even less often  is there any attention paid to fashion trends.

YaleNews 090514 Vogue-covers digitization project REV

Illustration:  Digitized Vogue covers showing the five most prevalent colors on each cover, as determined by Yale researchers

I was delighted to learn that the venerable Ivy League institution is undertaking a new project that underscores the value of fashion trend analysis. In an article titled “What’s in Vogue? Tracing the evolution of fashion and culture in the media” published on September 5, 2014, author Holly Lauridsen discusses an ambitious undertaking relating to Vogue magazine which, she notes, “has been hailed as the world’s most influential fashion magazine since its debut in 1892″ and has published more than 400,000 pages. Lauridsen explains the scope of the project:

“Now, everything from feature stories to advertisements has been digitally labeled with critical information including photographers, image features, and product brands and names.  * * *  [Yale librarians Peter] Leonard, [Lindsay] King, and other Yale researchers and digital humanists are now using modern computer algorithms to dive through Vogue’s culturally, artistically, and textually rich electronic record in order to ask new and meaningful questions about the evolution of fashion and culture in the media.”

Among the specific issues being examined thus far are fashion terminology, the portrayal of women in the media, and the use of color. To help analyze the vast number of editorial and advertising images among the five terabytes of data digitized, Leonard and King turned to Holly Rushmeier, “a computer science professor at Yale with an interest in computer graphics and computational tools for cultural heritage.” Through  image tags and a search engine developed  by recent Yale college graduate David Li, researchers can “easily navigate the wealth of visual data.”

Lauridsen reports: “[T]he field of digital humanities and the exploration of the Vogue record are only just beginning. * * *  With the start of the new academic year, Rushmeier is seeking new and curious students interested in using computer science to explore these digital archives and to help find out what is truly in Vogue.”  Oh, to be back in college!

How exciting it will be to access an analysis of jewelry trends over the decades as captured in Vogue, should that analysis be undertaken. In the meantime, you can find a full seven years of my analyses of  jewelry trends here on TrulyJewelry.com, and in my archive of trends analyses for jckonline.com (which you can access here through my blog) dating back to September 2007.  Hey, it’s a start!

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