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Confessions Of A Vintage Magazine Junkie

I recently developed a new interest in something which unfortunately requires a pocket full of money – but then isn’t that true of all good things?

Woman magazine over the years

Woman magazine over the years

I have developed a fondness of collecting vintage women’s magazines. OK, strictly speaking, I suppose I should be using the term retro as the magazines are predominantly from the eighties and nineties but hey I like the word vintage better! And in any case I’m sure that I’ll soon start collecting magazines from decades prior to the eighties. And it’s not just women’s magazines – I’ve also started collecting pop and teen mags from those decades too.

 WHY THE SUDDEN INTEREST?

I have always been a magazine junkie – right from the time I was able to read. As a child I couldn’t go into a newsagents without whoever I was with purchasing a  kid’s magazine for me. And it just went on from there.

As a young teen, I started to keep all the magazines I bought rather than toss them out – proving they really were money well spent. But unfortunately as my collection grew, space became increasingly tight, especially as we were living in a pretty small place at the time. So feeling fed up one day, I threw the lot out, not realising that one day I’d regret that decision.

My interest was sparked when upon arriving home from America, I discovered that my mum had thrown out boxloads of the vintage recipe pages I was saving. I was livid! And that’s putting it very mildly!

Part of my recipe collection

Part of my recipe collection

However during the three months I’d spent in the States, I didn’t buy any magazines as I didn’t really like the selection that was available there (apologies to my American followers!) But then when I arrived back in the UK, I found that my usual weekly reads didn’t really entice me as they once did. I actually found them a bit soul-less. It was just full of ads, celeb gossip, and fashion features of clothes from stores that I don’t frequent. It was all starting to get a little bit dull. The quality just wasn’t there.

I started thinking back to the magazines I used to buy years ago. I loved the extraordinary stories from real life people. I couldn’t get enough of the fiction pages and the puzzles. I loved the homely way the food accompanying the recipes was photographed. I enjoyed the regular weekly features. I also liked how the cover girl was usually an unknown model or at the very least a relevant actor or actress from one if the top soaps of that time. Not a reality TV star in sight!

Woman's Own from the 1980s

Woman’s Own from the 1980s

I began to wish I’d never been so foolish as to throw out my beloved collection of mags – and set about trying to replace them.

WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT TO ME?

Well in a nutshell, it’s because it reminds me of my childhood. Bet you didn’t need me to tell you that! It brings back wonderful memories of going to the newsagent with my uncle and picking up a pack of jelly tots – and a kiddie’s mag which I would read from cover to cover; of going through my aunts’ bags to flick through their latest mag; of going to the shop after school with my friends, where they’d buy a chocolate bar or bag of crisps for the journey home, and I’d buy a ton of chocolate – and a very ‘uncool’ women’s weekly – which I’d always claim was for my mum. Yeah right – Mum was lucky if she even caught sight of it, let alone read it!

I loved best!

I loved best!

I actually believe that these magazines got me prepared for the adult world. Or perhaps I should say that in my very naïve teenage mind, I’d flick those pages and think that that was what being an adult was all about. As I looked at the fashion pages, I’d imagine that those would be the clothes I’d wear when I was all grown up. I’d look at the hair and beauty features, envisioning my chic and elegant future self. The interiors section gave me a lot of inspiration for my future home. I learned a lot from the sometimes unfortunate real-life stories of ordinary people. Furthermore, my love of cooking and interest in food stems from those recipe pages.

And where teen magazines are concerned, they played a major role in my growing up. They answered the questions my friends and I were to afraid ask our parents, teachers and other adults around us; questions about boys, dating, the changes that were rapidly occurring to our bodies, problems at school, fitting in with the crowd… And of course they enabled us to indulge in our teenage crushes, gave us advice on how to do our hair and make-up and gave us tons of freebies. And without Smash Hits, I would never have been able to learn the lyrics to my fave tunes.

 TRACKING THEM DOWN

Well it wasn’t easy, I can tell you that now! But once  I decided to try and track down vintage finds and stop buying modern-day magazines, I had to consider which were the best places to start looking. At first I tried many of the local charity shops but found no joy there, although one of the volunteers did suggest the Freecycle site to me. Unfortunately I had no luck there either. Nor did I find anything at car boot sales.

More recent issues of Woman's Own from within the last ten years

More recent issues of Woman’s Own from within the last ten years

I also tried people I knew who might have the odd mag or two or a hundred going back to the eighties but alas nothing. And I was practically laughed out of the newsagents when I enquired if they had leftover stock from thirty years ago (not as ridiculous as you might think seeing as my parents acquired stock from what seems like thirty thousand years ago when they took over a local shop!)

Finally I checked out sites like Gumtree and eBay which I suppose I should have checked out first. It was slow going but I soon discovered some real gems…

WHAT I GOT

I’m thrilled that in such a short amount of time, I’ve been able to get some really amazing finds. I’ve got a lot of the magazines from the eighties that my mum and aunts used to read such as Woman, Woman’s Own, Women’s Realm, My Weekly and Women’s Weekly. I’ve also got two issues of Bella which I’m thrilled about as well as Prima which were two titles that I – not my aunts – used to buy.

Just a fraction of me Me magazine collection

Just a fraction of me Me magazine collection

Another thing I’m also thrilled about is that I’ve been reunited with a 1990’s mag called Me which I’d totally forgotten about! But flicking through it, the memories came flooding back and it was just as awesome as I remembered.

I never used to buy Essentials and neither did any of the women in my family but after I stumbled across a file containing pages from old-school issues of this publication, I made it a mission to track down some issues – and I haven’t been disappointed.

Essentials from the early nineties

Essentials from the early nineties

But one of the best finds, even though it isn’t a women’s weekly title, were a bundle of Smash Hits magazines from the late eighties to the early nineties – the exact period that I used to buy this fantastic pop magazine. And what I was most excited about was the issue that had the first ever cover of New Kids On The Block on it – the best pop band in the world! Upon contacting the previous owner to thank her, she revealed that she was sad to part with them but as she was a mum with a growing family, she had to let her Smash Hits collection go which made me feel guilty. I promised her that I’d give them a good home – as I will with every mag in my growing collection.

The issue now is (ha! Geddit???) Is how I’m going to haul my collection across the Atlantic to my new home!

gingham-apron-pie-lady2

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Bella! Where Did You Go?

Dear Editor of Bella

One of my absolute favourite magazines was Bella. I first started buying it when I was twelve, back in the 1990s (yes, twelve) although I would always pretend it was for my mum so that I didn’t get a ribbing from my mates. The truth was Mum was lucky if she even got to see the front cover. It was on sale every Thursday, and I have fond memories of popping over to the paper shop that was across the road from the school at the end of the school day and buy a copy. I couldn’t wait to get home and read it from cover to cover. I can’t quite explain what the appeal was. There was something quite grown up about buying a magazine aimed at women at such a young age – and let’s face it – we all want to be grown up when we’re in our early teens! The crafts and cookery pages appealed to the creative side of me, and I loved collecting the recipe ‘cards’ – a page which contained cut out and keep recipes.

bella-logo

 

There were certain features I would read religiously. Precious Moments, where readers wrote in describing touching moments in their lives; Talking Point always raised interesting topics such as remaining a virgin until you were married or not being hired because you were too attractive (hmmm… come to think of it, the lady in that feature did look a lot like a young Samantha Brick…) My Own Story, which was a double page feature detailing a heart-rending moment in a reader’s life. I liked reading about different issues relating to friendships and romantic relationships on the Relationships page. I collected all the top tips and the Overheard part of the letters page – where readers would write in with things they had overheard while they were out and about – always made me laugh.

 

Bella in the 1990s

Bella in the 1990s

 

 

The Secret I Must Share was an absolute drop-everything-and-read feature where people talked about secrets they probably wouldn’t even tell their best friend. The very first one I read was about a mother who had encouraged her young son to steal before he could even walk – at eight he had become a real handful. Then there was the woman who had been having an affair with her American colleague for twelve years. People often used to say that the stories in the ‘Secret’ pages were made up. I don’t know if they were or not but I do know that they made very entertaining reading.

And oh my goodness, I LOVED THE FICTION PAGES! There would always be two stories each week. One would be a longer length romantic story and the other was my ultimate favourite, Mini Mystery which always featured the silhouette of a man with a magnifying glass as part of it’s logo and was typically a tale with a twist – which is my favourite type of tale. When I was fifteen, my English teacher read a short story I wrote and said that that was exactly the kind of ‘tale with a twist’ that she was trying to get out of her sixth formers. Well, perhaps they should have started reading Bella at twelve too!

 

Bella, as I used to know and love it.

Bella, as I used to know and love it.

 

I loved Bella‘s ‘realness’. It didn’t overdo the celebrity phenomenon and contained just the right amount of celebrity news. Bella was primarily about real people with real stories. Another plus point was that the cover star was always an unknown model rather than a famous face, which indicated that this was a magazine for ‘every woman.’ When I first started reading Bella, it was very much a non-colour magazine, with many of it’s features in black and white but nonetheless the magazine was far from bland or dated, although the introduction of colour photos was a welcome addition and for years very little about the magazine changed. Bella stuck to the format that readers knew and loved.

I can’t remember when I stopped buying Bella. It was definitely more than a decade ago. I know I remember thinking that it just wasn’t the same. Don’t get me wrong – I know that change can be necessary in order to keep things fresh and exciting rather than to stick to the same old format and allow things to go stale. But when the old format is a winning one, are so many changes really necessary?

Nostalgia took over last week when I decided to buy the latest copy of Bella. The first thing I noticed was that there were photos of five – that’s right, FIVE – celebrities on the cover alone. This proved to be telling. The first thirteen pages were dedicated to famous faces. This was then followed by several more pages of celebrity related features. True there were some real life stories but not nearly enough. All of my favourite features were long gone and worst of all, so were the fiction pages. In the ‘old days,’ I’d spend a good proportion of time reading Bella cover to cover. Now I could read it in well under an hour. The glossy, revamped version is definitely a far cry from what it used to be. Even the paper it’s printed on is different and there are way too many advertisements. I suspect that the main aim is to appeal to a more younger audience rather than those who have faithfully read Bella for years. But remember, I started buying the old-school Bella when I was twelve years old. How much younger would you like your audience to be?

 

The copy of Bella I recently bought

The copy of Bella I recently bought

 

The Bella I used to know was from 20 years ago so I understand that magazines have to reinvent themselves a little according to demand and changing times. However, Bella is now almost unrecognisable: it has gone from having varied content containing a bit of everything, recipes; readers stories; fiction; crafts; health; beauty; home design and more, to -and I’m really sorry to say it – a bland, uninteresting, watered down version of a celeb magazine. In fact it is now like every other women’s magazine out there and no longer stands out from the crowd. It’s lost it’s unique charm and appeal and has nothing different to offer.

I’ve read reviews concerning the ‘new’ Bella and it seems as though a lot of ex-readers are echoing my sentiments. It would be fantastic if you could bring back at least a few of the old faves and I would definitely love to see the fiction pages back where they belong. This may seem hard to believe but not everyone is interested in what celebs are getting up to or what they’re wearing. Most of us are actually bored with celeb news. Don’t believe me? Just check out the reviews. The irony is that magazine sales must be good otherwise the magazine would have folded a long time ago. But I’m pretty sure that many of those purchasing Bella are not the older readership. Anyone who has read Bella in the past and compared it to the more modern version will definitely see the difference in quality.

 

Bella from 1988. Bring it back Ed - you know you want to!

Bella from 1988. Bring it back Ed – you know you want to!

 

I was inspired to write this letter after a reader urged fellow (or former) readers to write to the editor and complain in a bid to bring back the old look Bella which we miss dearly. However, as much as we want that, I can’t see it happening which is very sad. Publishers seem to think that fashion and celebrity sell and maybe it does… but it’s not for everyone. I’m so glad I grew up in an era where we weren’t all so celeb-mad and our every move wasn’t dictated by what famous people we were never likely to meet were doing. I’m from the school of if ‘it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ so the total revamp, in my opinion, was unnecessary but clearly not everyone feels the same way. This letter is just my way of letting you know how much your old readership miss the old Bella… and how we have treasured memories of our once favourite read!

Angel

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