For some of us, the rite of passage known as high school was, or will be, a strange variation of Freaks and Geeks, complete with awkward gym locker room interactions and hilarious school assemblies. Without question, everyone’s high school ordeal was, or will be, a unique challenge in which you recognize who you were, as an adolescent, and who you want to be, as an adult. I love this particular editorial, shot by the genius Steven Meisel, because it takes place in the most quintessential high school setting I have ever seen.
Keep reading to learn more about why this editorial is one of my all-time favorites of the 1990s…
If extra-terrestrials landed in Pittsburgh, and asked me personally to describe the concept of high school, the images from this 1994 Vogue Italia spread would immediately come to mind. It’s all there — dusty chalkboards, wooden bleachers, statuesque supermodels…okay, so my high school lacked a supermodel student body (no offense, fellow alum), but I still feel like I can draw inspiration from these photos thanks to its all-too-familiar setting.
In this 14-page editorial, supers Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista and model Meghan Douglas linger in the hallways, waiting rooms, lecture halls, and classrooms of a seemingly deserted high school.
Who are they waiting for? What are they hoping to discover, or learn about? Are they awaiting the verdict of their school nurse, who will ultimately decide whether their “headache and girl times” excuse is worthy of an early dismissal? Is Christy counting down the minutes until her after-school detention period ends? Is Linda killing time before the football team finishes practice, hoping to “coincidentally” run into her chemistry lab partner/the school’s star quarterback?
The scuffed green linoleum tile, creaky wooden floor, and lecture hall seats (with the fold-up desks) setting of this editorial matches the stereotypical “Catholic schoolgirl” styling, executed with an apt, editorial eye by Joe McKenna. Despite the abundance of pleated minis, saddle shoes, knee-high socks, pullover sweaters layered over a collared button-up, and plaid, these photos lack the cheesy, somewhat uncomfortable impression I typically get after watching B. Spears’ iconic video for “…Baby One More Time.”
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why I like this editorial so much. Perhaps it’s because of Christy Turlington, whose personal character and striking beauty makes her my all-time favorite supermodel. Maybe it’s because of Steven Meisel’s photography, which continues to be hailed as incomparable, even to this day. Or, as I previously mentioned, maybe I like this editorial so much because there’s something intrinsically familiar within its brick-and-mortar setting.
These women, with their good looks and straight-off-the-1994-runway ensembles, aren’t strutting around Milan, prancing on the beaches of St. Tropez, or gallivanting in the streets of LA — instead, they are hanging out in my visually mundane high school. Despite the common, and therefore boring nature of the setting, this editorial remains to be aesthetically pleasing and significant in the world of fashion. With the onslaught of today’s Photoshop capabilities, and the high budget allocated for travel and props in most of today’s editorials, it’s refreshing to look back at an engaging set of photos lacking both visual effects and a lavish location. The ‘normal’ setting and low-key fashion styling of this editorial is absolutely aspirational, and therefore, quite inspirational!
To see “Campus Beat” in full, check out The Fashion Dictionary.