No dia do referendo escocês, Crossing The Border de Robin Muir – na edição de outubro – revela como a suspeição da Vogue e as suas crenças estereótipas do país se encadearam num caso de amor com a Escócia.
“SCOTLAND, thank God, is not for everyone,” said Vogue in 1964. “To recommend a Scottish holiday to most foreigners,” it continued, “would be like recommending a skiing holiday to a man with no legs.” Bluntly put, perhaps (not to mention politically incorrect), but this was not intended to be flippant or disloyal to its northernmost readership. What Vogue meant was that while outsiders may venture north to enjoy its breathtaking scenery, its purple-topped mountains and clear-watered rivers and its almost limitless vistas of staggering beauty, to appreciate Scotland fully, you must fully belong to her.
Vogue did not and would not pretend to belong. And so, for much of the last century, Scotland was to Vogue a foreign country, where they do things differently and in tartan and wrapped up against the cold. If it did not quite block its ears to the skirl of the pipes, Vogue made, in its uncomprehending infancy, full use of cultural stereotypes. On early covers, girls dance reels in plaid skirts, while ladies’ kilts (a novelty to the true Scot) were “hardy as in the days of clan battles and soft as a loch mist”.
In 1924, a harbinger of the autumn season found a tartan-coated woman, alone on the wind-blasted moor with a shotgun. Above her, the clouds form, darkly, the word “Vogue“. But if British Vogue was obvious, then at least it was affectionate: an early cover for the American edition showed simply a collie wearing a Tam o’ Shanter – and appearing to wink. The Glorious Twelfth (from a southern perspective) featured annually throughout the Thirties and, with a break for the war, continued well into the Fifties: “About the beginning of the second week of August, Euston Station gets a new look, a new smell. There’s a tang of tweeds in the air; dogs sit patiently panting, the platform’s littered with game bags…” Vogue also knew that the finest badminton racquets, teak yacht wheels, fishing waders and granite curling stones came out of Scotland, too.
Inevitably, Scotland means tartan and Vogue has often caught the tartan bug. Designers from Coco Chanel to Vivienne Westwood have eagerly embraced the fabric’s cross-hatched textures and glorious colours. Elsa Schiaparelli, too, once swathed herself and her salon top to bottom in plaid. “Done right there is something special about it,” the Scottish writer Robin Douglas-Home once told the magazine, “something that indefinably heartens the spirit by making you feel part of a large family.” Overdone, tartan feels like an end-of-the-pier joke, but when Vogue‘s logo turned plaid in November 1989, it was that year’s bestseller.
Kilts present some Scotsmen with complications because, if one were to be strict about it, only Highlanders can wear them. Or, at a pinch, Lowland Scottish children at weddings and, of course, soldiers of the various Scottish battalions. When Lee McQueen became Alexander, he embraced his heritage completely. One collection was titled “Highland Rape”, its successor “Widows of Culloden”, which firmly nailed his colours to the nationalist mast, and at formal events he began wearing full Highland dress. There were several solecisms: his calf-length lace-up bootees should properly have been worn outdoors – and only then if there was the promise of sword dancing. The bonnet with pheasant-feather cockade and cloak were simply fraudulent. Marc Jacobs makes striking personal use of the kilt as daywear in tartans that may not be his own and without a sporran. And a kilt without a sporran is essentially a tartan skirt.
As a backdrop, Scotland has provided the magazine’s photographers with an almost infinite variety. Surely, over the years, they would concur with Lady Stanley of Alderley who, on a fashion outing to Edinburgh, proclaimed: “Crossing the border to Scotland is just as interesting as crossing the Channel.”
The hills of the west coast, the sea lochs and their small, often uninhabited islands gave American photographer Don Honeyman pause for thought. “The sea seems to flow and yet remain in the same place, and the cough of a porpoise breathing comes at you across two miles of tide,” wrote Scottish historian Neal Ascherson in an accompanying dispatch. For Norman Parkinson in 1953, sheep-dipping at a farm near Thurso was the perfect setting for the season’s sage-green coats. To Tim Walker it meant a road trip to the Highlands with friends Karen Elson and Erin O’Connor in a camper van decorated with the lion rampant and a saltire. In 1947, Lee Miller’s journey north was a cultural trek to the Edinburgh Festival to hear a performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, conducted by Bruno Walter, as close to Mahler himself as anyone ever got.
In his 1961 essay for Vogue, Ascherson lamented the uneasy feeling that Scotland’s glories and landmarks were “stagey, unrelated props left by a departed company”. He continued in the same vein: “Scotland’s tragedy is that she no longer has a national face, an unacknowledged public life of her own with its plain roots in Scottish history. Edinburgh is a capital without political life…” Fifty-three years later, he may find himself surprised.