I Broke Up With Lady-Mags


Confession: I used to hoard issues of Glamour Magazine! I did, I kept them in chronological order in stacks in my closet. And I wasn’t 17, I was in my late 20’s.

Even though I’m a student of human behavior, I wonder why I kept so many repetitive articles/pictures/ads (mostly ads). I mean, a new Glamour was coming out in a few weeks, with some life-changing beauty and fashion tips. I think the magazines represented hope — that somewhere in those glossy pages was a fix for whatever was ailing me. My frizzy hair, lackluster wardrobe, nothing-to-wrote-home-about love life.


When I moved from that condo, I donated my magazines to the local hospital. (Was that a kindness?) Over the next few decades I would still buy and read “women’s” magazines. I left Glamour behind and moved on to Self, Marie Claire, Oprah, and More.

After about twenty five years of reading, I came to a conclusion: While these various mags have different target audiences, there’s an astonishing similarity in the content. It seems every month we can learn about:

  • 10 Foods That Burn Fat
  • The 10 Prettiest Hair and Makeup Styles You Can Wear, According to Guys
  • August’s 4 Must-Have Beauty Products
  • Eat These 7 Foods to Look Years Younger
  • Get Rid of Bikini Bumps Once and for All
  • Stamp Out Shine — For Good (yikes)
  • 6 Hair Mistakes That Make You Look Old—and How to Fix Them

That’s just headlines from the latest online editions of some top-selling women’s magazines. If I went back a few months and shuffled the magazine names, I’d find similar articles. It’s a heavy dose of self-improvement, yeah?

So I stopped buying/subscribing to women’s magazines. I was feeling like I’d read it all before. And for up-to-the-minute style and beauty news, I have you, and dozens of fabulous bloggers.

I’m not critical of women who enjoy lady-mags.The magazines can be a relaxing way to spend an hour, and they’re fun during a pedicure ☺. There are good articles (do I sound like a guy buying Playboy?) about women’s health, human rights, eco-sustainibility, et al.

But I broke up with lady-mags. Looks like I’m going to hold on to my bikini bumps. ☺

For you fellow list-lovers, here‘s the most popular “women’s interest” magazines in the U.S., in descending order:

Good Housekeeping
Family Circle
Woman’s Day
Ladies’ Home Journal
Vogue (what is Vogue doing way down here??)
Marie Claire

Are you a fan or not-fan?

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  1. I like reading Marie Claire, because it's more real, but I rarely buy women magazines. I usually read for free while waiting or at coffeeshop, and occassionally if I find an article that I really like, I would buy used mag. I also read Harper's Bazaar to get a view of the life of those "beautiful people". They inspire me. I don't care for Cosmopolitan and their advise to snare men with sexual allure.
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    LeeAnne, Style N Season

  2. I have a hoard of Victoria magazines from 1992-2001, too! I like to pull all the Augusts (or whichever month we are in) and flip slowly through while sipping something grand. I don't do it every month but, about three or four random months in the year. I will never give them up!

  3. Refreshing to see this Patti! I would succumb every now and then and realized they were a waste of time and money many years ago. I don't want to be the person they want me to THINK I should be. It is rather narcistic (how do you spell that? keep getting it wrong!!!), unrealistic, and promotes self hatred. I will never be Martha, Oprah, or that trendy woman who has a perfect life, and I am sooooooooo fine with that!!!!!

  4. You are so right! It began to dawn on me about a year ago, that the format of these mags were nearly identical. And, I guess that after reading them slavishly for 45 years, it got boring. I still love to peruse Bazaar (at the hairdresser,rs). I do not miss More one bit- too many stories about high powered, wealthy female execs who gave up the work world to make cupcakes. I really prefer blogs for my fashion, beauty and home arts tips. They are real and reader tested!

  5. So true that now we have so many amazing blogs to read, written by real, inspirational women, just like you, there really isn't much of a place for glossy mags anymore

  6. As well, man of these magazines support some rather good journalism and sharp writing — Vogue almost always offers several very well-researched, inspiringly written, and attentively edited essays. I'm not giving up on print yet . .. 😉

  7. As you may have noticed, we are in the minority regarding magazines. I didn't even consider the sheer beauty of type on a page— well written and well designed. While magazines are a far distance from their heyday in the time of Diana Vreeland at Vogue they can still take me on a lovely journey. PS I will pass your thoughts to a fine copy editor I know who is still toiling in the field.

  8. I agree with your assessment of "Ladymags" as repetitious and as presenting us with unattainable goals that leave us regretting our own healthy bodies. However, I must admit that I still appreciate them for their polish — not only the photography and layout and play with fonts and graphics, but particularly the copy-editing. I'm not sure this attention to text still exists anywhere, and I suspect it must have to do with what a wide pool of bright young interns, etc. such a sexy field has to draw from. . . I do love reading blogs and getting an arguably more realistic take on style, but I'm often impatient with sloppy grammar and spelling and, as an English prof (go figure!), I find it tough to blame my students for the same when there are obviously fewer and fewer models of popular print writing for them to enjoy and learn from . . . just another perspective from an occasional crank. . . .;-)

  9. I haven't pick up magazine in years, it seems. I have only been on the internet. Do they still make magazines, LOL? When I read your list of current titles, as I was chuckling, it made me think of Seventeen Magazine years ago for their September or was August edition always had on the front cover "The Best Fashion Issue Ever" or something like that. My sister and I would go half-sises on the price and devour those issues each year. Awh, that takes me back. LOL

  10. I like "Oprah" although I always seem to be buying make-up I saw there.
    The main time I buy other magazines is when I fly. A Vogue will get me through the 2 1/2 hour flight home. I'm a bit of a nervous flier so short articles and pictures are about the extent of my attention span on a plane.
    I like cooking and home magazines, but one thing I have resolved is never to subscribe to magazines with a credit card. They quite predatory and the next thing you know you've been re-subscribed. Oftentimes after a year or so they get repetitive.

  11. Fan, but only a certain few. I heavily resent the mags that all scream DIET TIPS and SECRETS TO A FLAT TUMMY at you from the checkout line at the grocer's. As if there are any remaining secrets left in that department….its ALL BEEN DONE. however, I do still subscribe to U.S. Vogue magazine (I read it cover to cover, because you can actually READ it). I also get UK Elle. I would prefer US Elle, but since I live in the UK, I felt two international subscriptions was OTT. I think I like to get real, live, paper magazines as 1.) it makes me still feel connected to NY and the USA when I read US Vogue, and 2.) I love the fantasy of the editorials. I stopped dyeing my hair the moment I say Kristen McMenamy in Vogue's Age issue in 2011 and never looked back!

  12. As a teenager in New Zealand I spent my precious pocket money on 'Fashion Quarterly' (NZ's answer to Vogue) and I kept them for year (and re-read them too!). I did realise pretty early on that silver and white are ALWAYS in for summer, berry colours are always in for autumn etc.

    Nowdays I buy mags mainly for the free giveaways – sometimes they have nice brands of makeup. Mascara is particularly good as I can use up small tubes before they go gluggy.

    I do like high end fashion mags like Vogue for the pictures (of the ads as well as the fashion shoots) but I very rarely buy them as other mags are much cheaper. I buy a cheaper fashion mag to while away a train journey or as an occasional treat, but I think I'd be better to buy fewer and better.

  13. I tossed mags well over a decade ago and my girls grew up without having them in the house. I grew up and read them from cover to cover but those days are over. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the 10 "new" ways to please your man were not new after all. They rewrite those mags over and over again but paint them a different color every month, thinking we won't notice. Boring really. :-/

  14. I love my magazines. It's fun to get fresh articles from Oprah as her topics seem to have great variety and are very helpful and uplifting. I can't live without my Vogue and I enjoy Glamour and Vanity Fair – and have those on my kindle fire as well – the digital images are gorgeous but I understand what you're saying.

  15. Patti, I agree with you about magazines. I have been a reader since Seventeen and Tiger Beat days. However, since blogging, I only buy a magazine to read at the pool or on a ferry. Older women, curly women, curvy women, women with glasses (I'm all of those) are not represented in the fashion mags. I tend to buy Sunset or Victoria to look at the pictures when I am in transit.

  16. I read your post and comments with sadness as I am a (retired) veteran of almost forty years working for "lady mags" (as you call them). It was my dream job, all I ever really wanted to do. I can count on one hand the days I didn't look forward to going to work. But times change. Magazines are not what they were. The digital world has brought us new "friends" and new ways to seek information. Every topic the magazines covered can now be found on tv or Google. Fashion was not always so accessible. Magazines made a huge difference in women's lives. I know because I used to read the reader mail. I'm still a fan; I still subscribe and enjoy. I recycle them at the gym; they are always gone the next day.

    FYI "all the ads" are what pays for your magazine. Publishers lose money every time they send you one. The costs of paper, printing and posting negate any profit. But you are upping the "rate base", which is how magazines can charge for ads. If you purchase a single issue, you are actually paying a reasonable price for it ($4.95 instead of 12 issues for $10). And you are helping a beleaguered industry. So thank you!

  17. This is a post that really resonates with me Patti! I have adored women's magazines since I first fell upon Honey magazine (long closed) on a holiday in Cornwall in 1975. I like to keep last editions. I have some old editions of She magazine which I bought on eBay, and they used to feature models in bikinis on the cover. Very healthy and curvaceous models, totally unlike the stick insects we see nowadays.

  18. I am horrible and used to subscribe to a bunch of them. I have always clipped out articles for exercise and recipes that I have never used but a giant pile of papers. Thanks to Pinterest, I have cut down the number of magazines I subscribe to and try to save it to reading them when I go get my hair done.


  19. Gotta tell ya … I still love the fashion rags. I gave up eons ago on the homey ones (Ladies Home Journal, Good housekeeping) but the style mags are still new to me in their current incarnations. I was way too much of a snob to read them for decades although they were always around when I was young. Books only, National Geographic maybe. Early feminism made them kryptonite. College and studio life made them bourgois … what was the point when only black was ever worn? (urp…!) None of my grown decades had much to do with clothes until this last one, when I decided I'd begin (LATE!) to think about what I wore …especially when it was hard to find much I liked. I've loved the glossies for several years, but the unending stacks of paper got to be an ethics issue in themselves! (No recycling here!)

    But with the advent of the Kindle Fire, especially my 8.9 size, I love my digital mags. The photography is glorious, the images very high quality and the interactive format is so much more fun for me. They've become something other than what we looked at in the Beauty Parlor. We subscribe to Vogue, Bazaar, Marie Claire, W, Elle and InStyle … all the big ones. They allow me to see a world I'll never get to experience otherwise in a specific way. I really am interested in design and illustration still. I say*we* subscribe … Dan even shows an interest in them sometimes. It's easy to swap them between Kindles. We also share The New Yorker, The Nation, The Wilson Quarterly and good old National Geographic. It's the medium as much as the message, sometimes!

  20. I grew up in a little town in Montana in the 1960's & 70's. Mags were my only connection to the world of fashion…unless you call puffy down vests and hiking boots fashion. I actually even worked for a fashion mag called W for a while. But because of all the reasons you just mentioned I have ditched all of my lady mags except Vogue… because I have a girl crush on Grace Coddington! I can't wait to see what she comes up with each month.

  21. If I'm going to buy a ladymag, it's almost certainly going to be one of the quarterly style edits, where I am largely spared the articles telling me how fat/ugly/old I am and what I can buy to change that, and just shown runway stuff and given an idea of what's trending for the upcoming season. Or, as I did this week, I'm buying it to get my hands on the free gift, which is how I came to buy this month's Elle. They had a half-size bottle of my preferred pricey mascara, and it worked out cheaper to buy the (still unread) mag than to buy the mascara in the shop. I usually just dump magazines in the local coffee shop when I do something like that.

  22. I love magazines. I'm almost addicted. I would like to add Chatelaine and Canadian Living to your list as I'm from Canada. Although I have such a love for mags, I'm finding that I really love all of the blogs that I am currently exploring. I may replace mags with blogs, although, I don't know.

  23. I confess I am abit addicted to magazines. I think the bright colors attract me like a magpie…lol But I buy Womans World and First. I have boughten the ones you list but they don't really fit my life. Either aimed towards young moms, or in a higher money bracket then I'm in.

  24. I've recently gotten into audio books and love it. No more mags or paper books. I am "listening" to popular books and some of the classics. I love it. Do it right over my iPhone.

  25. I subscribe to Woman's World and First. Both of these have a lot of informative stuff ranging from recipes to fashion tips to budgeting to relationships to nutrition. And some of the stuff is recycled, but probably 80% is not and I find them helpful and entertaining. I also subscribe to several others (including Glamour) but I don't find them to be particularly useful to a 46 year old working woman's life. It is starting to take on a "Cosmo" voice which has nothing to do with my lifestyle.

  26. Not a fan, haven't bought one for years. I flick through an issue or two at the hairdressers and think what a waste of money they are! They just don't reflect my life (or indeed that of anyone I know) and I'm not interested in the version of womanhood or the highly expensive materialism they promote. xxxx

  27. Congratulations on your perceptive "break up" – I am inordinately proud of the fact that I did the same thing when I was in my late teens, and I noticed that I felt really depressed right after reading Vogue, Glamour, Seventeen, and the other magazines that my friends devoured for "tips" on how to be what the advertisers wanted them to be (which, it appeared, was chronically dissatisfied but ever hopeful that a magazine could make them wonderful). I also gave up weighing myself, because I was always depressed when my best friend (at five-foot one) weighed in twenty pounds lighter than I did (at five-eleven). A short, valuable period of sanity that has served me well.

  28. Hi Patti!
    The only magazine I have been guilty of hoarding is Victoria Magazine from the 90's. In fact this past week I bought my first fashion magazine "In Style." There was just too many ads for all the things I apparently need fixing (lips, eyes, wrinkles…).
    I think I'll stick to my occasional Romantic Homes and come here for fashion tips!

  29. I like buying the magazines every now and then to look at the clothes and photography – it is quite inspiring and stimulating for a graphic artist, especially when you buy magazines that have good photography like Vogue, for instance (Tim Walker is featured frequently and he's an amazing artist). the articles for the most part are like you say, rehashed from previous issues and more or less useless. Although I must say that I only found out about my condition endometriosis when I read about it in a magazine…

  30. When I "simplified" my life, (lol) I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions. And now for a thrill, while I am on vacation, or special day, I will buy one. It's like the first time all over again!
    and I agree; what's vogue doing way down there? xoxo

  31. I've found most of them to be pretty boring these days. I still do occasionally pick up InStyle as I like some of their ideas for creating outfits, and will probably succumb to the September Vogue, but the rest mostly lost me a few years ago. Like most of you, I get more real world style inspiration from bloggers.

  32. Was never a fan of them. I never saw ANYONE I could relate to–even more so now!! I prefer the fantasticness that is out there in Blogland.

  33. I still read a couple a month, but I totally agree with you, as I was actually just thinking about their constant receptiveness this very morning! I am interested in the "newest styles," yet I hardly ever see anything I like or can use…hmmm…maybe I'll be purging soon!

  34. I'm with you, Patti……I gave them up years ago for many of the reasons you listed. I do like to occasionally pick up an issue of Cooks Illustrated (I know, it is not a fashion mag, but at least I feel like I am learning something.) Too many magazines on the market now with the same content!

  35. i like them in small doses…like on a plane ride or something like that. i am a bit addicted to gossip mags, which is probably worse.

  36. I admit that I spend more than I like on magazines…and I know that very little of what they include is original or life changing. But, like you say, they are fun and an easy little "pick me up" while at the nail salon or on a lazy Saturday afternoon…as long as you don't get too invested in what they're trying to "sell" you (because even if it's not an ad proper, it's all about the "sale"), you can do just fine. Great blog you have here!

  37. I broke up with them too. I went through a phase when I needed to feel more with it. I felt frumpy and old. And I was inspired by them, for a time. What bores me is the celebrity stuff and the repetitiveness of it. Now, I feel I have more confidence. I also cut my inbox news entirely so that I don't get a lot of ads. I prefer personal blogs now, much more interesting. 🙂

  38. I am down to one and it is Good housekeeping.. It always seems to have an article that fits me. I think it has aged with me as I have been subscribing to this magazine for close to 50 years!

  39. I stopped subscribing to any of the fashion magazines when they all became so heavily laden with ads. Drive me nuts to get 80 pages of ads and 20 pages of fashion. But you are right… most do the same repetitive articles over and over just with a different slant each time. Now I only subscribe to one home genre magazine and that's mostly just for the recipes.

  40. well I have to admit that I do read them now and then, but when I read your list, I think the only one I have read in the last year is O. I do read Martha Stewart for the recipes and a few more decorating mags for the inspiration. But you are right – they are on a cycle and I imagine that most of them will have "Great boots for fall" in the next issue and "lost that summer fat"!

  41. Magazines have changed a lot over the years. There used to be more thoughtful articles, short stories and essays. Now they are mostly catalogs, even within articles promoting purchases. I used to love magazines, but no more. They make me feel bad, like I do nothing "right" or good enough, whether it is my hair, makeup, dress or cooking! I have read some interesting studies on how current magazines make women feel. Not good!

  42. I initially approached these magazines hoping they'd help me on my journey into womanhood, but I found their content to be stale and antifeminist. And their presentation of femininity is repetitive and boring. These mags exist solely to move advertising and not to enlighten women. I moved on to general interest magazines with more valuable content, such as The New Yorker.

  43. Never! I cannot stand them and never understood why anyone would spend good money on a pile of adverts when you could go to a jumble sale and bring back a bag of vintage clothes for the same price. x

  44. I stopped buying any women's mags for over 3 years now and do not miss them one bit. I prefer to be inspired by real women on blogs for style and fashion and as for the rest, you said it, it's the same old things!

  45. Definitely a "not fan"! I gave the magazines up in my late 30s, when I realized that I felt less energized, more blue, after reading them. I can still handle a home decor or cooking mag to pass the time in a waiting room, but the fashion ones are like high-sugar cereal to me: they make me feel a little sick afterwards.

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