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Everyone Is Buying Mirrors Right Now

2020 was the year our appearances mattered the least. There were no parties to go to,

no fancy dinners, no 500-person weddings. Yet, ironically,

wall mirror interest skyrocketed. CB2

reported that mirrors were their most-searched home product, with over 4 million inquiries.

1stDibs saw a double digit increase in mirror searches overall, and a triple digit increase

for one in particular: the “Ultrafragola” designed by Ettore Sottsass for Poltronova.

(Celebrity owners include Lena Dunham and Bella Hadid.) Meanwhile, New York Design Center

says they, too, have “seen an uptick in mirror sales” at their brick-and-mortar outpost,

The Gallery at 200 Lex.

The question is, why? Are we masochists who like to gaze upon our unkempt, sweatpant-

clad reflection? Are we so vain that we needed “selfie mirrors” to keep our Instagram

content flowing? Turns out, we were buying mirrors not because we wanted to look at

something—we bought them because we wanted to look away.

For so many of us, life was once spent in several other locations besides our

residences: the office, the car, a neighborhood restaurant, a family or friend’s place.

But the pandemic shut everything down, rendering us homebound. Suddenly, we were, quite

literally and constantly, staring at our walls for months on end. And their blankness began

to bug us.

So how to fill them? Art, sure—but art can be intimidating to pick out, and expensive.

Mirrors, however, are a simple yet effective way to fill the void. “Mirrors are an

accessible and foolproof way to fill in wall space without having to put too much creative

energy behind it,” CB2’s product development lead, Andrea Erman, tells Vogue.

Accordingly, it’s not the plain-framed, rectangular wall mirrors that are trending.

Rather, it’s more decorative ones that double as aesthetic accents. “They’re statement

pieces,” Erman explains. Emily B. Collins, the director of New York Design Center’s The

Gallery at 200 Lex, agrees: “Most people that shop The Gallery at 200 Lex aren’t

necessarily looking for round

mirror
to check their reflection or do their makeup in, but to instead act as an

alternative to art.”

It’s an interesting return to the mirror’s historical purpose—to reflect the sun,

rather than human faces. “Many of the mirrors we sell, from carved 18th century rococo

examples to Francois Lembo’s mid-century modern mirrors with rich enamel and hammer

decoration, were designed primarily to reflect light,” says Collins. “So as consumers and

designers alike have focused more on the appearance of home in the past year, we’ve seen

an uptick in mirror sales that reflect the trend antique mirrors were originally designed

for—to brighten a space.”

But how do you pick a mirror that meets your room’s needs? Justina Blakeney, lifestyle

expert and founder of Jungalow, says that first, you need to figure out its intended

functionality. Room feeling too boxy or square? “A floor-length mirror with an arched top

can add architectural interest to your space, as it may feel like you’ve added an arched

doorway to the room.”

For the cramped apartment dwellers, here’s what she recommends: “If you’re using a

mirror to make a space brighter, hang it opposite a window. If you’re using a mirror to

make a room feel larger, think about a large-scale mirror that echoes the shape of the

room, hang it at eye-level and watch as your room seems to double in size.”

And then there’s the problem that plagues so many of us—the too-blank wall: “If your

room is lacking in personality and needs a little somethin’ something’, an ornate or

highly decorative mirror can add a lot of flair without making your space feel busy,” she

says.

Below, shop a curated selection of our 15 rectangle mirror.

Designed Specifically for Women

The Daily Mirror stands alone as the only major national daily newspaper in Britain

ever to be designed specifically for women. Launched in that format, in November 1903, it

was a resounding failure, and dissuaded others from similar experiments. Even if its

experiment as a ‘high class’ journal for ‘ladies’ only lasted a few weeks from its

launch,  it retained a distinctly ‘feminine’ identity for many years, and it

continued to attract a much higher percentage of female readers than any other paper until

well into the 1930s. It finally shook off this reputation with its tabloid relaunch in the

mid-1930s, but high-profile female columnists, such as Dorothy Dix, Marje Proops, Felicity

Green, Anne Robinson and Miriam Stoppard have remained a key part of the paper’s appeal to

its audience right up to the present day.

Targeting a New Audience

The serious morning newspapers of the Victorian era, such as The Times, had tended to

assume that their readership was male, and focused almost entirely on a public sphere

dominated by men. The new popular daily papers launched at the turn of the twentieth

century, on the other hand, actively sought to maximise their audience, and this meant

reaching out in an obvious way to women as well as men. Female readers did not just boost

the overall circulation statistics, they also had a special economic importance to the

newspaper business. Women were – or were perceived to be – the major spenders of the

domestic budget, and hence they became the prime targets for advertisers looking to sell

their products. As newspapers came to rely ever more heavily on the revenue from branded

advertising, attracting female readers became a financial necessity. In a society in which

men and women were still heavily segregated in both work and leisure, editors and

journalists were confident that appealing to women meant providing a different sort of

content from that aimed at men – the sort of content, in fact, that had fuelled the

success of the burgeoning women’s magazine sector throughout the nineteenth century. From

the first issue of the Mail, in May 1896, the paper’s owner, newspaper magnate Alfred

Harmsworth, asked Mary Howarth, previously a weekly magazine editor, to oversee regular

women’s columns providing material on fashion, housewifery and motherhood. Comparisons

between the sexes also became a staple of the feature pages, and women – at that time

campaigning for the vote and other rights – became more visible in the news columns too.

Much, though by no means all, of this content, was ultimately based on conservative gender

stereotypes.

The Daily Mail’s success in reaching out to this relatively untapped female market

encouraged Harmsworth to think that there was room for a whole newspaper dedicated to

women. Accordingly, he launched the Daily Mirror in November 1903 with an all-female staff

under the editorship of Mary Howarth. The Mirror’s first issue declared that the paper

would not be ‘a mere bulletin of fashion, but a reflection of women’s interests, women’s

thought, women’s work’, covering ‘the daily news of the world’ and ‘literature and art

’ as well as the ‘sane and healthy occupations of domestic life’.1 Gendering sections

within a newspaper was one thing: gendering the whole paper was another. The mainstream

market was not yet ready for a women’s daily newspaper, at least not in this form. The

Mirror struggled to find a consistent tone and identity, and seemed caught between being a

magazine and a newspaper. As its circulation plummeted, the

oval mirror was rescued only

when Harmsworth removed the female staff, handed over the editorship to the experienced

journalist Hamilton Fyfe, and turned it into an illustrated paper – as which it was a

major success, becoming the first daily to rival the readership levels of the Mail. The

illustrated Mirror was keen to display the female body: the front page of the first

relaunched issue was dominated by a sketch of the Parisian actress Madeleine Carlier, who,

tantalisingly, had just won a court case after breaching her contract by refusing to wear

an ‘immodest dress’.2 In 1908, the paper claimed that 15,000 women had submitted pictures

for its competition to find ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’; each received a

certificate of merit.3  

The Mirror experiment encapsulated the different aspects of Harmsworth’s attitudes to

women. His faith in the potential of the women’s market led him to take extraordinary

risks: he lost around £100,000 supporting the failing Mirror in its early months. At a

time when women had barely gained a foothold in the world of journalism, he demonstrated

his willingness to place a great deal of responsibility onto an inexperienced female

editorial team, while simply by launching a ‘women’s newspaper’ he continued to

challenge assumptions about gender and popular publishing. Nor did the failure of the

Mirror seem to alter his perceptions about the female audience. ‘While we learnt there was

no room in London for a women’s daily paper,’ recalled Kennedy Jones, Harmsworth’s

right-hand-man, ‘we also discovered there was room in a daily paper for more letter press

that directly appealed to women.’4 Tom Clarke, another experienced colleague, noted that

the setback to the Mirror did not undermine Harmsworth’s ‘faith that the future for

popular newspapers and magazines depended on a big woman readership’.5  

Gender Stereotypes

On the other hand, Harmsworth shared many of the conventional gender prejudices and

stereotypes of his time. He continued to view women as being largely defined by their roles

as wives and mothers, and the ‘women’s material’ for his papers was produced on these

terms. When he told staff to find ‘feminine matter’, he assumed that his meaning was

self-evident: he wanted domestic articles, fashion tips, and recipes. His forward-thinking

with regard to the female market was tempered by what the new Mirror editor Hamilton Fyfe

described as ‘an old-fashioned doubt’ as to whether women were ‘really the equals of men

’.6 Until the First World War, Harmsworth was sceptical about the need for female

suffrage. ‘Sorry to see the outburst of Suffragette pictures again’ he complained to

Alexander Kenealy, the editor of the Mirror, in 1912. ‘I thought you had finished with

them. Except in an extreme case, print no more of them.’7 It was only when women

demonstrated their ability to serve the nation during the war that he changed his mind and

became a proponent of women’s suffrage.  Women were also thought to be particularly

interested in gossip and celebrity news, and Harmsworth was convinced that most were

fundamentally aspirational: ‘Nine women out of ten would rather read about an evening

dress costing a great deal of money – the sort of dress they will never in their lives

have a chance of wearing – than about a simple frock such as they could afford’.8 Editors

and journalists firmly believed that women were particularly keen on the vicarious

enjoyment that could be obtained by reading about wealthy lifestyles and luxurious goods,

and the steady rise of celebrity culture across the century was partly driven by the desire

to cater for the female audience.

These traditional gender stereotypes were even more evident under the proprietorship of

Alfred Harmsworth’s brother Harold, Lord Rothermere, between 1914 and 1936. Although the

Mirror enthusiastically accepted the enfranchisement of (most) women over 30 in 1918, ten

years later Rothermere became preoccupied that the proposed equalisation of the franchise

at age 21 would lead to lots of young women voting for the Labour Party, considerably

weakening the forces of conservatism. ‘Stop The Flapper Votes Folly - This is Not The Time

For Rash Constitutional Innovations’ declared the paper in April 1927, and, like

Rothermere’s other paper, the Mail, resisted the proposal until it sailed through the

House of Commons the following year.9  Rothermere also became sympathetic to the

hyper-masculine fascist dictators, Mussolini and Hitler, and in 1934 swung the

arched mirror (and the

Mail) behind Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. For all the press attention on the

achievements and freedoms of the ‘modern young women’ of the 1920s and 1930s, underlying

attitudes to gender remained resilient.