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Alexandra Shulman, the longest serving editor of British Vogue

August 17, 2022

Alexandra Shulman was the editor in chief of Vogue until fairly recently. She took the role from 1992 to 2017, a total of 25 years – the longest an editor of British Vogue has been on the throne. Her Vogue was the Vogue I grew up with, although compared to other editors, her magazine was not an especially adventurous one. She did increase the circulation to 200,000 and gave it a higher profile. She was also awarded an OBE for services to the magazine industry in 2005 and a CBE for services to fashion journalism in 2018.


It seems she got the job because she was a posh woman whose family had good connections, not because of her outstanding fashion flair. In fact, her style has always been on the conservative side – what she herself terms “Geography teacher”. Newspapers have often mentioned her dishevelled hair and especially gleefully her dress size – a perfectly average UK size 14. Highlights of her career include organising the Vogue cover for Katherine Middleton and meeting her to make some suggestions for her famous wedding dress.

Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman : School Shoes from Harrods

Alexandra Schulman was born in 1957 in London, UK. She grew up rich in Knightsbridge: her school shoes came from Harrods. Her parents were Milton Shulman, the film critic, and Drusilla Beyfus, a journalist who also worked for previous Vogue editors, among other publications. She has two siblings.


Her grandmother was called Ethel Raisberg, and she had emigrated from Russia to Toronto with her family to escape anti-Semitism. There, she met and married Samuel Shulman, also a Russian Jewish immigrant. The couple set up a successful millinery business. Ethel later moved to Los Angeles. Her son, Milton, who would become Alexandra’s father, left Canada for Britain as a soldier in WW2 and never returned.

Private School Educated


Alexandra Shulman. Image via Business of Fashion.

Alexandra Shulman and her white stilettos. Image via Business of Fashion.

Alexandra Shulman was educated at St Paul’s Girls School, and studied social anthropology at the University of Sussex. Her first job was as an assistant at an independent record label. It was very short-lived. Her second job was as a secretary to the A&R department of Arista Records. She got the job because she knew the man who ran it. Unfortunately she then slept with his best friend, who was married, and so the position didn’t last long. After that, her next role was as a secretary at a magazine.


Her first role in fashion journalism came in 1982. She worked for Tatler, and didn’t especially impress the boss. One day she was assigned to interview Luis Basualdo. He was very hard to track down, and didn’t like being interviewed. So she wasn’t expected to do very well. In fact Alexandra Shulman suspects the idea was for her to fail so she could be fired. However, she not only found the millionaire playboy, but struck up a rapport with him that resulted in an excellent interview. This marked a turnaround in her career, and she was subsequently given good assignments. After that, she worked for the Sunday Telegraph, Vogue, and GQ. In 1992 she became the editor of British Vogue.


During her time at Vogue she was a regular columnist for the Daily Telegraph. She also wrote for the Daily Mail. Her first novel, Can We Still be Friends? was published in 2012. She also wrote The Parrots, published 2015, and two autobiographies, Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year in 2016, and Clothes and other Things that Matter in 2020.

Alexandra Shulman : Questionable Sense of Style?

Schulman is open about the terrible anxiety she suffers. In her autobiography Clothes and other Things that Matter, she mentions her agoraphobia, claustrophobia and panic attacks. She carries water and medication at all times for these. She also talks about her real desire to be sartorially cool. One story involves her going to Harry’s Bar in a denim jacket and not being allowed in unless she took it off. In recounting this tale to a date, she hoped he would be impressed by the fact she was wearing one in the first place. He was not.


She also mentions her predilection for white shoes. She argues – unconvincingly – that they can be tacky or fresh and stylish. To me, a white stiletto can never be stylish, but only deeply ironic. But Alexandra Shulman is no Alexa Chung, and so her white footwear will never rise to those heights. She also mentions how much she likes a pretty, knee length, fit and flare dress, perhaps in an inoffensive shade of pink.

Bikini Selfie

One of the only things she did do that caused a splash was after she retired from Vogue. On holiday, at the age of 60, she posted a snap to her Twitter account. It was a bikini selfie. The press loved it, calling it a warts and all photo and perhaps an apology for the many times she had printed photos of extremely thin models in Vogue. She said it was nothing of the sort, but just a memento of a happy moment. 


She had been criticised quite often for showing anorexic looking women as glamorous. This began particulaly with Kate Moss and her “Heroin Chic” look in the 1990s. When challenged, she said in a PBS interview in 1998: “Not many people have actually said to me that they have looked at my magazine and decided to become anorexic.” By 2005 in an interview with the Scotsman she had moderated her response, but it still sounded dismissive: “I really wish that models were a bit bigger because then I wouldn’t have to deal with this the whole time. There is pressure on them to stay thin, and I’m always talking to the designers about it, asking why they can’t just be a bit closer to a real woman’s physique in terms of their ideal, but they’re not going to do it. Clothes look better to all of our eyes on people who are thinner”.


In 1994, Alexandra Shulman married the writer Paul Spike. With him, she has a son called Samuel. They divorced in 2005. She is now partnered with David Jenkins. She was appointed Order of the British Empire in the 2005 New Year Honours, and Commander of the British Empire in the 2018 New Year Honours. In 2004 and 2017 she was named “Editors’ Editor of the Year” by the British Society of Magazine Editors.