The Best and Worst Magazine Covers of February 2016

So, so many covers to read. So few to remember.

Each month, we dissect the covers of the biggest fashion mags, using our patented Anna Wintour rating system.

Watch out! February’s a blizzard of multiple covers featuring the best TV and film performers. (And that’s not even including Lady Gaga's 16 covers as guest editor of V magazine).

But quantity aside, this month's lot is cold as fire (Cate Blanchett on Harper’s Bazaar UK) and hot as ice (the one and only Naomi Campbell). We hope it’s a forecast of what’s to come for the March fashion issues. Until then...

Esquire UK

One of the last David Bowie covers before his death features this 1983 shot of the artist.

As Peter Doggett writes, “[Bowie] still faces the lens with the utter assurance of a man who knows his own mind; whose slightly ironic gaze seems to offer incalculable secrets, dangled tantalisingly out of reach” – which is what anyone ever wants a great magazine cover image to do.

Fashion magazine

Natalie Dormer may always play rebellious on screen, but it looks here like the dress was out to get her! Otherwise, we hope this entire Margaery-as-ice-queen aesthetic is at least a partial foreshadowing for things to come on Game of Thrones.

Garden & Gun

Looking fine, Mr. McConaughey. Especially now that you've tamed that beard that you grew for the upcoming Free State of Jones. Now look at this cover and then finish this sentence: “Out of the Lincoln commercial and into my …”


Don’t get me wrong: J. Law looks great here. But we’ve reached stripped down, no-makeup cover saturation. (And don’t ever be fooled, every photo that appears in a magazine gets SOME editing.) The act itself is forgettable unless it’s styled in a way that elevates it beyond the ordinary.

Glamour Germany

Elle Fanning hasn’t looked this good! Ever! A great example that taking a photo at the just the right moment and choosing a candid moment with some imperfections can yield most compelling results.

Harper’s Bazaar

Texture is never not a device that makes a photograph interesting. And this cover is so great because it’s swallowing Reese.

The transition between the chair and flowers creates urgent anticipation of the season to come, and Reese’s expression (and that Erdem dress) pops with such a deliberate, but delicate confidence. The whole portfolio by Alexi Lubomirski is just as whimsical.

Harper’s Bazaar UK

In their whole publicity blitz supporting the fantastic Carol, there have been times that the line between Cate Blanchett and her co-star Rooney Mara have in real life blurred in a most Todd Haynes-esque way. This is definitely one of those times.

Blanchett is the accessory that animates the blend of amazing Alexander McQueen, Armani and Erdem pieces throughout this editorial.

InStyle UK

Texture and color-blocking and we’re smitten. There are countless stylists out there though that are screaming because WHY isn’t there any jewelry on that wrist?! Not us.

Marie Claire

Does this cover give away the ending of The Fifth Wave? Because if this is what is to become of us once the aliens invade Earth, we’ve got to do everything we possibly can to stop them because we’ve already lost Chloe Grace Moretz.

Vanity Fair

Megyn Kelly. Patrick Demarchelier. The only way this Vanity Fair cover could be more of a Vanity Fair cover was if its white lady subject were deceased. Still, this is how we hope she shows up for any and all of her #Election2016 coverage here on it. Especially if Donald is gonna be there.

Vogue Portugal

You’d expect this on W, V or Interview, but this is a surprising image to find on a Vogue cover! And while Naomi definitely brings the wow, the styling is a little unsettling (the off-center V piece!) and almost alien (that neck!).

Makes you wonder what would’ve happened if Naomi Campbell starred in 2013’s Under the Skin instead of Scarlett Johansson.


Definitely one the best showings of the month. (To rank them: Taraji, Viola, Julia, Priyanka, Olivia.) It’s a stellar range of talent, genre and beauty, showcasing some of the most in-demand women in television today.

Golden Globe winner Taraji comes out on top here because thankfully they went with a composition that’s way more candid and interesting than the others. If you’re going to feature five strong personalities, build a cover for each of them that really stands out.

W Magazine

There’s nothing wrong with any of these covers, but they’re just not that exciting. (Especially compared to last year’s brilliant portfolio by Tim Walker.)

In his editor’s note for this issue, editor Stefano Tonchi explains the goal for this year’s movie issue was to create memorable celebrity portraits in an age inundated with selfies and Instagrams.

But if the goal here is authenticity, why so serious? Is it somehow inauthentic to smile? These images feel more like promotional art for a modern revival of “Rent” than an attempt to create introspective photographs of real, talented artists.

Elle UK

Brave? Meh. Bold? No. Beautiful? Ok sure. But is this how all Internet superpowers dress in 2016? And why on Earth wouldn’t you put one of the images of both the Jenner girl together with Lucky Blue – boy wonder of the moment – on the cover?


There are maybe a lot of words on these covers, but all you see are these three strong, beautiful women. You get a sense of their personality, and they each hold their own. Multiple covers are always fun – for editors to produce and readers to see.

Here, Essence really created three distinct covers with the same them, and that’s commendable – especially in some of their company this month.


Ooh, Hilary. We didn’t realize you signed on for a Lizzie McGuire reboot! Stay on TV Land! Spend some of that Younger money and get a better publicist!

V Magazine

V let Lady Gaga guest edit this issue, so naturally she created 16 different covers. All her favorite monsters came to celebrate Alexander McQueen at her party: Karl Lagerfeld, Hedi Slimane, Steven Klein, Inez and Vinoodh, Isabella Blow, Terry Richardson and others. It’s a rare moment in magazines for 2016, and the editors knew they’d get amazing perspective the recent Golden Globe winner.

And if for some reason you still haven’t clicked to see all of the covers, there’s this: One cover features a post-coital Gaga wrapped around her boyfriend Taylor Kinney, as well as her dog Asia wearing custom Philip Treacy. Do it.


This cover is actually about Penelope Cruz, but it’s cool that Ben Stiller is on it too. All that text had to be right there on top of her hand on top of his shoulder, basically on top of his face, and couldn’t be an inch lower.

But everyone looks great, the characters come through and it’s nice to see Vogue nod toward the zeitgeist in a way that strays from its usual formula. (Anna must LOVE Zoolander.)

Miss a month? Read all about last month's covers.

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