The battle for the cover

September's fashion magazines are the biggest of the year - and a spot on the cover is hotly contested.

Halle Berry will be the cover model for September's US Vogue magazine.
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For any dedicated follower of fashion, the early days of August tend to be spent in tense anticipation. Not for the holiday they have spent six months saving up for, but for the thump of the post on the doormat. They know the sound they are waiting for: loud, like a ton of bricks has just fallen from a not-insignificant height. It's the sound of several hundred glossy, fashion-packed pages arriving to help them navigate the bumpy sartorial roads of autumn/winter.

These are the September issues - a phrase coined long before the 2009 documentary of the same name that detailed the weeks of work that go into preparing the biggest annual issue of the world's biggest fashion magazine. It's the same across the board with the big glossies, all of which, for September, pull out the stops with cover stars and elaborate photo shoots featuring the must-have trends for the new season. Equally, for advertisers, it is their chance to reveal their latest campaigns (the spring/summer ones feature in the March issues). In fact, flick through any September magazine and the vast majority of pages will be advertising. The team at US Vogue, in the documentary, even had an internal presentation ceremony, complete with a warm round of self-congratulatory applause at having aggregated a record-breaking 840 pages (of which 727 were ads) for their September 2007 issue.

The past couple of years have, perhaps not surprisingly, been a little leaner, with last year's September issue ofUS Vogue the slimmest in memory at 600 pages. But now they seem to have rounded the bend: this month, readers will be in for another bumper page count. The total is yet to be disclosed, but we do know that there will be at least 532 pages of ads, a 24 per cent increase on last year. Advertising aside, it's the faces on the covers that cause the real buzz, with rumours about who's on what starting to swirl, particularly in the US, several months before. Their choices say a lot, not just about who the magazine is trying to appeal to, but more importantly who's hot. Sienna Miller, who graced the cover of the aforementioned September 2007 issue of US Vogue, is nowhere to be seen in 2010 (something to do with her performance in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, perhaps?)

While Kate Moss, even at a relatively wrinkly (for the fashion world) 36, continues to resurface: this year, she is reportedly doing the September cover of i-D, last year it was British Vogue, the year before it was Interview - and so on. So who are the chosen few for September 2010? On US Vogue it's Halle Berry. This seems an odd choice. It's interesting in that she's the first black woman to be on the September cover ofUS Vogue since Naomi Campbell in 1989. But what's she up to at the moment that makes her so hot? There's a fragrance coming out this month (yawn) and an indie film, Frankie and Alice, coming out in the autumn, but otherwise nothing of note.

More on the money isLady Gagafor Vanity Fair. The singer is nothing if not eccentric, so it's a refreshing change for the photographer Nick Knight to portray her in a natural pose: as a pouting 1960s siren. The resurgence of Julia Roberts continues. Along with the impending release of Eat Pray Love, she is to be found on the cover of September US Elle. Another odd decision, perhaps, given that the magazine's readership is predominantly girls in their 20s. Nonetheless, it's good to see her back.

Harper's Bazaar has gone with Jennifer Aniston. All tawny limbs and highlights, she is the ultimate girl-next-door. But is she really September cover material? Someone with a bit more edge might have been nice. And then of course there's Justin Bieber for Teen Vogue. Predictable, yes, but only because of the intensity of the Bieber fever currently sweeping through the teen scene. Few other personalities will shift as many copies of the magazine as he will, so it makes good commercial sense.

Meanwhile over in the UK, it's business as usual at Vogue if reports are to be believed: Kate, we hear, has done it again - for the 31st time.