In 1937, Steichen left Condé Nast and, according to Squiers, spent the next few years raising delphiniums. (He had become an avid and accomplished gardener in France.) After the United States entered World War II, he put on the uniform of a Navy officer and devoted his talents to the war effort. He never returned to photographing clothes, though he kept taking pictures almost until his death, on March 25, 1973, two days short of his 94th birthday.
After the war, a new generation of fashion photographers, most notably Richard Avedon, adopted smaller cameras and faster film, and they began to leave their studios and urge models to move naturally rather than pose. The carefully staged black-and-white Steichen pictures that delighted prewar readers of Vogue mostly gave way to color and spontaneity. But as Edward Steichen in High Fashion proves, his pictures retain their power to please.
Owen Edwards is a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.