Definition: frivolous, celebrity, or hedonistic society or culture
In the 1678 novel Pilgrim’s Progress there was a town called Vanity that had a non-stop fair specializing in anything Man could pleasure in or desire. It is run by the demon Beelzebub and represented Man’s frivolity and hedonism.
The phrase was then used as the title of a serialized novel in 1847. Vanity Fair (the novel) was adapted many times into silent films, feature films, and TV series. (I own the book, though I haven’t read it.)
Beginning in 1859, the name “Vanity Fair” was used by multiple magazines, the current iteration having been in publication since 1983.
Why I Looked It Up
I was familiar with the magazine, but I found a cultural reference in an article (I cannot remember where – I just noted the text):
[…] success in all of its various guises; being known and being praised; ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or traveling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan, explaining and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer.