Women’s magazines in the 19th century published fashion plates- illustrations of women’s clothing intended to guide the reader towards the latest styles. I love fashion plates, but often the scans of fashion magazines scan the plates very poorly. On the other hand, many wonderful repositories of just fashion plates exist such as the Casey Fashion Plate index, but since plates were so often cut from the magazines, these collections omit the contextual information we need to understand the plates.
So, I spent some time pairing up beautifully scanned plates from the Casey Fashion Plate Index with their descriptions from various fashion magazines. I did excerpted the descriptions, added punctuation where needed, and corrected some truly strange spellings and archaic word choices. Riband means ribbon, apparently, though I did have to look that one up.
I chose to focus on 1834. Maybe because I am working on a paper doll from this era… Maybe….
Godey’s Lady’s Book Fashion Plates from 1834
If there ever was a magazine that barely needs an introduction, it is Godey’s Lady’s Book. In the 19th century, it was the most widely circulated magazine in the United States. That’s not just the most widely circulated women’s magazine, the most widely circulated magazine period. It began in 1830, but didn’t reach the height of its popularity until after Sarah Josepha Hale took over as the editor in 1837. She was an amazing woman and helped found the holiday of Thanksgiving. She also wrote the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
(The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic describes identical dresses in their November 1833 issue.)
Evening Dress (left) – The robe is composed of a new kind of gauze, called gaze fleur des anges, a rose-colored ground, flowered in… a blond lace pattern, and worn over a satin slip to correspond. The corsage is low, cut in a very graceful manner on the shoulders… The lappel, bust, and bottom of the corsage, are each edged with blond lace. Bouffant sleeve slashed in front of the arm. The hair parted on the forehead, is disposed in light loose curls… A half wreath of blue wild flowers is placed rather far back (on the head) … gloves of white knitted silk, resembling double-grounded lace. Black satin slippers of the sandal kind.
Carriage Dress (right- identified as a Morning Dress) – A pelisse of lemon-colored gros frincesse… The sleeves very large from the shoulder to the bend of the arm, sit nearly, but not quite close to the wrist…. Pelerine (cape) of two falls, deep on the back and shoulders…. and knots of ribbon much larger than those on the sleeves are placed at equal distances from the waist to the bottom of the skirt. Lemon-colored satin hat, lined with pale lilac velvet… The trimming consists of knots of lemon-colored gauze ribbon and… flowers to correspond. Cashmere scarf. Lilac kid gloves.
Evening Dress (left) –Robe of.. satin; a low corsage, plain behind, but disposed in drapery folds in front… and turning back round the bust in the pelerine form. The lappel and the bust… are both bordered with blond lace… The sleeves are of the double bouffant form; the lower bouffant is extremely small; it is shaded by a row of blond lace… The border of the dress is embroidered in detached bouquets in silk to correspond… a turban of white and blue gauze… A white ostrich feather, tipped with blue, rises from the bandeau, and completes the trimming.
Evening Dress (right) – Satin under-dress of a peculiar shade of gray; the corsage is cut low, sits close to the shape, and is bordered with blond lace… A deep flounce of blond lace encircles the border of the dress… the sleeves of the single bouffant form over satin… Knots of fire-colored gauze riband decorate the sleeves, and the sides of the robe. The hair is divided on the forehead, falls in loose curls at the sides of the face, and is combed up tight to the summit of the head, where it is arranged in a cluster of light bows, in which a sprig composed of colored gems is inserted. A bandeau, composed also of colored gems is brought from the sprig round the forehead.
Ladies’ Pocket Magazine Fashion Plates from 1834
The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine was published in London. As far as I can tell, it came out twice a year and was small format (pocket-sized) and included a variety of content from stories to non-fiction, poems, essays and fashion plates. The plates were divided between styles from London and styles from Paris.
Dinner Dress- A green satin round dress a low body the front crossed in full drapery folds on the bosom. Long sleeves very wide and terminating in deep tight cuffs. Blond lace mantelet… The cap also composed of blond… is trimmed with an ornament of cut ribbon on one side and a bow on the other.
Evening Dress- A velvet robe of a new color bordering on lilac. The body cut low and square is trimmed with blond lace arranged in the lapel style. Bouffant sleeves… The hair is dressed in loose curls at the sides and in high light bows on the summit of the head. It is adorned with a bandeau of fancy jewelry and a sprig of… roses inserted in the bows.
Walking Dress- A pelisse of apple-green satin… trimming of white fox fur descends in a straight band down the corsage and passes from thence to the bottom of the skirt…. Green satin bonnet to correspond round and rather deep brim bordered with a blond lace ruche… The trimming of the crown is composed of ribbon which forms a point in the centre and two full blown roses inserted one on each side of the band on the top.
Lady’s Magazine and Museum of the Belles Lettres, Fine Arts, Music, Drama, Fashions, etc. Fashion Plates from 1834
The Lady’s Magazine and Museum was born after two older ladies magazines came together- The Lady’s Magazine and the Lady’s Monthly Museum. Both magazines began in the late 18th century in England to cater to the women’s market. By the 1830s, facing competition, they combined into one publication and continued until 1847.
Toilette de Ville – Hat of… satin ornamented with two ostrich feathers. Cloak… lined with satin… The cape is about half the length of the cloak… The cape is cut open at each side… and shows the sleeves which are immense… The collar and cuffs of black velvet.
Child’s Dress- Cloak of pink satin made with large sleeves and pelerine…. the cloak is fastened round the waist by a… boa of swan’s down… Frock and trousers… to match and trimmed at the tops with swan’s down. Satin hat with a plain ribbon crossed in front and descending at the sides.
Costume de Soiree– Dress of organdy embroidered in colored worsteds [in a pattern of] rose buds and foliage… The embroidery is continued in a light wreath round the bottom of the skirt to mark where the hem should come… The cap is… a plain crown and excessively full border which is very deep in front and diminishes gradually towards the sides… White gloves, white silk stockings, and black satin shoes.
The sitting figure shows the back of the same gown. This was a common “trick” in plates of this era and I think it’s pretty charming.
Thoughts on the 1830s? Other periods of fashion I should take on?