Antique Fashion Plates
- La Belle Assemblée & Ackermann's
Fashion Plates After 1770 Fashion History
According to the late James
Laver, fashion plates hardly existed before the French Revolution which
was in 1789. With their hand colouring they almost belong to the
19th century, for after 1900 most fashion plates were produced
mechanically. At the end of the 1880s, experimental colour printing had begun and the chromo-lithograph became the colour method of choice for the new century with just a few magazines retaining
hand colouring. In the main, fashion plates after 1900 did not have hand colouring features.
Fashion plates as hand
coloured engravings really began in England with the publication of an
English monthly magazine called The Lady's Magazine in 1770. The publishers did not tint the plates in each Lady’s Magazine issue in the early days, but
dressmakers did this themselves so by about 1790 they were sold touched with colour.
Before that, coloured versions were simply tinted by enthusiasts at
home. Fashion plates from The Lady's Magazine run until 1837.
A range of other magazines
with fashion plates from England, France and Germany all ran in this era
and included the following Cabinet des Modes 1785-89 and Journal de la
Mode et du Goût 1790-93.
La Belle Assemblée of 1806 was one of the earliest and most
influential of journals including fashion information along with The Lady's
Monthly Museum which began some years earlier in 1798.
Another magazine Le Beau Monde also began in 1806 as a very obvious
rival to that of La Belle Assemblée which had first published about 8
Le Beau Monde
Fashion plate of man and woman 1807
Other very pretty plates were also produced by competitors such as
the Journal des Dames et des Modes with inner fashion plates
Costumes Parisiennes. This ran from 1797 to 1839.
All of these magazines related to female interest
and were issued either monthly, fortnightly or weekly. Each
contained engraved or lithograph plates beautifully hand coloured and
typically the artwork was protected with tissue paper.
This important magazine had a 63 year run, although it did change
ownership in that time. La Belle Assemblée contained not only
hand-coloured fashion plates, but also sheet music and articles of
general interest so it had broader appeal than just fashion.
In his authoritative book, Hand Coloured Fashion Plates 1770-1899,
Vyvyan Holland comments that the production of the fashion plates of
this magazine La Belle
Assemblée falls into five natural periods, beginning with the conventional
crudely coloured first period of 1806-1809. This era for plates was made
worse by the lack of colour in clothing, since white gowns were mostly
in fashion then.
The second period
1809-1820 was much improved, with even greater improvement in the third
period from 1821 to 1832 and this last period is the one I personally
The 1831 engraved fashion plate
below is one of these superior engravings. It is so dainty and elegant. It has wonderful colour and the 150 word description of
the yellow evening dress refers to it as a 'dress of canary coloured
gaze Clementine over satin......' The engraving is so well
done you can almost touch the shimmering light attracting satin fabric
folds and the shadows of the gauze overskirt. This is the quality
associated with La Belle Assemblée.
This hand coloured engraving is from a William IVth
fashion periodical called La Belle Assemblée.
It came complete
with a fashion description text of fabrics and styles
of the greatest detail for May 1831. This was a joy to read as
descriptive text is so often missing.
This image was purchased from eBay
24cm by 15cm, La Belle Assemblée is often much smaller than people
expect when they first buy original prints. That's
because at about 9" tall the pages were intended to be held
for reading. However, the smallness means the engravings have a
delicacy and daintiness, making them even more attractive to
Sometimes the small plates show four figures. This one just below is one
of my La Belle Assemblée plates with a group of figures. The colour on
this plate is brilliant and intense. I confess that my prime
interest in such plates is not purely academic as you might think. I
enjoy using them grouped as sets in rooms and other women like them as
exquisite unusual gifts.
However when you look at a picture daily be sure it is one that has
attractive elements and is finely executed. I never cease to be
amazed how many visitors peer with interest at the fine details and
delicacy of such pieces.
La Belle Assemblée.
This 24cm by
15cm La Belle Assemblée fashion plate has several lovely gowns
including 2 court dresses on the far left and the green walking
dress and the blue carriage dress. Again the hairstyle details
from the romantic 1830s are perfect. The smallness of the plate
makes it zing with quality as it is so finely worked and tinted.
This image came with text making it doubly interesting to a
This image was
an eBay fashion plate seller.
But it is the fourth
period of fashion plate making for La Belle Assemblée that began after
1832 and lasted until 1854 that produced many plates which were
inferior copies of French plates. Holland implies that the best period
for these plates is between 1820 and 1832 and also between 1854 and 1869
when it produced delightful plates with many by Héloïse Leloir sister of
Anaïs Toudouze. La
Belle Assemblée was discontinued in 1869.
Now many of these magazine
plates are much rarer than when
first examined the 5 periods some 50 years ago and so all plates from
La Belle Assemblée have become very collectible.
The full name of La
Belle Assemblée which was owned by John Bell, was Bell's Court and
Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies. Even
now, it is considered a mine of fascinating information about the
literary and artistic world of the era, plus other contents of hints and tips to
achieve perfection in all areas. Fashion information was but a
small part of the overall magazine. After 1832 when the magazine
changed hands, it was renamed as The Court Magazine and
La Belle Assemblée.
The plates issued for
the next 23 years are thought inferior. The most attractive plates were
by Héloïse Leloir
between 1854 and 1869. In 1869 the magazine ceased to exist, but
these artists were still sought after at other superior magazines.
In 1809, a new fashion
plate fashion journal called The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce,
Manufactures, Fashions and Politics was created by Ackermann.
Now we know it mainly by the name Ackermann's Repository of Arts.
The fashion plates were
included as a guide for ladies and dressmakers. It also contained other
images of other design elements such as pictures of furniture and art
pieces that might interest refined ladies in their home making.
It paid special attention to classical styles and taste in relation to
art. Each monthly magazine had two or more fashion plates of a lone figure or
a model plus child. In total Ackermann released around 450 fashion
plates and the magazine ceased to exist in 1829 with the prettiest
plates thought to be between 1826 and 1829.
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Please DO NOT write to me asking for advice on your fashion plate as
NONE can be given.
This Fashion Plates Page Added 8 Oct 2005
For more about Fashion Plates
click on the title that you need:-
Some images in this section are courtesy of eBay seller
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