Antique Fashion & Costume Plates
Mid C19th - Godey's, Peterson's & Graham's Fashion in Magazines
London publishers often copied engraved plates and much was lost in the
copying. Although the two most important English magazines of the mid
C19th were the Ladies Cabinet and The Ladies' Gazette of Fashions, these
English plates are poorly drawn and tinted. Fashion plates from
these 2 latter publications are not thought to add to a collection.
The English magazine the Lady's Magazine, knew when it could not match
the artistry and simply began importing fashion plates from Le Follet.
Much the same happened in America. Later by the 1850s engraved
French plates were actually imported to America for Godey's magazine
having previously been published in Paris up to eleven months earlier.
Although as many as 500 periodicals were published in the United States
in the early 1800s the few that spring to mind that addressed women and
fashion were the outstanding Godey's Lady's Book and Graham's Magazine.
By 1842, Graham’s claimed a circulation of 40,000. Godey's was
directed solely at women although men of course read it, whereas
Graham's was directed at gentlemen too. Another later magazine was
Peterson’s which was initially liked for the fashion plates and early
editions had little in the way of depth of articles.
Godey's, Peterson's and Graham's, satisfied a
desire for those who were socially mobile to become aware of refined
taste in manners, art and literary elements without too much effort.
It pandered to the insecurities of an emerging class coming together
from many nations and merging as one in a new American society. It
gave tolerable boundary guidelines with hazy reference to acceptable and
unacceptable behaviours. Such magazines offer us an insight about
the daily minutiae of acceptable and unacceptable activities among the
emerging middle classes of America.
Panoramic Fashion Plate - Peterson's 1873
Graham's American Monthly
Magazine of Literature, Art and Fashion included fashion, but was
directed at both men and women. It contained articles and set pieces by
well known writers such as Edgar Allan Poe.
Godey's Lady's Book was one of the most influential
C19th monthly magazines and it became an arbiter of taste manners and
etiquette for the epoch. For 30 years Godey’s Lady’s Book was
thought an institution and a leading authority on fashion. Yet
after the Civil War more fashionable women preferred the periodicals
Graham’s and Peterson’s
Peterson's Ladies' Magazine began in 1842. By
the 1860s, Peterson's Ladies' Magazine had 150,000 subscribers. Godey's had been sold as a subscription gift that men would buy for wives and sisters and so too was the later Petersons.
Peterson's cultivated the idea of middle class domesticity with articles and by focusing on fiction written mainly by women.
The most famous of mid C19th
American magazines of this time frame, included Godey's Ladies' Handbook
published from July 1830 without break until 1898. We know it
today mostly as Godey's Lady's Book, but it had a variety
of captions including:-
Godey's Unrivalled Coloured Fashions,
Latest Fashions for Godey's Lady's Book
Godey's Coloured Fashions
Godey's Ladies Handbook
Fashion Plate - Godey's 1874
Godey's Lady's Book was published in Philadelphia in the C19th
by Mr. Louis A. Godey. Publishing history was made when he
employed widow Mrs. Sarah Hale to edit the magazine. Mrs. Sarah
Hale continued to do this until 1877. A forthright opinionated, strong,
campaigning woman she believed women could achieve any goals she wanted. This was
reflected in her editorial style and the inclusion in Godey's Lady's Book with comparatively superwoman style
articles with a C19th slant. Against her judgement it
There were fashion plates,
fashion articles, stories, poems, how to make various crochet, tatting,
lace making, knitting, embroidery and other craft articles, recipes and
house keeping hints and tips. If you needed to make a pair of
dainty slippers, Godey's was the magazine to find such advice!
At the time of the Civil War etiquette advice was very welcome,
especially on births marriages and deaths. But apart from that,
Godey's paid little or no attention to matters of politics and carried
on as before. Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorn and Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow all wrote articles that were published in Godeys.
The fashions were extravagant and generally intended literally for
those who were leisurely ladies. This was not a magazine for pioneering women on distant
farms and lucky to have one new calico dress a year, but for ladies who
aspired to wearing Paris fashions. With any luck the latter may
well have already seen all the major cities of Europe and were therefore
well able to identify with the opulence of full skirted trailing gowns.
New money meant new gowns!
The Civil War interrupted distribution of the magazine and
there is a famous line in 'Gone With The Wind' when Scarlett O' Hara
despairs for lack of a copy of the latest Godey magazine. The Civil War
disrupted distribution of all mail and letters including printed matter.
So copies were loaned and passed on to friends and family, which makes them often scarce or in
poorer condition than some other magazines of the era.
As so often happened in English and other European publications, many early
were crude copies from French magazines. Even so the colouring was
done by hand, but the quality of the earlier engravings were poorer.
Later by the 1850s engraved French
plates were actually imported to America for Godey's magazine. The
original engraved plates would have been previously
published in Paris up to eleven months earlier. By 1861 Godey's
had 150,000 regular readers and some 150 women hand colour tinted
the plates with watercolours. There was no consistency with the
colouring of plates and it seems a colourist would use an alternative
paint colour when the first colour ran out. For this reason Godey's pull out prints
have the same engraving, but can have different coloured gowns as many
different painters were employed to colour them and many used full
artistic licence to get their quota completed.
You can collect original Godey prints on eBay, but do be aware that many
prints are reproductions. You can also buy many versions of
reproductions of the Godey
fashion plates in Dover book format usually for under $20 a book of
prints as shown below.
Anyone who collect Godey's originals and would like to see some on the site please
let me know at the email below.
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Please DO NOT write to me asking for advice on your fashion plate as
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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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