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Antique Fashion & Costume Plates
Part 8 - La Mode Illustrée Fashion Plates
Fashion History

By Pauline Weston Thomas for


Antique Fashion & Costume Plates

Part 8 - La Mode Illustrée Fashion Plates

An Original Fashion Plate of 1889

La Mode Illustrée was first published in 1859 in Paris and of course was in French. It is difficult to find out much about the actual publishing history of the French magazine itself, although Dover reproduction books of La Mode Illustrée are well documented and available on almost every costume website.  La Mode Illustrée was one of the most important French magazines of the late C19th that carried on well into the twentieth century. 

La Mode Illustrée 1889

La Mode Illustrée Fashion Plate 1889

La Mode Illustrée was published weekly on Sundays, with illustrations and description of Victorian fashions and the latest must have accessories.  There was always a fashion plate.  La Mode Illustrée set the standards for a circulation of 20,000 fashion conscious stylish women.  The fashion plates being large are a very attractive 34cm by 27cm.  For interior display purposes they can be made to appear larger when a mat mount is added to a frame.

The La Mode Illustrée above is one of three I have in this timeframe.  They were bought some 15 years ago in 1990 or so, and cost me £45 for the three related plates.  Prices will vary, but you should be able to buy original plates for under £20 a piece even today, especially at eBay or Ruby Lane.  However, the more rare, unusual or pristine the condition of the fashion plate, the higher the end cost.  Antiquarian rare book seller's sell equally rare engravings.  Expect to pay about £450 for a rare fashion plate like those of Donald Heald Georgian hairstyle fashion plates at Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français.


Assessing a Genuine Fashion Plate Part A

I bought this La Mode Illustrée fashion plate 20 years ago at an antique fair, long long before the days of eBay surfing.  Let's look at the differences between this antique plate and reproduction plates.  Bear in mind that La Mode Illustrée has been reprinted many times in the C20th.  Remember an antique is 100 years old or more.  How paper ephemera like this survives is down mainly to the beauty of these items.  People cannot bear to throw them away.  For the same reason people love reproduction images of these plates too.  This is just the sort of item great grandma would have kept in a carefully stored place and brought out on occasion to show children.  On this page, I examine a genuine antique fashion plate and on the next page a typical reproduction print.

Please DO NOT write to me asking for advice on your fashion plate as NONE can be given.

Assessing a Genuine Fashion Plate

If you enlarge the image below for clarity, you will notice several factors that point to this fashion plate being a genuine antique.  At first glance, I would date it at say 1890, but it's nice that the date of 1889 is there in the bottom right hand corner. 

1. In the La Mode Illustrée enlargement you will notice the weak fold mark which is highlighted between the two long central arrows.  It's not a heavy mark, but it is there.  Images were sometimes folded in magazines and also of course a magazine this size would have been folded just as we might fold a newspaper. This fold is not very visible without study. The print is very flat because the fashion plate was purchased already glued to a piece of mounting card.  Removing it from the card would have ruined it.

La Mode Illustrée 1889 - Antique Evidence.

2. Next look at the far left side and notice two important factors. One is the small long strip of adhering printed material with some French writing from the attached printed page that has remained when the fashion plate was separated from the page directly above it.

Print down side from previous page.

3. Now look at the holes that have pulled away where thread sewn to hold the publication together. This has been removed or simply pulled away with wear and tear.  Some of these rounded holes are shown with the small arrows running up the left side.

4. There are genuine foxing spots (brown marks) at the top of the image. No seller would deliberately sell a piece with foxing if they could help it, because it does detract and make the item sell for less, especially when the spots are on the face or occur centrally.  Any antique image with foxing on is worth much less than one which is pristine.  This is why some fashion plates at antiquarian booksellers are hundreds of pounds or dollars compared to much lesser amounts elsewhere.  Condition affects value even with a genuine antique fashion plate.

5. The feel of this paper is smooth and a quality magazine weight for a usual fashion plate from this magazine.  Most fashion plates like these are on smooth paper although earlier ones of other plates are often made from laid paper which has a linear texture. Reproductions are often printed on special art papers with texture or made to look like laid paper or have a vellum effect.

6. Finally the magazine publishing house has included the address.  Although some reprints do this, many omit this bit.

Please DO NOT write to me asking for advice on your fashion plate as NONE can be given.

None of this of course guarantees that your fashion plate has not been dabbed with a tea or coffee soaked cotton wool ball to age it.  However being aware of these guidelines with those on the next page may help you to make choices about buying reproduction prints.


Although this does not apply to all fashion plates a number in the corner such as this may give some credibility to a particular plate.  I have chosen this plate number to show you as it contains lots of other information which is also important.

fashion plate number.

The important thought here is that you are happy with your choice whether you purchase a genuine antique or reproduction fashion plate as discussed on the next page.  Both have their value.

To help you in your choice you may like to know about hand coloured plates and colour printed plates with terms such as engraving, lithograph, chromolithograph, laid paper and Pochoir here.


Please DO NOT write to me asking for advice on your fashion plate as NONE can be given.

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©Copyright 2005-2011
These images should not be reproduced in printed book form matter, as greetings cards, gift wrap etc., or as part of any electronic material such as a CD, DVD, TV videos, ebooks, websites or similar item. 

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
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Some images in this section are courtesy of eBay seller Cabrio4

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