Fashion plate of 1807 April London Dress Detail from the Abbey Museum Collection

Fashion Plates and the “Women’s Weekly” of the 1800’s

Fashion Plates one of the Abbey Museum’s Hidden Treasures

At the Abbey Museum we have recently started moving our reserve collection into a new storage facility. As part of this much needed process we are also undertaking conservation and storage needs assessment of each object. This might sound like a long and boring exercise. At times it is indeed laborious, but at other times it can be very exciting. I get to see and work with some of the amazing artefacts that are not currently on display. My latest task was to go through and check the catalogue numbers on a series of historical fashion plates.

Fashion plates from 1801 & 1802 in teh Abbey Museum Collection

The Lady’s Magazine and the birth of the Fashion Plate

A fashion plate is an illustration of latest fashions. They were published in women’s journals such as The Lady’s Magazine, which was one of the first to include hand coloured and engraved fashion plates in its publications. First published in 1770 the Lady’s Magazine was one of the leading periodicals of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The magazine included:

  • Short stories and poetry
  • essays praising the “female virtues” of decorum and modesty
  • advice for wives and mothers
  • information on fashion (fashion plates)
  • recipes
  • medicinal ‘receipts’ offering cures for illnesses from cramp to ‘hectic fevers’
  • biographies of famous historical and contemporary figures
  • domestic and foreign news

Although the Abbey Museum does not have full copies of the Lady’s Magazine, it does have an extensive collection of the fashion plates which span 1773 to 1902 I have a passion for historical fashions, so I find these fashion plates fascinating. I was most interested in the examples from 1811 to 1820.   This of course is known as the Regency era when the Prince Regent (Prince of Wales) ruled the United Kingdom because his father, King George III, was deemed unfit to rule. It is also the time of Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) author of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

fashion plates of 1802 Paris Dresses in the Abbey Museum Collection

Fashion at Pemberley

Each September, the Abbey Museum hosts a Regency themed event called Picnic at Pemberley. This is a fundraiser for the Museum as it seeks to raise the necessary funds to build an art gallery to display its collection of Old Master paintings and icons. Picnic at Pemberley attracts many Austen fans who, dress in their finest regency outfit, enjoy an afternoon of dancing, period games and a fine afternoon tea.

So when I started to come across fashion plates with images of beautiful empire line dresses, decorative bonnets, and morning dresses, evening dresses and dancing dresses, I realised that these would be of interest to those annually attend our Pemberley event.

Here are some fashion plates from the Regency. Why not make one of these exquisite designs and join us this year at the Picnic at Pemberley on Saturday 19th September.

fashion plates of dresses 1812 - 1822 in the Abbey Museum Collection