Monday, 11 March 2013

Comparing Empire/Regency Fashion Plates and Thoughts on Proportion.

Greetings to my followers. 2013 has been extremely busy so far! I wanted to write a quick post about fashion plates and working out proportion. I received a set of fashion plates from a friend on my birthday and noticed one had been carefully coloured. I remembered I had seen the plate before on the Internet and wanted to compare it to the one in my collection.

Many people rely on fashion plates as a source for costume research. However they may not be completely reliable when researching garment colours. Below are some identical fashion plates with different colouring. It is difficult to tell whether the different colouring was carried out at the time or later. I am sure though that many ladies would have coloured their plates to decide on possible choices for their wardrobe. Or even to show their mantua maker/seamstress their ideas for a garment.

The same fashion plate in my collection.
Here are another two examples which I found by searching for 'Costume Parisien' on a Google search.

Costume plates are an invaluable resource for research especially in earlier periods where garments are less likely to survive.They usually illustrate the ideal image of fashion but in some cases what not to wear and should be treated with caution. They are only part of the puzzle when trying to build a picture of what was actually worn in the late Georgian, Empire and Regency period. It is important to cross reference the costume plate with other examples and if possible read the description as this will provide lots of information.


 When using a fashion plate as inspiration for a project I find it useful to work out the relative proportion of details. Below is a simple rough example where I have drawn a line down the side of the plate which will correspond to my height. I then divide the line into equal sections in red  to create a scale. The blue horizontal lines correspond to details which I will measure out using the scale I have created. It gives me a helpful guide as to how the outfit might work and possible measurements for parts of the garment.


Rozy Lass said...

Proportion in antique fashion plates seem to about the same as modern; long waists, calf portion of leg longer than the thigh portion. It makes the ladies look tall and elegant, so then when we normal humans make the dress we look and feel rather short and dumpy. We all buy into the illusion. I took a class with Claudia Kidwell many years ago about the Fact and Fantasy of fashions in portraiture. It was fascinating. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

Alicja said...

In the subject of old prints colouring and variations you might be interested in this article I have recently read on the Antique Prints Blog I agree with you that it is important to cross reference the fashion plate and I'm sorry that so few fashion plates has the accompanying description. You will often find that the colours on the fashion plate differ from the ones in the description. Thank you for the tip on working out the proportions. It will be very useful.

Fichu1800 said...

Thank you both for your comments. It is true that most fashion plates arrive without the description which is frustrating when researching.@Alicja, thank you also for the link to the article. It was very interesting.

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Again, wonderful and inspiring post. Indeed I've also came across differently coloured fashion plates. I have two Volumes of the Lady's Monthly Museum from 1808 and unfortunately the plates are missing, but the text clearly describes the colours. For reference it's best to check in the journal's texts (if available).
It's also sometimes the case that the colours of museum's pieces have faded and aren't true to the former brightness, which makes it difficult to tell the proper shade.
When I recreate a garment I usually work with the rule of three, taking the lenght of an arm as base to measure the dress.


Anne Elizabeth said...

Another good reason to consult the description of the plates: Ocassionally you find fashion plates that illustrated bad examples, like a "How not to dress". (Mme du Jard once told me about one of those in the "Journal des Luxus und der Moden", if I remember correctly. Apparently it didn't look caricature-like enough to be self-evident.)

Kendra said...

I always wonder about the coloring on fashion plates (ie when it was done). You see so many versions! I also remember reading a description of a dress in one of the late 18th c fashion mags where the description said the most popular color was white, but that since that didn't translate we'll in a fashion plate, they colored the image with a stronger color.

Kendra said...

I nominated you for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award: