I love browsing through fashion plates for inspiration. Although not always a perfect representation of what was ‘normal’ during an era, you can get a very good idea of what was ideal. This means loads of very pretty dresses, a good look at the ideal silhouette, and a picture of a full ‘look’ including accessories.
Those who’ve been following my blog might have noticed that the most recent inspiration posts with fashion plates were all from the same series. This is a version of the Album de la Mode Illustrée, and it’s probably my favorite of all series I’ve seen. There are multiple versions of this album around, but this particular one is special because of the beautiful watercolors. It also runs from 1861 to 1895, so covers a solid part of the Victorian era.
The next question is of course: where can I find them?
All fashion plates are online in high resolution, courtesy of of the Bunka Gakuen Library. You need to do some searching on the website though, and once in the album there’s no direct way to search for a certain year. There are shortcuts though, and I have found a way to find a specific year, so the rest of this post is a guide towards finding what you want from this amazing source!
Firstly, the website, which is here
To find the album, a quick way is to go to ‘fashion plates’, and then go to ‘Nineteenth century’. This will give a list of fashion plate albums, the watercolor one is the ‘Album de la Mode Illustrée’ is at the top at number 1.
This will bring you to an overview of the plates. To get the full size picture, click on the thumbnail, you then get a slightly larger version.
There is a larger version though, which you can get to by simply clicking on the image. Pretty details galore!
To browse through the images, it is easiest to use the thumbnail view. You can leaf through the album using the numbers at the top.
The only difficulty left is finding what date a plate is, as it’s not actually on the picture, and there’s no info per image.
However, there’s an easy way to do it anyway, using the file numbers! As you can see in the screenshots, there’s a filename beneath each thumbnail. This filename consists of 3 numbers. Let’s take the first fashion plate, which has number 014-0001-002.jpg.
The 014 is the same for all, probably this refers to the album itself. The second number is the most interesting, as it refers to the ‘book’ in the series. Luckily for us, there’s one book per year, so this number can be used to find what year a picture is in! The last number is the number of the individual picture within that year.
So in this case, the number 1 refers to 1861. However, 1862 is missing, so the number 2 is 1863. To make it a little less confusing, I’ve made a table to look up what numbers refer to what year.
In this table, the first column is the year. The second is the number of fashion plates in the album for that year. The Start ID is the middle number in the file name. So if you have a filename with 0021 in the middle, it will be a plate from 1882.
|Year||Number of plates||Start ID||Pagenr start (all)|
There’s a final column in this table, to help make the searching even easier. This number is the page number when browsing through the thumbnails, where this year begins. (After the red cover picture). The page numbers are the numbers within the red box on the screenshot below. So for example, if you want to find plates from 1893, you need to go to page 181. As you can see below, you initially don’t see this number. Just click on ‘180’, and then the 10 pages before and after will also show up.
Just be careful to not click on the ‘Plates only’ button under the thumbnails, as this will remove the album cover/backs, and therefore mess up the page numbers.
Have fun browsing, and one final pretty to finish up!