Album de la Mode Illustrée – A guide

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.

Hat, gloves, fan, umbrella, collar. Very important for finishing a look!

 

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.

One of the earliest plates. I have a weakness for black lace on a light fabric, so love this dress.

 

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.

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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.

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There is a larger version though, which you can get to by simply clicking on the image. Pretty details galore!

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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.

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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.

Very pretty, but what year is this?

 

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)
1861 47 0001 1
1863 49 0002 6
1864 40 0003 11
1865 48 0004 15
1866 50 0005 20
1867 49 0006 25
1868 50 0007 30
1869 50 0008 35
1870 52 0009 40
1871 52 0010 46
1872 52 0011 51
1873 52 0012 57
1874 52 0013 62
1875 52 0014 68
1876 52 0015 73
1877 52 0016 79
1878 52 0017 85
1879 52 0018 91
1880 52 0019 97
1881 52 0020 102
1882 53 0021 109
1883 52 0022 115
1884 52 0023 121
1885 52 0024 127
1886 52 0025 133
1887 52 0026 138
1888 53 0027 144
1889 52 0028 151
1890 52 0029 157
1891 52 0030 163
1892 52 0031 169
1893 53 0032 175
1894 53 0033 181
1895 50 0034 187
1896 52 0035 192

 

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.

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Have fun browsing, and one final pretty to finish up!

 

Spring pastels

Spring is slowly coming, the first flowers are popping up. Meanwhile the weather is still rather rainy and grey, however. So although I’m not always a big fan of pastel and fluffyness (especially at the same time), right now is a good time for it.

The Album de la Mode Illustree has a version with lovely watercolor fashion plates, so I picked some of my favourites from the most frilly examples. Ranging from the 1860s to 1890’s. If you don’t like fluff, now might be a good time to stop reading.

 

 

A timeline of fashion

I love timelines showing changes of fashion through time. It’s a very interesting subject, and gives a very good overview of what types of garments were worn when. Especially silhouette has gone through a lot of changes. Although several such timelines exist, I decided to make my own! It’s focused on 19th century fashion, but with a slight expansion of +- 20 years in either direction to give a little context. I started off with +-10 year increments, but it switches to 5 years from the 1870’s on because I felt with 10 years some silhouettes would be skipped. I focused on day-wear. As I’m not a very good artist, I shamelessly traced all silhouettes from fashion plates. I chose fashion plates over extant examples or portraits because they show the ideal silhouette and shape of that time. The originals can be found here, all credit goes to the original artists of course.

And this is what it turned out like, click for full size!

Silhouette change timeline web

And, for those who are interested, a write-up of the changes.

1780-1791: During this time, the width of the skirts starts to narrow, transforming from a wide shape to a more rounded one with emphasis on the back. The general silhouette of the bodice stays largely the same, with fitted sleeves.

1791-1798: A time of a lot of turmoil, which is reflected in a dramatic change in silhouette. The waistline rises to just below the bust, bodices are generally gathered and where before the torso was a conical shape, the bust is now lifted. Skirts are gathered from the waistline, still quite full and sleeves stay fitted.

1798-1811: The waistline stays roughly where it is, but the gathered bodice disappears mostly in favor of a smooth fit. The skirts become less full, now gathered only at the center back. Although fitted sleeves still exist, puffed sleeves make an entrance.

1811-1823: From about 1820, waistlines start to drop, although still above the natural waist. The puffed sleeve is here to stay and growing bigger. Skirts become more A-lined, with more fullness at the bottom.

1823-1830: Waistlines slowly drop to the natural waist. Sleeves continue to grow, becoming epic in size. The onset of the sleeve is low on the shoulder. Skirts keep widening at the bottom, becoming fuller and a little shorter.

1830-1840: The giant sleeve disappears, but fullness at the lower sleeve still exists. Sleeves still start low on the shoulders. Skirts become a little longer again, and are full and bell-shaped.

1840-1852: Skirts continue to grow, with a bell-shaped form. The onset of the sleeves rises a bit back up the shoulders.

1852-1861: The cage crinoline is invented in 1855, allowing skirts to grow to epic proportions. By 1860 the skirts are becoming slightly elliptic in shape, with an emphasis on the back.

1861-1870: The emphasis on the back of the skirt continues to grow, while the circumference of the skirt starts to become less. 1870 marks start of the first bustle era. The waist is just a little above natural.

1870-1875: The bustle keeps growing for a while, but around 1875 it starts to drop into a low sloping line back from the waist marking the beginning of the natural form period. Trains are all-abundant.

1875-1881: The bustle keeps getting lower in the back, until it’s nearly gone in 1879. From that time on, a small new bustle starts to appear high at the back. The bodices start to become even curvier.

1881-1885: From about 1882, the second bustle era starts as the bustle keeps growing bigger. Around 1885 it’s at its largest.

1885-1890: During this period the bustle starts to shrink again, being nearly almost gone around 1890. While before sleeves for day-wear were fitted, a slight puff starts to appear.

1890-1895: The bustle disappears completely and skirts start to widen from the waist. The hourglass figure becomes exaggerated. Sleeves keep growing quickly until they’re huge in 1895.

1895-1900: The giant sleeves disappear again, although a slight puff still exists. Skirts become slimmer giving emphasis on the waist-hip ratio. The ‘pigeon-breast’ makes its appearance, the bustline is quite low but with a strong emphasis on the waist.

1900-1905: Not a lot of change happens. A slight puffed sleeve still appears and the pigeon-breast silhouette is at its peak.

1905-1910: Changes are happening again. The emphasis on the hourglass figure quickly disappears for a straight silhouette. Sleeves are fitted again, with a smooth skirt.

1910-1915: Waistlines rise slightly for just a bit, fit across the bodice is becoming looser. Skirts start to shorten.

1915-1920: Hemlines keep rising and the waist drops to the high hip. The silhouette becomes straighter and straighter, with very little waist emphasis.

1920-1925: Waistlines drop even more, and hemlines rise. The silhouette is almost perfectly straight in the late 1920’s.

 

Black bustles

Time for pretty pictures again, this time of black bustle dresses. I’d guess ranging from ca. 1875 to ca. 1885. All from La Mode Illustree. Beware of a very image-heavy post, because I’m bad at choosing. They’re placed chronologically, so you can see the progress in styles from big and fluffy to sleek to the revival of the bustle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration – Early bustle ball gowns

I’ve been looking at early bustle period (ca. 1870-1876) ball-gowns lately, inspired by the theme of next-years Victorian ball in Bath (organized by Prior Attire). Because even though I don’t exaclty live in the same country, I’d still very much like to go. Don’t know if it’ll happen, but looking at inspiration images is fun non the less! Most of the 1870’s ball gowns are a little too frothy for my taste, as I don’t particulary like the combination of pastels with loads of ruffles and frills, but there are some nice examples out there.

These fashion prints are from the Bunka Gakunen Library, and I really love the way these were coloured. They all seem hand-painted with watercolors, little art pieces.

Beware of loads of pictures! Clicking should give the full-size version.

 




























Inspiration – Regency bodices

Time for another inspiration post! In the past, I made a visual guide to regency sleeves which are more/different than the ‘short puffed’ style most commonly recreated. For necklines, the most commonly recreated are probably the plain square and round neckline, followed by an overlapping v shape. This seems right, as most originals also follow this paradigm, but there’s a lot of room in terms of decoration and details to make a dress more unique! Living in an age where clothes have decidedly less detailing than in previous era’s, we tend to gravitate towards putting on too little trim. If you’ve ever seen existent dresses from this era, you’ll notice that even though the silhouette and design are simpler than say Victorian, there’s still a great attention to detail. Of course, while the general shape is often determined by the pattern used, most pattern companies leave out options for trimming because there’s just too many. So you need to come up with your own details, which can be difficult. For me, looking at images ‘from that time’ always helps a lot, so I hope people can get a little inspired by this to create something ‘different’. All images are from the ‘Journal des Dames et des Modes’, between 1805 and 1810. I might do another one of these for 1810-1815 if people are interested. Source for the images is the online archive of the Bunka Gakuen Library.

Loads of variety, from trims, to collars, to ribbons, flowers, pleating, scarfs and even fur!

 

Inspiration – Blue Natural Form

Another inspiration post. I started looking for images for this post with the idea of selecting any blue natural form fashion plate dress I liked. Apparently, that wasn’t specific enough, as I was finished with over 25 images. So for this post, my favorite dark-blue natural form fashion-plate dresses. Maybe I’ll do a light blue version later…

 

Inspiration – Blue bustle gowns

I’m busy working on my regency dress, and it’s actually starting to look like something! No pictures yet though, but working with the lovely blue fabric is amazing. It’s such a lovely shade, and it catches the light in a very sublte way which makes it change color, it made me think of the color of the sea. A bit blue, a bit gray and a hint of green somewhere.

So as I don’t have any pictures yet, I was inspired to do a post on blue dresses. And because there’s so many amazing blue bustle gowns, a focus on the 1880’s.

Some deep-blue dresses from the period:

Metmuseum

William Benton Museum of Art

 

Metmuseum

Metmuseum

 

And some blue/white seaside dresses in fashion plates:

 

And one extant example:

Metmuseum