We live in a wonderful time for online research. Many amazing publications have been digitized and are available online for free, but they can be tricky to track down. I’m sharing my diligently ferreted-out master list of publications with fashions dating from 1858 to 1865.
This is an opportunity to look beyond Godey’s and Peterson’s: Listed here in alphabetical order (ignoring prefixes such as The and Le) are 16 different fashion publications!
I would like to give a shout-out to the lists of The Victorian Needle and Beth Chamberlain’s Zotero database, both of which provided some new links to me. Also, my list is more complete for 1858-65 but theirs cover more years (in Beth’s case, more decades!).
Arthur’s Ladies’ Home Magazine
The fashions are fairly derivative of other publications, but there are some good things here. The title changed from The Ladies’ Home Magazine to Arthur’s Home Magazine in 1861, with no discernible change in content. NB: The 1864 scan has no plates.
Like all mid-19th-century German publications, this is very, very difficult to read because you don’t just have to translate from German, you also have to transliterate the Fraktur alphabet! It’s almost impossible. However, Der Bazar is well worth perusing because of the very highly detailed images of fashions and projects. Many that originated here were republished in La Mode Illustree (in French), and then knocked off around the world. Bonus: some of the pattern sheets are included in the scans!
Mme. Demorest’s Quarterly Report and Mirror of Fashions
Mme. Demorest’s was an American publication that originated in New York, primarily intended as an advertising piece for Demorest’s dressmaking establishment (and anybody else they could sell advertorials to). While not nearly as glossy as publications with a greater readership, the details found here are very interesting and different from what you get elsewhere.
The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine
Earlier issues do not have a lot of plates (generally one fashion plate and one needlework plate, both color, though some are missing in these versions), but there are two pages of discussion of current fashions. For an extra charge there was also a supplement of fashions, needlework, and music beginning in 1862; it seemed primarily to use images and information from Der Bazar/La Mode Illustree. In January 1865 the magazine and supplement were combined into one publication.
NB: The 1858-1860 version is missing issues, but has more interesting ads than 1858-59.
1864 is supplements only; 1865 is complete issues with supplements
This is one of several British publications combining French fashion plates and descriptions with English social news and stories. Lovely plates with fairly good descriptions. There are two full years packed into one volume here.
Frank Leslie’s Monthly / New Family Magazine / Lady’s Magazine / Gazette of Fashion
The Gazette of Fashion was tacked onto more than one of Frank Leslie’s publications, so if that’s the part your after it doesn’t much matter which one it’s in. His Ten Cent Monthly, which is the 1863 edition linked below, had fashions, but not nearly so many, nor does it include many yarn or needlework projects.
NB: Google has two 1859 scans; on the first, the scanning cut off parts of pages, and on the second, the scans are good but some pages are missing altogether.
Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine
The classic American publication with which we are most familiar, Godey’s has a typical mix of stories, fashions, and projects.
NB: 1862 and 1863 were both uploaded wrong on Archive.org. The second half of the year is first, then Jan-June.
Graham’s Illustrated Magazine
Graham’s was an American magazine, published in Philadelphia. Primarily a literary magazine, it nevertheless had a pretty good slug of fashions and illustrated needlework projects stuffed in at the end of each issue.
The Ladies’ Companion and Monthly Magazine / The Illustrated Magazine
These seem to be exactly the same publication. Very little fashion information, and the fashion plates are often only half-scanned or not in color. Sometimes pages missing at front/back of monthly issues. Some knitting instructions and embroidery patterns, though.
NB: The full-year scan of 1859 has no fashion plates, but is a much better scan than the one divided into winter-spring and summer-fall. The 1862 scan has incomplete plates, but very high-res copies of the plates are available in the Los Angeles Public Library’s on-line fashion plate collection.
1858 winter-spring . _ . 1858 summer-fall
1859 winter-spring . _ . 1859 summer-fall . _ . 1859 full year
1860 winter-spring . _ . 1860 summer-fall . _ . 1861 winter-spring . _ . 1861 summer-fall
1862 winter-spring . _ . 1862 summer-fall . _ . 1863 winter-spring . _ . 1863 summer-fall
1864 winter-spring . _ . 1864 summer-fall . _ . 1865 winter-spring . _ . 1865 summer-fall
The Lady’s Friend
This magazine out of Philadelphia, launched in 1864, is very like Godey’s. The fashion section has quite a lot of accessories and projects. Unfortunately, the color plates for the 1864 issue were made wide and folded into the publication, and whoever scanned them for Google did not unfold them first.
La Mode Illustrée
The gold standard for detail, La Mode Illustrée was an oversize publication with incredibly lifelike, detailed engravings of clothes, accessories, and needlework projects. You do have to wade through the French, but that’s what Google Translate is for!
Les Modes Parisiennes Illustrées, Journal de la Bonne Compagnie
A weekly publication in French, the Google Books scans are very imperfect, with missing, badly scanned, or uncolored plates, but keep in mind that in many cases the colored plates can be matched up from the Los Angeles Public Library’s on-line fashion plate collection. Unfortunately, the so-tantalizing full-scale pattern pages are fractional and useless.
Les Modes Parisiennes and Journal du Beau Monde
This may be an English version of the above, published in London. It’s a mix of fashions taken straight from the French with reviews of London shows and events, and stories both English in origin and translated. Only published monthly, it originally contained all four colored plates of the weekly version in one magazine, but Google Books doesn’t have all of them. But…no translation necessary!
Another mid-19th-century German publication that is very difficult to read because you don’t just have to translate from German, you also have to transliterate the Fraktur alphabet. However, this wonderful set of scans includes the complete pattern sheets, which is very unusual!
Godey’s cheaper American cousin, Peterson’s was $2 per year vs. Godey’s $3, and it shows in the quality of their engravings, which are extremely uneven. On the other hand, Peterson’s apparently struck a deal with Les Modes Parisiennes to carry their highly superior color plates. And Godey’s and Peterson’s do have different content.
The What-not; or Ladies’ Handy-book
A British magazine, the What-not doesn’t have such fine illustrations as other, more visually dazzling publications, but it makes up in substance what it lacks in style. The descriptions of the plates are more specific about where and when each garment is worn, and how that fits into current styles, than any other magazine. At present there are only three years available on-line.