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The Mainspring of Fashion

Ladies' Magazine fashion plate, 1830

Ladies' Magazine fashion plate, 1830

Item 11573 info
Brick Store Museum

Hale fought vigorously against the use of fashion illustrations to increase the sales of American periodicals because she thought they had an air of frivolous absurdity, exaggerating already excessive fads of fashion.

In 1830, she published the first fashion plate in her Ladies' Magazine. She deliberately chose a ridiculous example by Boston lithographers, Pendleton Brothers.

In her accompanying comment, she criticized the gullibility of American women and even suggested that the courtly ladies in France invented the exaggerated styles to conceal some deformity.

Louis Godey did not want to give up the popular and profitable fashion prints, but allowed Hale to employ American illustrators.

She qualified the fashion plates with the following statement: "Our engraving of the 'Fashions'... is not given as a pattern for imitation, but as a study for each reader to examine and decide how far this costume is appropriate to her own figure, face and circumstance."

The first of Godey's "improved" fashion plates appeared in 1843. It showed conservative but elegantly dressed models in front of the Lady's Book offices at 211 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.


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