A fashion plate is defined by J.L. Nevinson as a “costume portrait indicating a suitable style of clothing that can be made or secured.” (1967, p. 67). Fashion plates are illustrations used to inform contemporary consumers about fashionable styles of clothing.
For fashion enthusiasts, researchers, and students, fashion illustrations are a source of information because, before the age of photography, fashion was chronicled through other artistic media such as engravings, paintings, and drawings ("A Short History of Fashion illustration", 2014). Historically, and even in the present day where photography has taken over the portrayal of fashion in magazines and books, fashion illustrations are considered an art form ("A Short History of Fashion Illustration", 2014).
Due to the appeal and value of fashion plates, many have been removed from their original context. The ROM Library & Archives' collection of fashion plates primarily consists of intact journals and periodicals. Our fashion plate collection has been cultivated by ROM librarians with the assistance of curators in the museum's Textiles department.
This virtual exhibit is intended to assist researchers and students in providing a brief look at the subject of fashion plates; it is a good jumping off point to do further research but it is by no means exhaustive. To see additional resources than those listed throughout this guide, please search through the ROM Library & Archives holdings via the UTL catalogue. As more research material is acquired, this virtual exhibit is subject to change.
John L. Nevinson. Origin and early history of the fashion plate. Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Press, 1967.
A Short History of Fashion Illustration [Europeana Fashion Blog Post, June 12, 2014]. Retrieved from: https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/blogs/history-fashion-illustration-europeana-fashio
Some Highlights of the Collection
La Gazette du bon ton is a fashion magazine from the 20th Century in France. It was founded by Lucien Vogel and it was published monthly from November 1912 up until December 1925. This magazine was influential because it presented the latest trends in fashion, lifestyle and beauty to an elite audience. The ROM Library & Archives has the full run and it's listed under Primary Sources - Journals in this guide.
Sports & divertissements is a musical score by Erik Satie and, while it is not specifically a fashion plate resource, it is still very relevant because it was comissioned by Lucien Vogel, the fashion magazine publisher and editor. One of its most important features is that it is filled with Illustrations by Charles Martin, who illustrated for La Gazette du Bon Ton. This resource blends music with fashion and the world of popular culture of the 1920's. To learn more about it, please read the Blog on the ROM's website. This resource is listed under Related Publications in this guide.