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Origin and Early History of the Fashion Plate   By:

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United States National Museum Bulletin 250 Contributions from The Museum of History and Technology Paper 60, Pages 65 92


John L Nevinson

Smithsonian Press

Washington, D.C.


[Illustration: Figure 1. DRESS OF SIGMUND VON HERBERSTEIN for the Polish Embassy in 1517. Over his doublet and breeches he wears a brocade gown lined with silk. From Gratae Posteritati , 1560. ( Courtesy of British Museum, London. ) {A MAXIMILIANO CAESARE AD SIGISMVNDVM POLONIAE REGEM ET BASILIVM MAGNUM MOSCOVIAE PRINCIPEM SIC VESTITVS DESTINATVS SVM.}]

John L. Nevinson

Origin and Early History Of the Fashion Plate

A fashion plate is a costume portrait indicating a suitable style of clothing that can be made or secured. Fashion illustration began in the late 15th and early 16th centuries with portrait pictures that made a person's identity known not by his individual features but rather by his dress.

This paper, based on a lecture given in the fall of 1963 at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, traces the history of the fashion plate from its origins to its full development in the 19th century. With the improvements in transportation and communication, increased attention came to be paid to foreign fashions, accessories, and even to hairstyles. As the reading public grew, so fashion consciousness increased, and magazines, wholly or partly devoted to fashions, flourished and were widely read in the middle social classes; this growth of fashion periodicals also is briefly described here.

THE AUTHOR: John L. Nevinson, retired, was formerly with The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. He now devotes himself to full time research on costumes and their history.

Fashion may be defined as a general style of dress appropriate for a particular person to wear at a certain time of day, on a special occasion, or for a specific purpose.

A fashion plate is a costume portrait, that is to say, a portrait not of an individual but one which shows the sort of clothes that are being worn or that are likely to be worn. It is a generalized portrait, indicating the style of clothes that a tailor, dressmaker, or store can make or supply, or showing how different materials can be made up into clothes. A fashion plate is related to the wear of its epoch and not to the history of dress, except insofar as the dress of a historical personage may be imitated at a later date... Continue reading book >>

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