New Object in Focus: A Fashion meeting (by Peter McNeil)

A Fashion Meeting, an 18th Century Water-Colour for the Printed Gallerie des Modes, 1779.

Object in Focus page:

Ideas about metropolitan fashion spread more rapidly throughout the eighteenth century as travel became easier, communications improved, and the literate gained access to burgeoning illustrated periodicals. The travel time between Paris and Lyon, for example, halved from the ten-day journey of the seventeenth century to five days by the late-eighteenth (Sargenston 1996:103). The proliferation of detailed engravings permitted the rapid dissemination of fashionable ideals, spreading also the cult of individualism, novelty and possibly a new manner of discussing fashion. Printed sets of ‘modern habits’ depicting elegant dress and posture of men and women after French designs by Hubert-François Gravelot and Bernard Picart had circulated in the first four decades of the eighteenth century in England. Cheaper English Ladies ‘Pocket Books’ illustrated existing court and ‘de bon ton’ fashions in the 1760s, but the specialized fashion press first emerged in France in 1768 with the Journal du Goût and in England in 1770 with The Lady’s Magazine. Gallerie des modes et des costumes français (1778-1787) published seventy portfolios with detailed texts and engravings of breathtakingly variable dress for men and women, naming many of the suppliers. By the end of the century, more than fifteen fashion journals were printed in England, France, Holland, Germany and Italy, also providing details of seasonal changes in accessories, schemes of interior decoration, furniture, silver, ceramic and other luxury objects as well as regular coverage of carriage design.

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