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Monday 4 March 2013

Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen by Jody Gayle – a review

Front cover of Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen by Jody Gayle

Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen provides a comprehensive pictorial guide to ladies’ fashions for the years 1809 to 1820. It does this by reproducing fashion plates from one of the most influential periodicals of the time – The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics published by Rudolph Ackermann, often referred to as Ackermann’s Repository.

Jody Gayle’s book includes over two hundred and fifty fashion plates reproduced as they would have appeared in the Repository; the plates have not been cleaned up or altered in any way. Each is accompanied by the original description, which has been painstakingly replicated with the original spelling and punctuation.

The book contains fashions for nearly every month from January 1809 to December 1820. The record is very nearly complete; there are just a few prints missing from the collection. It also includes one of those rare prints of a gentleman’s full dress from 1810 and some prints of gentlemen engaged in outdoor pursuits in an appendix.

Although this book is not offering anything new, it represents hours of work in presenting the original fashion plates in a way that makes them accessible to a wider audience. The book does not offer any commentary on the fashions of the period, but presents the prints chronologically, enabling the reader to draw their own conclusions about the changing fashions.

The hard copy of this book is expensive, but I expect it is quite beautiful. This is the sort of book that depends on the pictures and therefore having the reproductions of the fashion plates in a physical book would be a lovely fashion resource. I have only got the electronic version but think it will still prove to be a valuable reference book.

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