Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So What is an Antique Fashion Print?

Good question.

The short answer is:
A typical fashion print is an engraving made on paper, usually nice and thick, with a wood block or a copper plate.

The better engravings were then colored by hand using stencils. The even better ones were colored one by one with watercolors.
How do I know?
It says so on the publication itself.
Just like today, a woman in the 19th Century was able to subscribe to her favorite magazine and receive her monthly or weekly load of stories, games, articles, novels and... fashion, including patterns and engraved illustration. The cheaper ones came with no fashion print at all. Then one could opt for the black and white engraving, the colored one or even the watercolored one.

Of course many of these publications have disappeared, been separated or lost. In the pictures below we have a pristine example of what the lady would receive in the mail, including all the patterns and of course...a fashion print.

This example of the Journal des Demoiselles published April 1st 1888 includes patterns, colored charts to make a silk fire screen, embroidery charts, one black and white engraving and a colored hats fashion print     

Now this was the short answer. Of course there is way more to it.
With advance in technology and printing techniques antique fashion prints evolved as well.

It is so complex that instead of attempting to go chronologically I will actually use the prints I have and explain what they are, how they were made and what makes them special.

By the way, anyone having questions is welcome to ask.


P.S.: If you want a very academical history of Fashion Prints and can read French, please enjoy Raymond Gaudriault's "La Gravure de Mode Feminine en France". It is certainly the most thorough research on the subject.

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