In Regency romances, we often read of characters perusing fashion plates to choose patterns for their own dresses. But in looking at Ackermann’s April 1813 plates, I’m struck by the fact that such plates are often drawn in a way that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for it to be used as a precise model for an actual dress pattern. Plate 29, of a “Morning Costume,” is shown full on front, but Plate 30, for a “Carriage Costume,” is a side view, and with its lady seated. The long Russian mantle worn over the “high round robe of jaconet or cambric muslin” covers all of the details of the dress’s bodice and sleeves. Would a viewer know enough from the description—”with plaited bodice, long sleeve, and deep falling frill, terminated with a vandyke of needlework”—to be able to faithfully reproduce this dress? Or was the idea less about providing instructions for making a perfect copy, and more about giving readers (and dressmakers?) a more general sense of what was currently deemed fashionable?
Plate 30 does provide a luscious example of a distinctly Regency color: “pomona or spring green.” Doesn’t it make you eager to throw off the chills of winter and hunt for the green points of spring bulbs poking through last fall’s leaves?
This month’s issue includes no fabric samples, but instead this lovely pattern for needlework. Can you imagine spending a rainy spring afternoon adding this pattern to the hem of a gown?