The Library will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024, in observance of Memorial Day.

What Fall Fashions Looked Like 200 Years Ago

Tina Lernø, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
colored drawing of women's clothes from 1845

I love fashion and seeing all the beautiful new clothes and styles coming out for the fall season. Even though in Los Angeles the temperatures barely dip below the perfect 72 degrees, one can pretend that fall weather is actually approaching; the dream of winter coats and fall colors and hats, oh and boots! And gloves and scarves. While you might have to settle for autumn colored tank tops and shorts, looking at all the clothes too warm for even a cold office cubicle can give you solace.

The library not only has the entire Vogue Archive to warm your fashion dreams, we also have the amazing Joseph E. Casey Fashion Plate collection, with over 6,200 hand-colored, finely detailed fashion illustrations produced between 1780 and 1880 for British and American fashion magazines. The plates were purchased for the library back in 1928 from a Mr. E.D. Horkheimer, who may have been a movie producer. We are lucky to have them and because of the age of the images, they are available to the public in full-color hi-resolution format, rights free and ready to go through Tessa, our Digital Collection.

As they say in fashion, one millennium you're in. And the next millennium, you're out. Please enjoy the runway!

Fashion illustration from 1818

Casey Fashion Plates, [v.6, plate 4], British Lady's Magazine, 1818.

Here is shy Barbara in her evening dress made by the esteemed Miss McDonald, of 84 Wells Street. Don't step out before dusk in this fetching dark grey floor length dress or you run the risk of a serious fashion faux pas, and Barbara's wrath.

Fashion drawing from 1818

Casey Fashion Plates, [v.6, plate 10], British Lady's Magazine, 1818.

Next is lovely Jane in her morning dress invented by prolific seamstress Miss McDonald, of 84 Wells Street. Jane knows to have her harp at the ready should someone need music in the morning, but never past noon! Her dress is a white, ankle length, high collared chemise underneath a light brown pelisse which has long sleeves gathered at the wrist.

Fashion illustration from 1818

Casey Fashion Plates, [v.6, plate 59], British Ladies Magazine, 1818.

Industrious Helen knows how to appease the dead and perambulate simultaneously. Invented by Mrs. Smith of 15 Old Burlington Street, Helen is wearing a black ankle length dress with a double ruffled hem underneath a black high collared long-sleeved pelisse and accessorized with a black bonnet, black gloves, and a large white muff. Perfect for walking and crying fashionably.

Fashion Illustration from 1818

Casey Fashion Plates, [v.6, plate 24], British Lady's Magazine, 1818.

Fearless Lou is wearing this ultra-hip riding dress invented by Miss McDonald of No. 50 South Moulton St. This black floor length dress with high, folded collar, and long sleeves, and white, high collared chemise peaking through the bottom and at the throat, is ready to take you from the stables to the fence and back. Accessories include a black top hat with feathers, yellow gloves, and a riding crop. Giddy'yap.

Fashion illustration from 1818

Casey Fashion Plates, [v.6, plate 88], Ladies Magazine, 1818.

Here is sensible Mary in her promenade dress. She knows better than to walk or prance in her gown which features a high collared chemise underneath a long sleeved, ankle length, red chemise. Wavy white patterns fall along the front opening and bottom hem of the pelisse. Accessories include a bonnet, white gloves, and a handkerchief. Won't you prom with me?

Fashion Illustration from 1818

Casey Fashion Plates, [v.6, plate 20], British Lady's Magazine, 1818.

Now comes Martha in her sensible blue walking dress. Martha knows not to promenade in this frock, it is for walking only. Invented by Miss McDonald of No. 50 South Moulton St., this white, high collared, long-sleeved blouse comes paired with an A-line blue skirt. Loose braiding accentuates the dress hem and straw bonnet with floral embellishments, and pale yellow gloves round out the look. Don't wander off.

Fashion illustration from 1818

Casey Fashion Plates, [v.6, plate 38], British Lady's Magazine, 1818.

Ruth Ann is featured in her stunning dinner dress. This beauty is a white, floor-length dress featuring an empire waist with a wide scoop neckline. Bodice and cap sleeves are blue, and the dress hem is lined with lace. Accessories include a white cloth bonnet, a narrow white ruffled palantine, and long white evening gloves. Chair and withering sigh not included.