Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Women's Periodicals During the Regency: Ackermann's

by Lauren Gilbert

When the name Ackermann's comes to mind, the first thing one thinks of is the fashion plate, the beautifully drawn illustration of the current mode.  However, there was so much more than that...

Rudolph Ackermann published Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics  (also known as Ackermann's Repository)  in London beginning in 1809 as a monthly periodical.

Originally, this periodical was much more than a fashion magazine.  As its title indicates, each month, the reader was treated to a selection of articles about a wide variety of subjects, ranging from art and architecture, to domestic issues (including needlework patterns and home furnishings), biographical sketches of historical or current figures, reviews of books and art exhibitions, and all manner of things. Even political matters were explored.  Fashion was only one of many subjects addressed in these early magazines.

It was a very influential magazine, providing women with information about many topics, not just domestic matters.Women's buying power was also acknowledged, in that there were product advertisements, not only for cosmetics (such as Gowland's Lotion) but for larger purchases as well, such as furniture like the patent pianoforte advertised in 1812, shown here.

I took the opportunity to browse through the Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, &c.  The SecondSeries Vol. II July 1, 1816 No. VII.  Articles included information about architecture (A Gothic Conservatory and the new Customs House were the focus in this edition), saloon draperies, a needle-work pattern (a design for muslin), instructions on how to dye various fabrics certain colors from The Domestic Commonplace Book, poetry and short stories.  Under "Miscellanies", there was a fascinating article titled "Some Particulars Illustrative of the Character of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg."  The fashion items appeared later in the periodical, and discussed English and French fashion issues.   The illustration below is from 1811 issue, and is very typical of the lovely and detailed fashion drawings that appear in every edition:

February 1811 Fur Pelisse

These illustrations and the very detailed descriptions provided were intended to keep women abreast of the current modes, and also to provide dressmakers with the information needed to replicate them.

The periodical ceased operations in 1829.  By that year, it was known as Ackermann's Repository of Fashion and was dedicated primarily to fashion and needlework. 

A quick review of Ackermann's Repository of Fashions, No. I January, 1829 Price 2s shows the beautiful fashion plates, with detailed descriptions and a needlework pattern.  The February 1829 edition includes masquerade costumes and "General Observations on Parisian Fashions", as well as a needlework pattern.  

Considering that, by this time, there was already a shift towards the mores and values we associate with the Victorian period, including the idea that a woman's place was in the home, no longer encouraged to take an interest in matters such as politics, the change in content is significant. 

Suggested reading list:
Blum, Stella, ed.  ACKERMANN'S COSTUME PLATES Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828.  New York, Dover Publications, Inc. 1978.

On line via GoogleBooks:
The Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, &c.  The Second Series. Vol. II July 1 1816 No. VII  (found in REPOSITORY of ARTS, LITERATURE, FASHIONS &c. Rudolf Ackermann, Frederic Shoberl)

Ackermann's Repository of Fashions. No. I January 1829 Price 2s (found in R. ACKERMANN'S REPOSITORY OF FASHIONS [4th ser. of the Repository of arts, literature, fashions, manufactures].

(Both books contain multiple editions, and are fun to go through.)

By Lauren Gilbert, author HEYERWOOD, A Novel.


  1. Nice article and references, Lauren! Very useful to anyone interested in the period.

  2. I enjoyed this piece, Lauren. There is so many great sources here.

    1. Thank you, Regina! I was surprised at how many issues were available on line.

  3. So interesting. I'd love to have that fur pelisse! And it answers the question of how they kept warm in gowns cut like a baby's baptismal frock. Beautiful clothes in the early 18oo's but one wonders if England was having relatively warm weather during those years.

    1. Thanks, Katherine! Frankly, I was relieved to see a fur pelisse! I have always had a hard time thinking of a muslin dress with a spencer and a shawl in the winter.

  4. Just imagine how they must have pored over the issues as they came out.

  5. Thanks so much. This is just chock full of details and resources.

  6. Wonderful job here. I seriously enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you absolutely bring a new voice to this fashion. I just collected my fashionable legwear from Stee Letas.
    You can also buy yours, Its awesome.


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