Toward the end of the nineteenth century, trade journals such as the Sartorial Art Journal (Jno. J. Mitchell Co. of New York) and the Tailors' Review (Butterick Publishing Company of New York) were popular among merchant tailors. These publications included special interest articles as well as advertisements and announcements for tailors' supplies, measuring devices, and patterns. Many of these journals also included supplemental fashion illustration plates.
Fashion illustration plates were large-format, detailed illustrations used by tailors in consultation with clients regarding the fine details of made-to-order clothing. The plates depicted men and women dressed in the most current fashions featured in poses and against backdrops most appropriate to those fashions. The pages of the journals themselves included small reproductions of the large plates along with information about garments' patterns, appropriate occasions to wear various attire, and the types of fabrics shown.
Jean L. Druesedow, ed. Men's Fashion Illustrations from the Turn of the Century. New York: Dover, 1990.
This collection of men's fashion illustration plates contains 122 lithograph and chromolithograph plates issued in New York by Jno. J. Mitchell Co., Tailors' Fashion Publishing Co., The New York Herald of Fashion Co., Butterick Publishing Co., and West Publishing Co., between 1887 and 1931. Tailors used fashion illustration plates to assist clients with decisions regarding the finest details of their garments. Many of the plates also prescribe appropriate social settings for the attire, as well as supply suggestions for accessories.
The plates are arranged into five series representing the publishers of the plates: Series I. Jno. J. Mitchell Co./Mitchell Co. (92 plates); Series II. Tailors' Fashion Publishing Co. (14 plates); Series III. The New York Herald of Fashion Co. (10 plates); Series IV. Butterick Publishing Co./The Tailors' Review Co. (5 plates); and Series V. West Publishing Co. (1 plate). The plates within each series are arranged chronologically with undated plates at the end. The plates in each series do not include complete runs per season for every year present.
Because the plates were used by tailors to assist clients with decisions regarding made-to-order clothing, the garments depicted bear intricate detail. Buttons, hem lengths, stitching, cloth texture, and even fine creases in the way the garment would fall are all very clearly discernable in the images. The plates also attend to the appropriate manner of wearing the garments, offering suggestions for accessories such as hats, canes, gloves, neckties, bow ties, and shoes, as well as the appropriate social occasions for which to wear them.
Most of the occasions depicted appear to be middle and upperclass recreational or leisure activities, such as golfing, attending horse races, sight-seeing in the countryside, and attending dinner parties. Plates designed to depict business suits tended to have backgrounds that were neutral or contained city buildings. The plates provide a study of the trends in men's fashions as well as seasonal social activities for the upper classes during late Victorian through the Edwardian periods in New York.