Half Dresses, July 1798

The Lady’s Monthly Museum, July 1798.

“Fashions for July 1798.”

This print is from the very first issue of this magazine. On its title page, the magazine claimed to be published by a “Society of Ladies.” My research discovered that it was really a group of men. It became clear that the intent of the men editing the magazine was to encourage a very traditional, submissive role for women, to combat the recent interest in “women’s rights” led by Mary Wollstonecraft and others. Such liberal sentiments were thought to have led to the French Revolution, and fears that a similar revolt could happen in England led to a conservative backlash that included strict anti-sedition laws and a ban on political gatherings. The editors of The Lady’s Monthly Museum were a part of that conservative effort to maintain the established social order. The coverage of fashion in the magazine was very brief in each issue: a single print and a short paragraph describing it. I suspect the gentlemen editors were not keen on including such a frivolity as fashion in their publication. Perhaps the women in their lives convinced them to include it. But it never received the scope of content seen in other ladies’ magazines.

In the first 10 years or so, this magazine produced original fashion prints. Then they began “borrowing” prints from other magazines, including Fashions of London and Paris, Ackermann’s Repository or Arts, and La Belle Assemblée, but never the French magazine  Journal des Dames et des Modes,  from which most other publications liberally “borrowed.”

This premier issue introduces the brief fashion section  (“The Cabinet of Fashion”) as follows:

“Agreeable to what is announced in our Prospectus, our Fair Readers are here presented with Two Figures, representing the London Fashionable Dresses for the present month. In this particular department, it shall be our study, as much as the limits of our plan will admit, rather to excel than be considered inferior to any similar production. The present sample of the intention of the Proprietors, it is hoped, will not disgrace them; but in their future Publications, the Revolutions of Fashion may furnish what may be deemed more picturesque.”

The print is described as follows:

“The Figure in yellow, represents a Lady attired in the SUTTON WRAP, with worked border. HEAD DRESS in the GRECIAN taste, with white silk gloves; that in blue, The Demi Habillement or Curicle Robe, with worked border, and white silk gloves.”



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