Flipping through the pages of a magazine in the grocery check-out line, you would expect to see a variety of articles, including pages about the latest fashion trends. With summer vacation coming to an end in many parts of the world, magazines for teenage girls are filled with tips for putting together back-to-school outfits. Even in the 1880s, girls sought out magazines for fashion advice.
This print is from an 1883 edition of the Young Ladies’ Journal, on loan to the Rijksmuseum from the M.A. Ghering-van Ierlant Collection. The girls in the image are showing off a variety of ensembles, including accessories and hairstyles. Pleated skirts and lace trimmed collars were popular, but there are plenty of unique details about each outfit pictured.
134 years after its publication, this image of girls’ fashion still tells a story, but also leaves many questions. It is interesting to think about the girls who would have read this magazine. Would they have purchased clothes in these styles after seeing them in print? Or laughed with their peers about silly new trends? Perhaps girls would buy dresses in these styles if their families were wealthy, or try to create their own versions at home if money was tight. Maybe the magazine itself was expensive and only read by girls who could afford lavish clothing. Might poorer girls find an old, discarded edition of the magazine and admire last season’s fashions?
Magazines and clothing provide great insight into culture and everyday life. Fashion has been important to many people for centuries and illustrations such as these help to document the changing times. Girls today typically do not wear feathered hats and tiny, heeled boots, because as in 1883, they have a style all their own.
Girl Museum Inc.
This post is part of our 52 Objects in the History of Girlhood exhibition. Each week during 2017, we explore a historical object and its relation to girls’ history. Stay tuned to discover the incredible history of girls, and be sure to visit the complete exhibition to discover the integral role girls have played since the dawn of time.