Re-clothing the Female Reader: Dress and the Eighteenth-Century Magazine

  • Jennie Batchelor


The Fashionable Magazine made its first appearance in the lively yet precarious periodical market in June 1786. Despite its abrupt disappearance after only seven issues in the December of the same year, the magazine is of interest as one of the first serial publications in which fashion plays a central role. Identifying dress as a ‘leading trait in the national character’, the Fashionable Magazine marketed itself to readers as an innovative project that would fill a void in the periodical marketplace. Since the ‘dominion of Fashion’ had ‘been long universally established’, the editor expressed his astonishment that ‘in an age of literary adventure, this eligible plan should have been hitherto overlooked’. This startling oversight is attributed to his fellow publishers’ lack of imagination in the face of such challenging subject matter as fashion and dress. The difficulty, the editor suggests, is not so much in writing about fashion — many successful publications, including the Lady’s Magazine (1770–1832), had included fashion reports after all — but in writing about such sartorial matters appropriately: ‘The task, indeed, is arduous; and the extreme difficulty of executing it with any sort of propriety might well have deterred the less aspiring from making any attempt, even had the idea occurred to them.’1


British Library Serial Publication Periodical Market Fashionable Magazine Pocket Book 
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  1. 7.
    The Lady’s Magazine ran from 1770 to 1832 before joining with the Ladies’ Museum to form The Lady’s Magazine and Museum of Belles Lettres. This title in turn ran until 1838 when the publication combined with the Court Magazine to form The Court Magazine and Monthly Critic and Lady’s Magazine and Museum of Belles Lettres. This title ran until 1847. Alison Adburgham, Women in Print: Writing Women and Women’s Magazines from the Restoration to Accession of Victoria (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1972), p. 280. Subsequent references to the Lady’s Magazine will be given parenthetically in the text, by volume and page number.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Jennie Batchelor 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennie Batchelor
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EnglishUniversity of KentUK

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