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

  • Jennie Batchelor

Abstract

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

Keywords

Income Marketing Assure Social Stratification Expense 

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Notes

  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
  2. 8.
    Jacqueline Pearson, “Books, my greatest joy” Constructing the Female Reader in The Lady’s Magazine’, Women’s Writing, 3: 1 (1996) 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 9.
    Edward Copeland, Women Writing About Money: Women’s Fiction in England, 1790–1820 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 117.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Erin Mackie, Market à la Mode: Fashion, Commodity and Gender in The Tatler and The Spectator (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p. 27.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Kathryn Shevelow, Women and Print Culture: The Construction of Femininity in the Early Periodical (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), p. 167.Google Scholar
  6. 21.
    Patricia Meyer Spacks, ‘Sisters’, in Fetter’d or Free? British Women Novelists 1670–1815, ed. Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski (Athens and London: Ohio University Press, 1987), p. 137.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Other readings of Sophia include those of Robert W. Jones, Gender and the Formation of Taste in Eighteenth-Century England: The Analysis of Beauty (Cabridge: Cambridge University Pres, 1998), pp. 164–70;Google Scholar
  8. and Mary Anne Schofield in Masking and Unmasking the Female Mind: Disguising Romances in Feminine Fiction, 1713–1799 (London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1990), pp. 141–2.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    Robert D. Mayo, The English Novel in the Magazines, 1740–1815 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press; London: Oxford University Press, 1962), p. 290.Google Scholar
  10. 29.
    Anne Buck and Harry Matthews, ‘Pocket Guides to Fashion: Ladies’ Pocket Books Published in England, 1760–1830’, Costume, 18 (1984) 35–58. Buck and Matthews provide a useful appendix of pocket books and their locations based on their research. However, since the publication of this article more pocket books have emerged.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 35.
    See Gillian Skinner, Sensibility and Economics in the Novel, 1740–1800: The Price of a Tear (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999).Google Scholar
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    Harriet Guest, Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750–1810 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 76–82.Google Scholar
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    Nancy Armstrong, ‘The Rise of the Domestic Woman’, in The Ideology of Conduct: Essays on Literature and the History of Sexuality, ed. Nany Armstong and Leonard Tennenhouse (London and New York: Methuen, 1987), pp. 110–11.Google Scholar
  14. 59.
    Jean E. Hunter, ‘The Lady’s Magazine and the Study of Englishwomen in the Eighteenth Century’, in Newsletters to Newspapers: Eighteenth-Century Journalism, ed. Donald F. Bond (Morgantown: West Virginia University, 1977), p. 112.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jennie Batchelor 2005

Authors and Affiliations

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

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