This type of magazine illustration is known as a ‘fashion plate’ and showed the latest styles of the time. It is a hand-coloured lithograph.
In 1860 the publisher of this magazine, the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, Samuel Beeton (husband of the celebrated cookery writer Mrs [Isabella] Beeton), began including hand-coloured fashion plates like this one. Beeton also included paper patterns, a new phenomenon that, combined with the fashion plates, ensured the magazine appealed particularly to the increasing numbers of those who owned a domestic sewing machine. The sewing machine itself had only become widely available from the late 1850s. This magazine’s wide distribution ensured an awareness of French fashions among a wider section of society.
This fashion plate shows day dresses. The dresses have fashionable wide skirts, reflecting the contemporary popularity of crinolines. Introduced in 1856, and generally made of hoops of spring steel suspended on strips of material, these allowed skirts to expand to proportions beyond those possible using only layers of petticoats. The dress on the right is mauve, a new colour at the time.