Forming a fashion plate collection

Finding my first fashion image in France.

While walking around a peaceful village in south-western France some l5 years ago, my long time interest in design fabric and actually making clothes, also a love of paintings and drawings in this subject attracted to me to all the stalls set up in a busy street market (Vide Grenier).  A large surface was strewn with pages stripped from fashion Journals, individual old lithographs, drawings and more.  I thought I had arrived in heaven!  My attention was captured in an instant to a fabulous colourful costume of a Ballet design by Leon Bakst.  Torn from a Journal dated 1911.   Six more were also in this pile and I purchased them all for little money.


Leon Bakst - 1911

In one respect I was glad and happy at the realisation of what I could do next and the other emotion was outrage to say the least!, and a deep sadness that sll this beautiful art had been almost ripped to shreds and then would be just dumped in a skip discarded perhaps forever.  This practice of tearing up books and journals for its images has continued for decades in France and probably elsewhere too. Some dealers are still decimating Journals and books today. This particular copy was torn from a copy of L’Illustration. Anyway my mission was set and I thought I could rescue some pages and the actual books and magazines that were applicable.   My collection soon became from boxes to stacks to a roomfull!

I began extracting images into categories of Art and Fashion Designers and fashion art plates.  Then cleaning up the aged ones and wraping them individually in tissue paper and protective bags.  Mending old books and guarding their contents with sheets of paper. Finding expert advice on preserving as many ones as possible.

Now comes the next process how could I reach out and make them available to many people and not only a few by selling them individually.  I started with a book which has never been completed because along came the computer.  A web site it was!  Now everyone can see my collection without it being dissipated and some being made into wall pictures which fade and eventually are light damaged and crumble. Many having a short life with only a few people to appreciate them.

My knowledge from finding the Artists styles who drew the fashion plates has expanded and wow… now I could identify a specific gown, its date, the designer, and its artist without looking at the text. Well mostly, sometimes not, this goes on with practice. I keep testing myself when new images are found!

My fashion plate collector tips are long so this will be another blog to write.


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