Journal des Dames et Des Modes


From the French Wikipedia article:  (and translated by Google Translate with a few tweaks by me for clarity)

"The Journal des Dames et des Modes is one of the first fashion journals illustrated in French, founded in 1797 by the bookseller Sellèque, taken in 1801 by Pierre Antoine Leboux of Mésangère and disappeared in 1839. This journal was published under several names: Journal des DamesCostumes Parisien,  Journal des modes,  Journal de la Mésangère and finally Gazette des Salons for his latest release"

The plates are almost always marked at Costumes Parisien, but, as you can see, that isn't necessarily the title of the publication. For clarity and consistency, I always use the title "Journal des Dames..." when talking about this publication. 

This all came about when someone asked me about a plate I posted on my fashion plate tumblr.  She was curious about the date I had assigned to the plate.  The very short answer was "that's what the source said" but I realize that isn't quite good enough.  I started looking through all of my plates, and then my head exploded because it was so confusing.  Thankfully, these plates are always numbered, so it was pretty easy to start putting them in order.  My main problem is that I don't have all of the plates.  I believe I only have about 25% of them, so I'm not working with the complete catalog. 

The earliest ones are pretty easy, because most of them actually have the date right on the fashion plate.  I have the first plate, which was #1, and it has a printed date of 1797.  Easy peasy!  The last dated plate I could find was plate #27 which has a printed date of 1798.  Plate #19 also has a printed date of 1798 on it, but #15 is dated to 1797, so sometime in there, the dates changed. 

Here is where it gets confusing (I know...stay with me!).  Almost all of the plates have a little notation in the corner that says "An #".  The first one we see is 6 and then they continue counting up.  I knew this had to be the key, but I didn't know what the "an" stood for.  I assumed it was an edition or issue number, but I just couldn't figure it out.  Luckily, someone in a livejournal community has posted a plate that she dated to 1801.  I asked her how she knew that date, and she said that the Journal des Dames plates were dated according to the French Revolutionary Calendar.  AHA!  All the sudden it made sense!  "An" stood for Annee, the French word for year!

(Please see bottom of page for examples of these different plates)

I'm not going to get into the history of the Revolutionary Calendar, because it is awfully complicated (and Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation of it), but  during the Revolution, the French developed a new calendar.  From 1793 until 1805, they used this calendar.  It started with year 1 of the new Republic, which they backdated to 1792.  Year 2 was 1793, year 3, 1794, etc..  The trickiest part is that their year started on Sept. 22, so year 4 would be Sept 22, 1795 until Sept 21 1796 which, of course, makes dating these plates a little bit of a guessing game.  We know that they earlier plates in the series date to the first few months of the year, but the later ones would be from the next year.  Where do they switch from one year to the next?  Very hard to say.  

What I did was create a spreadsheet that lists all of the plates I have by number and organized them within a year.  I then took the earliest and latest plate I had in the sequence, so I could see, ROUGHLY, where the sequence for a particular year started and ended.  

Here's what I found:
An 6 (Sept 1797 to Sept 1798):  Earliest Plate: #18*  Latest Plate: #63
An 7 (Sept 1798 to Sept 1799):  Earliest Plate: #65   Latest Plate: #156
An 8 (Sept 1799 to Sept 1800):  Earliest Plate: #166  Latest Plate: #233
An 9 (Sept 1800 to Sept 1801):  Earliest Plate: # 264  Latest Plate: #284
An 10 (Sept 1801 to Sept 1802): Earliest Plate#: #332 Latest Plate: #378

(*The publishers seem to be going back and forth about using the Revolutionary Calendar or the Gregorian Calendar in the early days, because plate #18 uses the "An 6" dating and plate #s 19, 21,22, and 27 have "1798" printed on them.  I'll chalk that up to the growing pains of the journal.  #27 is the last dated with the Gregorian Calendar I have in my collections. )

Clearly, there are a LOT of gaps in those numbers (I am missing almost fifty plates between AN 9 and AN 10!), but this is the basic guide that I could come up with.  I think, without the descriptions of the garments (which I assume would mention seasons?) it will be nearly impossible to get exact Gregorian dates for most of these plates, but this narrows it down to a 6-month or so window of error.  

By the way, my source for these plates is the Decorative Arts Museum of France, which is challenging to navigate for a non-speaker and doesn't offer much in the way of descriptions or dating.  

Here are the Journal Des Dames et Des Modes fashion plates I have published on my Tumblr, Dames a la Mode

I would LOVE to expand this information!  If you have other plates in your collections and you can help me change the earliest and latest plate in sequence, please let me know!  If you have other information, research, descriptions, or ANYTHING that can help expand this, please tell me!  I'd love to credit you for your information!  

Please contact me at ladiesinfashion at gmail dot com with any questions, additions, criticisms, or anything else!

Dated Plate Example

A small number of the early plates are actually dated with a modernly recognizable year.  Thank goodness!

Revolutionary Calendar Example

The vast majority have the oddly little annotation of "An" plus a number.  These are dates of the Revolutionary Calendar.