Reminiscing about the fashions, and publications, of way back when
When one observes today’s scantily clad women and the freedom-to-move garments available now, it makes one think back a hundred years or more and wonder how women survived wearing yesterday’s fashions.
A number of these historical garments are on display at the Dayton Museum and they make you glad we live in this century.
Women in the West’s early days depended on publications from the East Coast to keep up with the latest fashions. The early “Harper’s Magazine” had a few prints of the modern fashions worn in New York and Paris. We have a copy of Peterson’s “Ladies National Magazine” with the museum’s clothing display. They exhibited some wonderful woodcut prints of many different items, including poems, stories and fashion. The dresses pictured were hand-colored after the book was published.
Charles J. Peterson published the first issue of Peterson’s “Ladies National Magazine” in 1842 in Pennsylvania. It had a reputation of being informative and entertaining for women of that era and soon had the largest circulation in the U.S. Each issue contained a double-sized color fashion plate engraved on steel and woodcuts of the newest clothing and accessories available for the entire family, along with colored patterns for a variety of fancy needlework.
In 1866, the publication upgraded to attract even more readers when they solicited some of America’s top writers, publishing their prose and poetry. It cost $2 a year to subscribe.
The magazine was a hardbound book with half calf covers. Woodcuts were mostly romantic in nature but beautifully done. Its stories and fashions featured Victorian styles. Many women in the West were influenced by the writings and fashions published in Peterson’s “Ladies National Magazine.”
Besides fashion and literature, the magazine featured advertisements for sewing materials, toilet waters, musical instruments, garden seeds and many other articles that might be of interest to women. The magazine could have been considered a work of art because the fashion plates were so well done.
Drop in to the Dayton Museum and see a copy of the magazine and an examples of clothing that were fashionable way back when.
The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. It’s open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1- 4 p.m. Sundays.
Check the Web site: daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441. The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets the third Wednesdays at noon at the Dayton Valley Community Center.
• Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987, she serves as a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.