In my continual search for quantitative research on Godey’s Lady’s Book, I came across “Mr. Godey’s Ladies: Being a Mosaic of Fashions and Fancies” by Robert Kunciov, which after the disappointment of the “Sarah Josepha Hale” book, I was leery.
I was pleasantly surprised however, by the wonderful reproductions and a few color plates of the original etchings, as well as the author’s selections of excerpts from the original text.
He begins with a chronology of the types of fashions, detailing the trends, colors, and accessories of each decade followed by a fairly scholarly introduction on his reason for compiling the anthology, and then the anthology itself is a collection of verbatim descriptions and images taken from all 60 years of the magazine’s publication time.
Since this book was published in the 1980s, some of the information is outdated or has been disproven, but it’s a good beginning point, and since the author has done all the work of pulling and culling for you, it’s much easier to gain an understanding of the societal times without slogging through pages and pages of romantic poems and short stories to find the information you need.
I actually think I need this book as a reference in my ever growing library of fashion histories, even though there wasn’t as much actual ‘research’ as I expected. Not to mention it has unintentionally hilarious quotes such as:
“What is the shape of a kiss?—A lip tickle.”
“When a lady is in danger of drowning, raise her by the dress, and not by the hair, which oftentimes remains in the grasp.”
Or my personal favorite:
“Fire-Proof dresses.— Scarcely a week passes but we read sad account of young ladies being burnt to death, owing to their light muslin garments catching fire. It ought to be generally known that the light dresses may be made fire-proof at a mere nominal cost, by steeping them, or the linen or cotton used in making in them, in a dilute solution of chloride of zinc.” Is it wrong of me to want to try this for purposes of historical accuracy?
But anyway, this book is a good, quick reference source with lots of images. It’s only real pitfalls are its age, since much of what we know, particularly about Victorian undergarments has changed in the last twenty years, and that the author didn’t notate which magazine issues his quotes come from. But it’s still a book to keep on the fashion reference shelf.