Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Modiste in a Dilemma

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The New Monthly Belle Assemblée 1836
Loretta reports:

One of the better known and longest-surviving early 19th century ladies magazines was La Belle Assemblée, or, Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine. While over the years the name changed slightly, it remained in print from 1806-1837.  Mrs. Bell’s shop, the Magazin des Modes, changed addresses numerous times in the periods I’ve studied, but the magazine went on steadily.

Along with fashion, political news, reviews and other fact-based writing, La Belle Assemblée published poetry and fiction.

Most of the poetry is excruciating to read, and the fiction, often serialized interminably, would not appeal to modern tastes. I’ve only skimmed some of the serials (not sure I’d live long enough to read one from start to finish), but there seem to be an awful lot of tragic misunderstandings and people dying at the exact moment the lover/estranged parent/estranged child shows up and All Is Explained/Forgiven.

But when looking up dates for use of the term “modiste,” I happened on an interesting little exception.  The Modiste in a Dilemma is short* and sweet—only two full pages altogether) and offers, I think, some insight into the world in which my fictional dressmakers were trying to make a name for themselves. 
The New Monthly Belle Assemblée, Volume 5, 1836

*Short but too long to post here.  Please click on the title to read.

5 comments:

Sarah said...

fascinating little story, and one that suggests that the readers liked stories where the humble were able to rise and improve themselves by the right good fortune and marriage. An interesting social insight into the aspirations of those who dreamed of the wonderful gowns made by modistes featured in the pages of the magazine.

Katherine S. Crawford said...

So interesting! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The story is on page 64.
What did you discover about the word modiste?

LorettaChase said...

Anonymous, I only wanted to make sure the term was in use, referring to a dressmaker, in England at a date close to the setting of my story. I assume that if the word appears in an English publication in 1836, it was in use in the previous year.

Mary Hart Perry said...

I love, love, love all of your postings...though I have no idea how you can possibly find the time to write books while digging up and passing along such amazing information on this blog. I don't even have time to read every blog. The information and visuals are incredible. Thanks so much for all you do. I can only use a little of what you give your followers in my own writing, but you've enriched my life. And many others, I suspect. Mary Hart Perry (aka Kathryn Kimball Johnson)

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