Black in the year XIII? 
Donation of 19th century fashion magazines

19th-century fashion magazine

The collection of the fashion museum library is continually being expanded through purchases, exchanges with other museum libraries and donations. Occasionally, we receive a gift that is truly exceptional and our hearts beat a little faster.

This was recently the case with a donation of a number of early 19th-century fashion magazines and a collection of separately bound fashion prints. The magazines include, amongst others, Journal des dames et des modes, Journal des modes, La mode: revue du monde élégant, La mode: gazette des salons and Le follet belge: courrier des salons. They are a valuable addition to our collection of historic fashion periodicals!

My colleague, Lutgart Van Houtven, immediately began exploring the French revolutionary calendar (the oldest version dates from the year XIII: 1804-1805), while I was first and foremost intrigued by the purity of the paper and the refined fashion engravings that had once, one by one, been coloured by hand with a great deal of care, meticulously representing the authoritative fashion of the day.

A third colleague, conservator Wim Mertens, investigated the contents and substance of the new acquisition, and even devoted a lecture to the subject at the symposium organized by the fashion museum on May 12th. His lecture, Fashionable Black in French and Belgian Fashion Magazines in the First Half of the 19th Century looked at the presence – and the absence – of the colour black in the apparel described in the magazines, bringing to light some surprising new insights.

In short, we are extremely pleased with this donation from the art library of the former Catholic Flemish College (now part of Lessius Hogeschool). Because the Lessius Hogeschool does not offer programmes in art, the magazines were not especially well suited to that location. The board of directors of non-profit organization Belpaire, owner of the collection, therefore asked Guy Hanegreefs, the college librarian, and Professor Ludo Simons to seek a new home for these works. We’re happy that they’re now at the MoMu library.