“Need We Mention Our Fashions? “The Educational, Entertaining, and Nostalgic Uses of Godey’s Lady’s Book Fashion Plates, 1830 To 1940

Maggie Bukowski


This thesis focuses on the fashion plates in Godey’s Lady’s Book and the way the publisher of Godey’s, Louis Godey, and the editor, Sarah Hale, engaged with the fashion plates. The format of Godey’s combined fashion plates, domestic advice, and literature; it defined the genre of women’s magazines for almost half a century. Godey’s Lady’s Book was established by Louis Godey in 1830. In 1837 he hired Sarah Hale as literary editor. This partnership lasted for forty years until they both retired from the magazine in 1877. Throughout the forty years Louis Godey and Sarah Hale worked together, the fashion plates were continually improved to make them better than the competition. The plates were both instructional and entertaining. While the fashion plates were used by Godey to promote his magazine, Sarah Hale used the plates as teaching tools to disseminate information about how to live a sentimental, domestic life. Although the clothing shown in the plates were long out of fashion, in the 1920s the plates were reprinted and sold in framed versions. In the 1930s, consumer goods decorated with Godey-themed images were very popular. These items, which included framed prints, book ends, lamp shades, playing cards and make-up boxes. In many instances these nineteenth-century images were included in Colonial Revival interiors, collapsing the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries into a usable past that allowed to consumers to day dream about what the past in a detached, enjoyable way.