THE REPOSITORY OF ARTS, LITERATURE, COMMERCE, MANUFACTURES, FASHIONS AND POLITICS.
London: Ackermann, January 1809–June 1812. Volumes I–VIII of the First Series.
Illustrated fashion journals began to appear on a regular basis in the latter decades of the eighteenth century in response to a growing consumerism in which the pursuit of fashion played a key role. These periodicals offered middle- and upper-class readers images and descriptions of the latest styles as well as other topical news, society notes and literary and theatre reviews. The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (1809–28) was a highly successful and influential publication of the early nineteenth century, and its comprehensive title indicates the range of subject matter found in this journal. The Repository was the creation of Rudolph Ackermann (1764–1834). Born in Stuttgart, Ackermann studied engraving there and subsequently worked in Paris as a designer before emigrating to Britain during the French Revolution. He established a print shop and drawing school in London in 1795, and was a pioneer of the lithographic process in the 1820s.
The format and content of the Repository was based on earlier French and German models, particularly Le Cabinet des Modes (1785–93) and the Journal für Fabrik, Manufaktur, Handlung und Mode (1791–1808). Each monthly issue contains a plate illustrating an aspect of interior decoration and one or two fashion plates with stylishly attired female figures, often posed with a piece of furniture. The latter are accompanied by a detailed description and indication for occasion-specific wear. Additionally, all but two of the volumes comprising the First Series include small textile swatches: on a single page, three or four samples with "patterns of British manufacture" are set within an allegorical woodcut design. Information on an adjacent page identifies the type of textile, recommends particular uses for garments or interior furnishings and provides the name of the merchant or manufacturer.
While the textiles featured promote domestic production and consumption, the feminine fashions in the plates demonstrate a pronounced French influence, especially following the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. Not only were images from the Parisian Journal des Dames et des Modes (1797–1839) copied in Ackermann’s, but many descriptions are notable for their references to French items such as kid gloves, cloaks and bows, and extensive use of French fashion terminology. Well informed by the Ackermann editor, a British woman might style her hair à la Grecque, adorn her forehead with a jeweled bandeau and dress herself in a tunic à l’antique or a pelisse with ailes de papillon sleeve details, in imitation of Parisian belles.