I am really enjoying two fantastic books this week, Jane Shelford's The Art of Dress and Stella Blum's Ackermann's Costume Plates: Women's Fashions in England, 1818-1828. The latter depicts a particular period of Ackermann's Costume Plates in all their glory along with mouthwatering descriptions.
The full colour plates from this period of Ackermann's can be enjoyed online here, courtesy of the Romance Reader at Home.
The two books work brilliantly in tandem with each other. Ashelford goes way beyond the basic costumes by placing the fashions of the era in their social and historical context. Her book is peppered with stunning photographs from the National Trust's costume collections, bringing contemporary descriptions to life.
Some of the Ackermann's plates which are most enjoyable are those solely devoted to the etchings of flamboyant 19th century headdresses. The descriptions are as delicious as the menu at a Michelin starred restaurant:
Bonnet of royal purple terry velvet or velours epingle; the brim has a corded satin edge; the crown high and rounded at the top, and partially covered with a fichu of velvet, bound in satin and ornamented with a small twisted silk cord of the same colour. The trimmings in front are large; the centrer one is long and narrow, concealing the termination of those on each side. Bows of pearl-edge satin ribbon are disposed about the crown; long strings of the same inside the brim.
Cap of pink and white crepe lisse, with a double border and broad strings of same. The crown is high; the back part of white crepe lisse, full and arranged by five flat pink satin bands placed perpendicularly, and inserted in the pink satin band at the bottom of the coul. The front is formed by bouffants of alternate pink and white crepe lisse, interspersed with pink satin ornaments of a paplionaceous shape, with a profusion of winter cherries of alkakengi, and rosebuds above
The story I am currently working on is set in 1825 and hats are VERY important to my heroine, so having access to these details is invaluable.
There are a ton of fantastic resources on line for the exploration of Ackermann's and also to indulge in millinary delights.
Lynn McMasters' website has a wonderful article on the turban, the Costumer's Manifesto has a great selection of Ackermann's fashion plates and Katherine's dress site is a fantastic resource with some beautiful visuals.