The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics was a monthly periodical that was published from January 1809 to December 1828 by Rudolph Ackermann. It is often referred to as Ackermann’s Repository of Arts or simply Ackermann’s Repository.
The introduction pages were beautifully decorated with angels and cherubs, as you can see from this Volume 6 which was dedicated to the Prince of Wales.
Two fashion plates were shown every month which illustrated the latest styles. A lady would choose her fabric then show the designs to her seamstress who would make up the outfit with the correct measurements.
It was popular with Jane and the ladies of her time because they loved fashion and shopping. Each outfit would be titled for its use, such as ‘Walking Dress’ and shown with the correct accessories.
As well as showing the latest fashions, which Jane was particularly interested in, there were also pages dedicated to art, interior design and furniture. They were usually copied from French plates and beautifully painted.
Not only were architecture styles shown as the dressed Georgian windows above, there were pieces of furniture on display that one simply had to have.
These beautiful illustrations give a good example of upper class society interior decorating from the time when Jane Austen was writing Persuasion.
The last issue of the original Repository, published in December 1828, stated that the following year a new magazine would take its place. This new magazine, titled The Repository of Fashion, focused solely on fashion and was illustrated with a number of hand-painted and black-and-white plates.
However, the last known issue of this new periodical was in September 1829.
You can find a comprehensive list of Volumes at the Hathi Trust.
Regency Fashion in La Belle Assemblée
The other periodical that Jane read was La Belle Assemblée which launched in February 1806 by John Bell (1745-1831). It was one of the most important women’s magazines of its time.
You can see the difference here between the two introduction plates, as here we have the influences of Eastern travel as more fabrics came from India and the Middle East.
La Belle Assemblée was aimed at fashionable society though only a small part was devoted to fashion. The first fashion plates that date from February 1806 were black and white and cost 2s 6d. In November 1806, another more expensive edition was available with hand-painted ink that cost at 3s 6d. The periodicals would also be on display in the more expensive department stores.
The pelisse coat shown in this plate dates to January 1817 and was very fashionable at the time. You can see the similarities in the style of Jane’s oak patterned pelisse coat and the one shown here.
Some of the pages were purely dedicated to accessories including hats, gloves, fans, and wraps a lady should wear to keep up with the latest styles.
Jane and Cassandra would often buy ribbons or feathers to update their existing outfits copied from the pages, and Jane often talked about shopping for these items in her letters.
Jane’s family also purchased La Belle Assemblée and this is a photograph of the 1814 Volume that belonged to Jane’s niece, Fanny Austen Knight.
Here is a simple, comprehensive list of Volumes of La Belle Assemblée.