When I was a teenager I loved looking at all the fashions in the Eaton's Catalogue and daydreaming of what I would buy. As a young adult my favourite was the yearly Neiman Marcus "Christmas Book" for the well-to-do. It has outrageous his and hers gifts, like his and hers airplanes, or a Russian white mink jacket that is reversible to white leather. Here you will see a list of some of their past gift ideas for the wealthy.
When I was a Girl Guide leader, I saw a notice that there was a fashion exhibit at the McCord Museum in Montreal and I thought the girls would enjoy seeing beautiful and elaborate the old gowns. We all loved it! Living in the country some of the girls had never been to the city, so we made a full day of it. Fashions in the streets were just as interesting as the ones in the museum!
I thought of this when I came across this old 1899 Eaton's Catalogue at Internet Archive. Not quite what I would have worn in the 1960's, but definitely something my ancestors would have dreamed of buying.
T. Eaton Co, Toronto, Canada 1899 - 1900
The establishment of a national postal service, faster ships and updated railway systems all helped in the starting of the mail-order business of the early 1800's. Great for our ancestors that lived far from the cities. You can also find catalogues for furniture, seeds, school supplies, machinery, appliances, tack, carriages, beds, gifts, etc... just about everything!
Before there were catalogues, there were Fashion Books with plates (illustrations) of the latest designs that a seamstress or tailor could make for their clients. My great grand aunt Cora Porter was a seamstress that lived in peoples homes all winter to make clothes for the family. She probably used designs from fashion books or catalogues that her client procured. She also made all the linens, and took care of any mending that needed doing. There is also a master tailor in my ancestry, my 2x great grandfather Andrew Tait, who started his apprenticeship at the age of 13 in Glasgow. After he married he moved his family to Lancashire and, once gaining a few years experience and becoming a Master, Andrew opened his own shop on the corner of Broad and Green Streets in Bath sometime before 1881. I can imagine Andrew showing men's style books to the clients that frequent his shop.
Following are links to some fashion books and catalogues, and at the end I added a couple for jewelry. The first 2 are links to a video of the permanent ladies fashion exhibit at the McCord Museum. If you poke around there, they have some interesting photos, and they also have an exhibit entitled "Clothes Make the Man".
McCord Museum "Form and Fashion" video in Flash
McCord Museum "Form and Fashion" video in QuickTime
T. Eaton & Co - Spring and Summer Catalogue - Toronto 1894
T. Eaton & Co Catalogue - several issues
Simpson's Catalogue, Fall & Winter 1918-19 - Toronto
Les Robes de Paul Poiret - Paris designer fashion book 1908
The London & Paris ladies' magazine of fashion 1866
The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons - London 1829, 1833, 1836
Fashion Book: novelties, costumes, mantles, millinery, etc - London 1874
English costume and fashion from the conquest to the regency (1720-1820) 1884
Corset waists and brassieres: H & W Co, New Jersey 1914
Fox & Kelly's fashion catalogue illustrated: fall & winter 1888-89, NY
Fall and Winter, 1890-91 Fashion Catalogue / H. O'Neill and Co, NY
Bloomingdale's Illustrated fashion catalogue - summer 1890. NY
Spring & Summer fashion catalogue 1898 / H. O'Neill & Co, NY
Frear's Troy Cash Bazaar (Troy, NY) - Spring & Sumer 1894
Puritan Garments - Gordon Mackay - Toronto 1900
The Silent Salesman - Gordon Mackay - Toronto 1900
The Style Book - Gordon Mackay - Toronto 1914
Catalogue of infant's outfits and misses' and children's muslin underwear 1895, NY
Royal Canadian rubber footwear : supreme style : illustrated catalogue 1906
Guiterman Bros - Summit clothing for outdoor wear - St Paul, MN 1915
Joseph H Rowe, Catalogue of genuine Cape Ann oiled clothing: Mass 1892
Jordon Marsh, Boston - Fall and Winter 1893-94
Dress: a magazine or men illustrating the styles for fall and winter: 1910-11
Illustrated almanac of fashion: Charles Stokes & Co 1863 (also uniforms)
Men's Style Book - Hart Schaffner & Marx , US: fall & winter, 1905
Makeovers from Men's Suits 1943
Styles for men, NY : a book issued to show authoritatively what is fashionable and correct for fall and winter 1907-'08
Godey's Lady's Book (several volumes)
Costume Institute Fashion Plates (pick a year on the left)
Women's Fashion Game - McCord Museum of Montreal
Royal Tailors junior sample book - 1916
Origin and History of the Fashion Plate, Project Gutenberg
Tiffany's Blue Book
Ryrie year book, 1922: Henry Birks & Son
Peace year catalogue 1919-1920 - A. W Smith & Sons, Ontario