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  • Object:

    Fashion plate

  • Place of origin:

    United States of America (sold as, printed)

  • Date:

    1850-1865 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-coloured engraving on paper

  • Credit Line:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Children have long played at assuming other identities, sometimes dressing up for better effect. Fancy dress parties for children, with the guests in complete costumes, however, are an adult idea. They echo the masked balls and carnivals attended by adults, and have been widespread only since the mid-nineteenth century. The popularity of children's fancy dress parties was assured when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert gave one for their children in 1859; the Lord Mayor of London instituted an annual children's fancy dress party in 1883 which was copied by many local authorities and employers.

Prizes were often given at parties for the most unusual or topical costumes, but by far the most popular subjects for children's costumes were flowers, animals, book and nursery rhyme characters and national and historical dress.

Physical description

Fashion plate of landscape proportions, showing a large salon with a group of children in fancy dress. On the left stands an older girl in European folk costume (possibly Swiss) consisting of a dark dress and bonnet, blue apron, net mittens, dark shoes and stockings and a lace-trimmed fichu. Next to her stand a boy and girl, arm in arm. His costume of cloak, dark hat, white hose and shoes and blue tunic with a scrip at the waist probably represents a pilgrim: he carries a beribboned staff and is accompanied by an Italian greyhound. She wears the costume of a fairy (or possibly 'La Sylphide', the most famous role of the dancer Marie Taglioni, which she created in 1832): a short white dress with a full skirt, wings, white stockings and shoes, a fan and gloves, with a circlet of flowers on her head. In the background stands another older girl in the costume of a hurdy-gurdy player: she wears a pink cap, blue dress, checked shawl and striped apron, and her hurdy-gurdy hangs on a strap around her shoulder. In front of her are two seated girls: one is dressed as a queen, with a crown, ruff, blue and white striped dress and royal blue mantle, and reclines in a large throne-like chair; the other is sitting on an X-framed stool and wears a European folk costume (possibly Belgian) consisting of a short pink dress with panniers over a green and white striped skirt, worn with blue stockings, black shoes, and a white cap and neckerchief. To the right is a small boy dressed in eighteenth century costume: a green coat, white stockings with black buckled shoes, a black tricorne hat and a powdered wig tied in a queue with a black ribbon.

Place of Origin

United States of America (sold as, printed)


1850-1865 (printed)


Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-coloured engraving on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Fancy ball dresses for children
Textual information; beneath image; engraving


Height: 15.5 cm, Width: 24.7 cm

Object history note

Bought from a member of curatorial staff who had purchased it on the museum's behalf

Descriptive line

Fashion plate showing children's fancy dress costumes; probably United States of America, 1850-1865

Production Note

Reason For Production: Retail




Engraving; Hand-colouring

Subjects depicted

Fancy dress; Children


Children's clothes; Children & Childhood

Production Type

Unlimited edition


Museum of Childhood

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