IA Book of the Week: The Delineator

Each week, the Fisher Library highlights an item from one of its many digitized collections available on the Internet Archive. To kick off the new year, Rachael takes a look at an interesting item from our Canadiana Collection.

As we say farewell to 2020 and welcome in a new year, you might be thinking of a list of goals you want to accomplish. Perhaps you want to learn some new recipes, start journaling, or update your wardrobe. If the latter is your aim, then the January 1899 volume of The Delineator might be of interest you. From the cover: The Delineator is “A Journal of Fashion, Culture, and Fine Arts.” The publication, which is directed at women, features ads, beautifully coloured illustrations, advice columns, stories, and descriptions with illustrations of current fashion trends. This particular copy is volume number 53 and it was published in January of 1899 in Toronto by The Delineator Publishing Company. According to the cover, a single copy of the magazine cost 15 cents and a year’s subscription price was one dollar.

Following a couple of ads and the illustrations above, is the table of contents for this holiday edition of The Delineator. Included in this volume are "styles for ladies," "styles for little folks," "fashionable winter fabrics," and "fashions in garments for mourning wear," to name a few. In addition to fashion, The Delineator also includes helpful advice sections such as "the boy and his development," "modern lace-making," "girls’ interests and occupations," and one called “marriageable daughters.”

The fashion section begins with pages of illustrations of the pieces that will be described in detail later on in the issue. Each image of an item of clothing has a corresponding number that can be found in the description portion of the book, containing a detailed description including the price, sizes available, pattern number for sewing and cost of the pattern, physical description, and how to wear the garment.


The description of a “Ladies’ Golf Coat” reads: “a stylish and comfortable coat designed expressly for golf but suitable also for general wear. It is loose in front but close-fitting at the back and sides, although a box-plait is formed at the center of the back, a strap with pointed buttoned over the plait holding it in place at the waist-line.” This is just a small sample of the two-paragraph long description. The description is likely so detailed because the image is only a small drawing of the actual garment, which would make it difficult to tell what the item was actually like.

Upon looking through the pages of this book, one can tell immediately what the idealized image of beauty was for a late 19th century woman. This notion can be seen in the images of the women as well as in the clothes. The waists of the skirts are small and cinched, shoulders are broad making the waist look even smaller, arms are dainty, legs are long, and the women are white. In the descriptions of the garments, the sizes for the items are listed but only one is depicted.

If one desired to be a fashionable woman who was up to date on the latest topics of interest for women in the 19th century, then The Delineator would be your choice for leisurely reading. Someone who is well-seasoned in sewing could possibly take these descriptions and try to recreate these garments as part of their new year's goals to update, or in this case turn the calendar back, on their wardrobe! With your new look you can party like its 1899.

-Rachael Fraser, TAlint Student