Fashion plates were a really big thing in 19th century Europe, but it did not start there. The phenomenon was firmly rooted in the 18th century - a time when magazines were spreading like wildfire fashion was also a part of the repertoire, giving the growing middle class good ideas on what to wear the coming season. France was a leading country of fashion at the time, and so was there magazines with bright pictures of how the clothing was supposed to look like.
This example is from 1787 and the Magasin des modes (Magazine of fashion) and shows three examples of out-wear. The lady on the right is by far the most clothed, with a long coat, a thick scarf and a big hat that covers what is left of her. She seems to be ready to face both rain and snow. She is wearing a big muff too, something that the other two also have - but in their cases it seems to be close to the only thing to protect them from the weather, and at the same time it must be remembered that muffs were only worn in the winter. We have to suspect some artistic freedom here, taken by the drawer - to show off more of their clothes and not cover everything up.
The lady in the middle wears a dress over another one, the one beneeth can only be seen at the front of the skirt, in a way that was very common at the time. But it is definently a winter-dress, longsleeved and rather thick. The lady to the left is wearing a dress that does not show any dress underneath, and instead she wears a jacket over it, a jacket that does not give the impression of being very warm at all. But she still wears a muff to show that it is winter.