Oops! All my posting has been over here:

French Revolution Fashion Archives: Check out my slave to SEO section title.
I’m not done, neither! I have a couple more entries to do, mainly portraits and allegorical images. But this has been so fun, and I’ve been working on it since just before Bastille Day (July 14th, duh). Please let me know if you notice bad grammar, typos, and/or historical snafus!
EDIT: Let me know if you noticed the View gallery… links on each post, or do I need to make them more obvious? There’s lotsa pictures! I would hate for people to miss them. *sadface*
1793-1778-contrast-wholeplate-lowQ.jpg
Ah! Quelle Antiquité” and “Oh! Quelle Folie que la Nouveauté!!!
1778 meets 1793

Les Incroyables et Merveilleuses: Fashion as Anti-Rebellion

boilypdc.jpg
Point de Convention (Absolutely no agreement)
Louis-Léopold Boilly 1797
A Merveilleuse is mistaken for a prostitute
and refuses the coin offered to her.

The Muscadins (or Incroyable, the Incredible) first appeared around 1792, known for their royalist sympathies and so named for the musk perfume they wore in defiance of revolutionary austerity. They re-emerged after the fall of Robespierre, ending the Terror, and were key thugs in what has become known as The White Terror, a backlash against jacobin oppression, violence, and Robespierrean virtue. The jeunesse dorée roamed the streets of Paris drinking, toasting the monarchy and lashing out at patriots with sticks. And they looked fabulous doing it. Typified by their adherence to ancien regime knee-breeches and exaggerated English style frock coats with impossibly large collars, and powdered hair dressed outlandishly in either multiple braids or “dog-eared” style, cut short in the back à la victime and long beside the face. They were literally roving bands of angry dandies. By the late 1790’s however, sporting a Muscadin hairdo would no longer get you arrested (as it could in 1795) as the various styles were adopted and absorbed into the fashionable and ephemeral society of the Directoire.
Aileen Ribeiro says of this image (les Incroyables) :

Caricaturists found a perfect subject in the form of the masculine fashions of the late 1790s. Both young men wear tight-fitting square-cut coats with huge lapels, and knee-breeches decorated with loops of fabric. Their political sympathies are not necessarily clear. Although their culottes date from the ancien régime, their printed cravats are working-class in origin; and, while the man on the left wears his hair plaited at the back à la victime, the man on the right has a revolutionary cockade prominently pinned to his hat. Both have shaggy hair, the side locks falling like spaniel’s ears. The implications seems to be that fashion is more important than ideology.
Fashion in the French Revolution, Aileen Ribeiro

Les Merveilleuses, or Marvelous Women, ruled the live fast, die young social whirlwind that took over the salons of Paris after the Terror. At their front Thérésa Cabarrus Fontenay Tallien and Joséphine de Beauharnais (later Empress) both of whom just barely survived the Jacobin regime. It was partly on Thérésa’s behalf, with whom Tallien had been conducting a torrid affair, that he spearheaded the Thermadorian take down of Robespierre and the Montagnards. The à la Grecque style typified by Thérésa, Joséphine, and Madame Récamier consisted of clinging, flowing classical Greek and Roman styles in white silks and muslins, draped with brightly colored shawls and ribbons edged with classical motifs. The once allegorical fashion left the painters studio and took to the streets and ballrooms, their dainty feet shod in golden sandals, and dresses dampened to enhance their cling (though wearing knitted flesh colored stays and stockings to preserve a vestige of modesty). Madame Tallien though was the real deal, and famously appeared at the Paris Opera wearing a white silk dress without sleeves and sans petticoats (gasp!). Charles Maurice de Talleyrand commented: “Il n’est pas possible de s’exposer plus somptueusement!” (“It is not possible to exhibit oneself more sumptuously!”) [source: wikipedia]. Hair was worn curled and dressed with ribbons à la grecque or clipped short à la victime or à la titus, in emulation of the last haircut the condemned received before being sent to the guillotine so as not to impede the blade. This short and sassy style lasted amazingly til the early 1800s, but never caught on in England or other countries, unlike the empire waisted dress, which proved the silhouette du jour for nearly thirty years.

Continue reading Les Incroyables et Merveilleuses: Fashion as Anti-Rebellion

Patriots & People: Parisian Fashion 1789-1795

david_portrait_jean_baptiste_milhaud2.jpg
1793-94 Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Milhaud,
Deputy of the Convention

Jacques Louis David

Just as the 1770s saw Marie Antoinette celebrated France’s naval prowesswith the famous ship pouf hair coiffeur, the revolution inspired, and even regulated, the fashions of the day. People enthusiastic for the Revolution and reform festooned themselves in tricolour ribbons, sashes and cockades. Women began dressing like greek goddesses, and men shorn their hair and forewent the poudré. The period of the Terror, things like fashion plates disappeared and Paris went artistically quiet (except for David, who was busy sending people to the guillotine in the Convention). When Robespierre fell there was a backlash against “virtue” and people put rings on their toes, danced in the streets, and beat eachother up with sticks.
Some Terms:
Incroyables et Merveilleuses: the Muscadins and Demi-mondaine are covered in their own post.
Sans-culottes: Also have their own post. In short, it means literally “without knee breeches”… in other words, not an aristo, as the working man wore trousers. Just like cooks today wear checkered pants, the artisans of the day typically wore a red and white striped trouser. This became the defacto uniform for the Sans-culotte, along with the Phrygian Cap, removed from the lofty spear of Liberté, and the tricolour cockade.
Le Tricoteuse (female knitters) were famous for sitting in the front row before the guillotine, knitting. Like the laundresses and fishwives, they were known for their volatility and zeal. Madame DeFarge from Dicken’s “Tale of Two Cities” was a tricoteuse.
Source for all good things on the art of dress: Aileen Ribeiro (my hero!)

Continue reading Patriots & People: Parisian Fashion 1789-1795

Chemise à la Reine: Underwear to Outerwear

lebrun_marie_antoinette_1783.jpg
Marie Antoinette
by Vigée le Brun, 1783

By the time Vigée le Brun scandalized the masses by exhibiting the Queen in what appeared to be her underwear in 1783, the queen and women of quality had been going en chemise for several years and not just in the privacy of their boudoir. Like oil and water, the classes didn’t mix and this was the first time the populace had been exposed en masse to the depravities of the aristocracy. Ironically, the shocking bit was the lack of formality shown by a monarch already famous for flouting tradition. The Queen (capitol Q) was shown without any of the outward symbols and trappings of her position, culturally naked, and appearing en negligée was taken as an insult to her position as mother of the people.
Le Brun was forced to remove her painting from the public eye, but like all scandals, they inspire more than they deter and the chemise gown became the symbolic frock of the 1780’s.
The earliest versions were formed much like actual chemises, consisting of four pieces of rectangular cotton muslin yardage and gathered at the neck, just under the bosom, and again at the natural waist, which was then belted with very broad silk sash and tied in back. Sleeves were full, and also tied at two or three places, stopping at or just below the elbow. This was frequently finished off at the neck with a double or tripple collar. By 1790 classical lines and revolutionary ardor had taken the beau monde by storm and women of fashion and culture appeared in portraits and the salons as idolized Roman matrons or Greek godesses. This was primarily achieved by losing the gathered waist and broad sash and the fullness of the sleeves. Sleeves were either close fitted into the armhole, and no longer than just above the elbow, or non-existant, a la toga. It wasn’t until the later Empire period that the poofy sleeve often associated with this style was introduced.

prisonfood.jpg
1794 Delivering a basket of food
to the Conciergerie prison, the last stop before the guillotine

As revolutionary sentiment reached a fever pitch (and mostly among the artistocracy, I might add), the pinnacle of outward expression of revolutionary fervor was the Roman simplicity and egalitarian nature of the the white muslin gown.
Initially quite modest by our standards, by 1791 the simple frock was every bit as daring as can be imagined. Up until 1800 it could be worn with or without short-waisted corsets. There are numerous portraits of young women of the demi-monde going bare-breasted or the semi-transparent. This effect was often enhanced by dampening the dress with water so it would cling to the figure like a classical statue. In order to preserve some semblance of modesty knitted knee length knickers would be worn… the first underwear maybe? And can be clearly seen in this Incroyable et Merveilleuse painting by Boilly.
Continued: For the most extreme and exotic versions of the fashion, please see the Incroyable & Merveilleuse gallery! (coming soon!)

Continue reading Chemise à la Reine: Underwear to Outerwear

Timeline: Fashion in the French Revolution

1793-1778-contrast-wholeplate-lowQ.jpg
“Ah! Quelle Antiquité!!!”
1793 meets 1774

I celebrated this year’s Bastille Day by sorting through my hundreds of images on my hard-drive and old versions of this site to categorize galleries of late 18th century (mostly french) costume. We’ll introduce this new subcategory with a summary timeline.

Continue reading Timeline: Fashion in the French Revolution

Marie Antoinette, review

This just in: From my favorite critic at Salon.com. Stephanie Zacharek always gets it.

No one-time teenager has suffered more from the cruelty of history’s gossip mill than Marie Antoinette. When she was told the peasants were starving for lack of bread, the Marie Antoinette of lore shot back, “Let them eat cake!” — a great line, straight out of “Mean Girls,” except that the real Marie Antoinette never said it. Imported to France from her native Austria at age 14, she was the brokered bride of a future king, a bargaining chip with a womb. Her purpose was to cement peace between, and solidify the power of, the two nations. Marie Antoinette landed in a country, and a court, that eyed her with suspicion and contempt: She was a callow, uneducated foreigner, barely worth the disdain of oh-so-civilized France, and the fact that she couldn’t immediately produce an heir didn’t help. But because she was a future queen, she had access to — and availed herself of — the grand and costly buffet of opulence that had been the norm in Versailles long before she arrived. To paraphrase a lyric from another Lesley Gore song: You would shop, too, if it happened to you.
There is shopping in Sofia Coppola’s buoyant, passionately sympathetic dream-bio “Marie Antoinette” (which plays the New York Film Festival Friday night, and opens in New York and other cities on Oct. 20). But this is not — as you might have believed if you trusted the reviews out of Cannes, scrawled by critics from the garretlike confines of their hotel rooms as they clutched their Mao jackets tighter to protect themselves from the threat of beauty, pleasure and decadence — a movie about shopping. Nor is it a straightforward biopic or a history of the French Revolution (it never purports to be either of those things).
“Marie Antoinette” is Coppola’s silk-embroidered fantasy sampler of the inner life of a queen we can never really know: It’s a humanist comedy-drama decked out not in sackcloth but in ribbons — instead of flattering our ideas of our own virtuousness, it asks our sympathy for this doomed queen even as we can’t help envying her privilege.

Read on…

Showtime: The Tudors

Official Site: The Tudors at Showtime.com
Airdate: Sunday, April 1st, 2007
Edit: (2/26/2007) With the introduciton of the Showtime official site for The Tudors… it is starting to look rather exciting, despite the very mod popstar treatment. I don’t know if it is just because Jonathon Rhys-Meyers is hot (hhhhhhhawt), or the dramatic Lachrymose soundtrack, but the new trailer is definately more gripping. I’m starting to think: oh boy! Ha-ha. I’m a sucker.


I don’t know how I feel about this. Article at New York Times.

the_tudors_rhys_meyers.jpg
Jonathon Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII
Nice touch with the wives being cropped at the neck.

I just don’t know why they can’t do something more rock ‘n’ roll and keep the costumes more traditional. Or something. I’m not that stuffy, I’ve loved some non-traditional adaptations. But they have to be good. Like “Titus.” Yarm, yarm!
But I really haven’t liked much of the recent Tudor pix or series, and one of the reasons is their modernist approach and all that “must get the ignorant masses to relate to crazy tudor england” stuff. I love Jonathon Rhys Meyers though. And Jonathon Rhys Meyers in gold lame even better.
I guess after Anne of the Thousand Days it is all downhill.
Also, why “The Tudors”? Looks like it is just one Tudor to me. Meh.
I’m just sayin’.
The Tudors

Continue reading Showtime: The Tudors