Saturday, 30 August 2014

Dressed to Madame Guillotine.

Women: "age of undress"; dressing like statues coming to life;filet-Greek classical hairstyle; simple muslin chemise w. ribbon; sheer; empire silhouette; pastel fabrics; natural makeup; bare arms; blonde wigs; accessorized with (to demonstrate individuality): hats, turbans, gloves, jewelry, small handbags - reticules, shawls, handkerchiefs; parasols; fans; Maja: layered skirt
Men: trousers w. perfect tailoring; linen; coats cutaway in the front w. long tails; cloaks; hats; the Dandy; Majo: short jacket

In the French Revolution, the sans-culottes  ​("without culottes") were the radical left-wing partisans of the lower classes; typically urban labourers, which dominated France. Though ill-clad and ill-equipped, they made up the bulk of the Revolutionary army during the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars.The appellation refers to the fashionable culottes (silk knee-breeches) of the moderate bourgeois revolutionaries, as distinguished from the working class sans-culottes, who traditionally wore pantalons (trousers)

Cockades were widely worn by revolutionaries beginning in 1789. They now pinned the blue-and-red cockade of Paris onto the white cockade of the Ancien Régime - thus producing the original Tricolore cockade. Later, distinctive colours and styles of cockade would indicate the wearer's faction—although the meanings of the various styles were not entirely consistent, and varied somewhat by region and period.

In revolutionary France, the cap or bonnet rouge was first seen publicly in May 1790, at a festival in Troyes adorning a statue representing the nation, and at Lyon, on a lance carried by the goddess Libertas. To this day the national emblem of France, Marianne, is shown wearing a Phrygian cap. The caps were often knitted by women known as Tricoteuse who sat beside the guillotine during public executions in Paris in the French Revolution, supposedly continuing to knit in between executions.
Early depiction of the tricolour in the hands of a sans-culotte during the French Revolution.
The Liberty cap, also known as the Phrygian cap, or pileus, is a brimless, felt cap that is conical in shape with the tip pulled forward. The cap was originally worn by ancient Romans and Greeks. The cap implies ennobling effects, as seen in its association with Homer's Ulysses and the mythical twins, Castor and Pollux. The emblem's popularity during the French Revolution is due in part to its importance in ancient Rome: its use alludes to the Roman ritual of manumission of slaves, in which a freed slave receives the bonnet as a symbol of his newfound liberty. The Roman tribune Lucius Appuleius Saturninus incited the slaves to insurrection by displaying a pileus as if it were a standard.
The pileus cap is often red in color. This type of cap was worn by revolutionaries at the fall of the Bastille. According to the Revolutions de Paris, it became "the symbol of the liberation from all servitudes, the sign for unification of all the enemies of despotism."  The pileus competed with the Phrygian cap, a similar cap that covered the ears and the nape of the neck, for popularity. The Phrygian cap eventually supplanted the pileus and usurped its symbolism, becoming synonymous with republican liberty.

The Incroyables ("incredibles") and their female counterparts, the Merveilleuses ("marvelous women", roughly equivalent to "fabulous divas"), were members of a fashionable aristocratic subculture in Paris during the French Directory (1795–1799). Whether as catharsis or in a need to reconnect with other survivors of the Reign of Terror, they greeted the new regime with an outbreak of luxury, decadence, and even silliness. They held hundreds of balls and started fashion trends in clothing and mannerisms that today seem exaggerated, affected, or even effete (decadent, self-indulgent). Some devotees of the trend preferred to be called "incoyable" or "meveilleuse", thus avoiding the letter R, as in "révolution." When this period ended, society took a more sober and modest turn.

Many Incroyables were "nouveaux riches" who had gained their wealth from selling arms and money lending. Members of the ruling classes were also among the movement's leading figures, and the group heavily influenced the politics, clothing, and arts of the period. They emerged from the muscadins, a term for dandyish anti-Jacobin street gangs in Paris from 1793  who were important politically for some two years; the terms are often used interchangeably, though the muscadins were of a lower social background, being largely middle-class.

The Merveilleuses scandalized Paris with dresses and tunics modeled after the ancient Greeks and Romans, cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze. Sometimes so revealing they were termed "woven air", many gowns displayed cleavage and were too tight to allow pockets. To carry even a handkerchief, the ladies had to use small bags known as reticules.They were fond of wigs, often choosing blonde because the Paris Commune had banned blond wigs, but they also wore them in black, blue, and green. Enormous hats, short curls like those on Roman busts, and Greek-style sandals were the rage. The sandals were tied above the ankle with crossed ribbons or strings of pearls. Exotic and expensive scents fabricated by perfume houses like Parfums Lubin were worn as both for style and as indicators of social station. Thérésa Tallien, known as "Our Lady of Thermidor", wore expensive rings on the toes of her bare feet and gold circlets on her legs.

The Incroyables wore eccentric outfits: large earrings, green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties, thick glasses, and hats topped by "dog ears", their hair falling on their ears. Their musk-based fragrances earned them too the derogatory nickname muscadins among the lower classes, already applied to a wide group of anti-jacobins (see above). They wore bicorne hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their "executive power." Hair was often shoulder-length, sometimes pulled up in the back with a comb to imitate the hairstyles of the condemned. Some sported large monocles, and they frequently affected a lisp and sometimes a stooped hunchbacked posture.

In addition to Madame Tallien, famous Merveilleuses included Anne Françoise Elizabeth Lange, Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier, and two very popular Créoles: Fortunée Hamelin and Hortense de Beauharnais. Hortense, a daughter of the Empress Josephine, married Louis Bonaparte and became the mother of Napoleon III. Fortunée was not born rich, but she became famous for her salons and her string of prominent lovers. Parisian society compared Germaine de Staël and Mme Raguet to Minerva and Juno and named their garments for Roman deities: gowns were styled Flora or Diana, and tunics were styled à la Ceres or Minerva.

The leading Incroyable, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, was one of the five Directors who ran the Republic of France and gave the period its name. He hosted luxurious feasts attended by royalists, repentant Jacobins, ladies, and courtesans. Since divorce was now legal, sexuality was looser than in the past. However, de Barras' reputation for immorality may have been a factor in his later overthrow, a coup that brought the French Consulate to power and paved the way for Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Bals des victimes, or victims' balls, were balls that were said to have been put on by dancing societies after the Reign of Terror. To be admitted to these societies and balls, one had to be a near relative of someone who had been guillotined during the Terror. The balls came to prominence after the death of Robespierre, supposedly first being held in early 1795 and first mentioned in popular writing in 1797.

The bals des victimes allegedly began as part of a rash of merrymaking and balls that broke out as the Terror came to an end. According to one source, they emerged as an idea of youths whose parents and other near relatives had gone to the guillotine, and to whom the revolution had now restored their relatives' confiscated property. Reveling in the return of fortune they established aristocratic, decadent balls open to themselves alone.

Descriptions of the balls' particulars vary, but the common thread is that they were a cathartic device in which the participants acted out the emotional impact of their relatives' executions and the social upheavals occurring as a result of the revolution. Many who described the balls, often generations afterwards, nevertheless found them a scandalous idea. Whether real or imagined, the very idea of the balls reflected the post-Terror generations' morbid fascination with the horror of the guillotine and the excesses of the French Revolution with its mass executions.

Those who attended the orgiastic balls reportedly wore mourning clothes or elaborate costumes with crepe armbands signifying mourning. Some accounts have both men and women wearing plain but scanty dress in the wake of the impoverishment of the Revolution, at least until the return of their fortunes at which time ball dress became highly elaborate. Others describe women dressing scandalously in Greco-Roman attire, with their feet bare or adorned only by ribbons. The style of dress at such a ball was known by some as the "costume à la victime."Women, and by some accounts men too, wore a red ribbon or string around their necks at the point of a guillotine blade's impact. Both men and women attending the balls were said to have worn or cut their hair in a fashion that bared their necks in a manner reflecting the haircut given the victim by the executioner, women often using a comb known as a cadenette to achieve this fashion.[According to some, this was the origin of the feminine hairstyle known as the "coiffure à la victime" or more popularly the "coiffure à la Titus", or (in England) "a la guillotine". Some sources state that a woman sporting this hairstyle sometimes wore a red shawl or throat ribbon even when not attending a bal des victimes.

In another macabre touch, instead of a graceful bow or bob of the head to one's dancing partner, a man who attended a bal des victimes would jerk his head sharply downwards in imitation of the moment of decapitation. Some sources suggest that women, too, adopted this salutation.

1 comment:

John J. Tackett said...

Fascinating -- as always.
__ The Devoted Classicist