Chapter Xxvii


1855 to i860.

Sea-bathing and watering-places—Special costumes—Travelling-bags—Hoods and woollen shawls—Convenient style of dress—Kid and satin boots; high heels—Introduction of the "several" and the " Ristori w—Expensive pocket-handkerchiefs—Waists are worn shorter—Zouave, Turkish, and Greek jackets—Bonnet-fronts—Gold trimmings universally used—Tarlatane, tulle, and lace.

Fashion does not assert itself only in the ordinary round of life. It frequently enlarges its domain in consequence of some new custom, or, at least, the development of some old one; and an exceptional occurrence will produce variations in it.

For many years French people had been in the habit of frequenting watering-places, and during the Second Empire the " villeggiatura " assumed extraordinary proportions.

Fashionable crowds hastened to Dieppe, Trouville, Pornic, Biarritz, &cM or to Vichy, Plombieres, Bagneres, and other thermal places, on the pretext of health.

But these temporary absences did not emancipate them from the yoke of Fashion. The most fantastic and even eccentric costumes were invented for ladies, young girls, and children, and certain costumes that had been popular at the seaside were worn during the ensuing winter season in Paris.

Casaques, hoods, and capelines found their way from the sea-beach into the towns, where, if not worn by great ladies, they were adopted by the u bourgeoises " and working-women.

Travelling-bags, for instance, came into general use in France, and were sometimes transformed into dressing-cases.

Extravagance in dress was the rule at watering-places. Ladies walked by the sea splendidly attired in silk gowns, brocaded, or shot with gold or silver. One would have imagined one's self present at a ball at the Tuileries, or some ministerial reception, rather than at a seaside place of resort. On fine days ladies wore satin spring-side boots, with or without patent leather tips, but invariably black; blue and chestnut-brown boots being no longer in fashion. In the heat of summer, however, grey boots were admissible. High heels were worn, and have since that time become higher still, until one wonders how women will at last contrive to keep their balance.

Generally speaking, boots were made entirely of kid, but sometimes they were of patent leather. The most stylish were partly kid and partly patent leather, ornamentally stitched, and laced on the instep.

To these we must add slippers, shoes with large bows or buckles, and even modern sandals, which, although very elegantly arranged, were only worn by a small minority.

At the time of which we speak, a singular novelty was produced, called the "several," from the English word meaning many.

A "several" contained within itself seven different garments, and could be worn either as a burnous, a shawl, a shawl-mantle, a scarf, a " Ristori," or a half-length basquine. Although patented and of moderate price, "severals " did not long remain in fashion. "Ristoris," in particular, ceased to be worn so soon as the celebrated Italian tragedian whose name they bore, and who had been thoroughly appreciated in France, had left our country.

Pocket-handkerchiefs were round, printed in colours, or with chess-board borders, or hem-stitched, or trimmed with Valenciennes insertion and stitched bias bands. The fashion of expensive handkerchiefs was by no means new, yet never before had they been made with such exceeding care, trimmed with such valuable lace, or so delicately embroidered. It was usual for ladies to embroider their own handkerchiefs, a task on which they bestowed extreme pains, achieving perfect marvels of patience and art.

In 1859, waists were almost on a sudden perceptibly shortened, and a considerable number of women seemed to fear that fashion

.was returning to the ungraceful waists of the First Empire1—a period which they looked upon as the Iron Age of dress. The style of costume most generally worn that year consisted of a dark green gown with pagoda sleeves, very full, much trimmed, and a wide ribbon sash tied in front. The bonnet would be white and green, with white curtain and strings edged with green, and pretty artificial flowers—particularly daisies, that look like pearls, notwithstanding their golden centres.

The apprehension of a return to short waists was not realized. Good taste triumphed over the incomprehensible whim of wishing to resume former fashions, which had given rise to the adverse and well-founded criticism under which they had previously succumbed.

During 1859 anc^ the following years there was a rage for Zouave, Turkish, and Greek jackets, for " Figaros" and " Ristoris." Ladies considered them, and still consider them, very comfortable and becoming. They were made in muslin for summer wear, and for the autumn in cashmere or cloth. Some were black, and braided in various colours in the Algerian style, others of different bright shades were braided in black, and some in gold. These jackets were very much worn in the country.

Now it is next to impossible that a jacket should go well with a very short waist, and as jackets were particularly graceful, they certainly helped to maintain the reign of long waists still in fashion at the present day.

Among adjuncts of dress we may mention bonnet-caps, consisting of ruchings or twists, as being very much worn. Nets, also, were extremely fashionable, as they well deserved to be; some were finished with bias bands of velvet, and others with gilt buttons and buckles.

Shortly afterwards, gold began to be used in every possible way ; even bonnets were spotted with gold or trimmed with gold buckles. Walking-dresses had gold pipings, bouquets of auriculas were worn, gilt pins with little chains, and frequently large gold buckles.

White Arabian burnouses, shot with gold and silver, were used as opera and ball wraps.

Tarlatans were made with diamond-shaped spots of black velvet, having a gold pip in the centre, and tulles with gold stars; tarlatans, also, with gold spots or stripes.

The extremely transparent muslin texture known as tarlatan is of unknown origin—it had an immense success for balls and parties, and is still much patronized by the most elegant women; at the present time it is constantly seen in our salons.

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