1774 to 1780.
The Influence of Marie Antoinette on fashion—Letter from Maila Theresa—Leonard and Mdlle. Bei ¿in—Various styles of head-dresses—'"Pouf"— The "Journal de Paris "—Reign of Louis XVI—Male and female hair-dressers—Plumes—Hair worn low—The queen's " puce "-coloured gown ; shades of colour in dresses- -Oberkampf and the Jouy prints —Expensive satins—Trimmings, their great number and importance—Gauze, blond, tulle, and ribbons—Some kinds of shoes—Venez-y-voir—The " Archduchess "ribbons— A dress worn at the opera.
We have now reached the reign of Louis XVL, when Marie Antoinette was holding her court. She had already begun to set the fashion when only Dauphiness.
One day, in 1775, the new queen took up from her dressing-table two peacock feathers, and placed them with several little ostrich plumes in her hair. Louis XVL came in, and greatly admired his wife, saying he had never seen her look so well. Almost immediately feathers came into fashion, not in France only, but throughout Europe. But when., shortly afterwards, Marie Antoinette sent a portrait of herself, wearing large feathers as a head-dress, to her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa returned it. " There has been, no doubt, some mistake," wrote Maria Theresa; " I received the portrait of an actress, not that of a queen; I am expecting the right one."
This severe rebuke had no effect. Before 1778 the hair had been so arranged as to form a point in front, called a " physionomie," accompanied by "attentions/' or thick, separate curls. But in 1778 the queen invented the "herisson," or hedge-hog style of head-dress. Imagine a porcupine lying on the top of the head, that is to say, a bush of hair frizzed from the points to the roots, m very high and without powder, and encircled by a ribbon that kept this horrible tangle in its place. This style of head-dress, somewhat modified, and reduced to a "demi-hérisson," or half hedgehog, was in fashion for several years.
Marie Antoinette continued to invent new styles, such as "jardin à l'anglaise," "parterre/5 "forest," "enamelled meadows," " foaming torrents," &c. How many ridiculous names were given to the inventions of ladies endeavouring to imitate and surpass their queen! The hair was dressed "butterfly" fashion, or " spaniels'ears," or " milksop," or "guéridon," or "commode," or " cabriolet," or c< mad dog," or " sportsman in a bush," by turns.
At the clubs or in the public gardens, every one talked in raptures of the achievements of Léonard, " Academician in coiffures and fashions," and those of Mdlle. Bertin, a milliner who at a later period delivered herself as follows :—
" The last time I worked with the queen, we decided that the new caps should not come out for another week."
A didactic mode of expression ! Turgot or Necker could not have spoken more solemnly. It is true that Mdlle. Bertin's fame had spread throughout Europe.
In the "coiffure à la Dauphine" the hair was curled, and then drawn up from the forehead, falling at the back of the head ; that called " monte-au-ciel " was of enormous size.
In 1765, caps were worn " à la Gertrude," so called from the opera-comique Isabelle et Gertrude, by Favart and Blaise ; and in 1768, caps " à la moissonneuse " (the reaper) and " à la glaneuse" (the gleaner) came into fashion, copied from those worn in the opera of the Moissonneurs, by Favart and Duni. Head-dresses named "d'apparat" (or state head-dresses) or " loges d'opéra" (opera-box head-dresses) were seventy-two inches in height ; they came in in 1772. G luck's Iphigênie en Aulide was performed in 1774. The singer who took the part of Iphigenia wore, when about to be sacrificed, a wreath of black flowers, surmounted by a silver crescent, and a long white veil flowing behind. Every lady immediately adopted the lugubrious coiffure " à PIphigénie."
Now that we are on the subject of theatricals, I may mention that in 1778, Devismes, the director of the opera, made it a rule that only head-dresses of moderate height might be worn in the amphitheatre.
The comet of 1773 gave its name to certain head-dresses, in which flame-coloured ribbons played a striking part; in 1774 a "quésaco" head-dress was invented,1 consisting in part of a large bunch of plumes behind the head. At court the "pouf au sentiment " was much in favour ; it was composed of various ornaments fastened in the hair, viz. birds, butterflies, cardboard Cupids, branches of tiees, and even vegetables. Louis Philippe's mother wore a <cpouf" in which every one might admire the Due de Beaujolais, her eldest son, in the arms of his nurse, a parrot pecking at a cherry, a little negro, and various designs worked with the hair of the Dukes of Orleans, Chartres, and Penthièvre.
The " coiffure à la Belle Poule 55 consisted of a ship in full sail, reposing on a sea of thick curls. In the " Jeu des Costumes et des Coiffures des Dames," an imitation of the <c Royal Game of Goose/' the winning number, sixty-three, was assigned to the c< Belle Poule."
The scaffolding of gauze, flowers, and feathers was raised to such a height that no carriages could be found lofty enough for ladies' use. The occupants were obliged either to put their heads out of the windows, or to kneel on the carriage floor, so as to protect the fragile structures. This seems like a return to the reign of Louis XV.
In a letter addressed to the actors of the Italian Theatre, in January 1784, by Lenoir, the lieutenant of police, we read as follows : " There are constant complaints of the size of headdresses and hats, which, being loaded with plumes, ribbons, and flowers, intercept the view of spectators in the pit. . .
A number of caricatures, of which some—to the horror of all monarchists—actually reproduced the features of Marie Antoinette, were brought out in ridicule of the fashionable head-dresses.
1 This is a Provençal expression, meaning, " What does it mean ?,J or "What is it all about?"
Hair-dressing was a difficult art, requiring time and labour. Country ladies employed a resident female hair-dresser in their house, by the year, and on the occurrence of any family festival she would be kept at work nearly the whole day.
In order to show the importance of this subject, we quote from the "Journal de Paris " of February 10, 1777, to which was added a supplementary engraving with the following explanation:—
" We add to our issue of this day an engraving representing two different dressings of the hair, back and side views; they are drawn from nature by a clever artist who has been kind enough to give us his assistance. The figures 1 and 2 refer to one of these methods, the figures 3 and 4 to the other.
"If by this attempt we succeed in giving pleasure to those ladies who are included among our subscribers, we shall be happy to renew an expenditure that proves our zeal in their service."
No satire was intended by the above publication. The "Journal de Paris" was a grave production, and the prints it published were of " moderate " head-dresses, if I may so express myself, of no excessive height, powdered, and such as might be worn by bourgeoises without appearing extraordinary.
Besides the fashions we have described, there were others from 1774 to 1789, viz. " Grecques a boucles badines " (or Greek with playful ringlets), "a 1'ingenue," "a la conseilliere," "Toiseau royal," "chien. couchant," "les parterres galants," "lescaleches retroussees," and many others, the description of which would fill volumes.2
Marie Antoinette continued to rule the fashionable world; nor can we be surprised that the flattery of courtiership " took up the tale." In honour of Louis XVI.'s accession, hats were invented under the name of "delights of the Augustan age," and a colour called " queen's hair," of a pretty blonde tint.
For many years a great rivalry had subsisted between the male
2 It will not assist the reader's imagination much to give the translation of these extraordinary names ; but here they are : " the ingenuous maiden," i; the counsellor's wife," " the royal bird," " dog lying down," " gallant pits," " caleches with the hoods up."
and female hair-dressers, and towards 1775 an amusing law-suit was commenced between the former and the wig-making barbers. fc We are," contended the hair-dressers, " essentially ladies' hairdressers. . . . What are the duties of barbers ? To shave heads, and purchase the severed hair; to give the needful plait by means of fire and iron to locks that are no longer living; to fix them in tresses with the help of a hammer; to arrange the hair of a Savoyard on the head of a marquis; to remove the attribute of their sex from masculine chins with a sharp blade; all these are purely mechanical functions that have no connexion with our art. . .
They went on to say that the art of dressing women's hair was nearly allied to genius; and that in order to exercise it nobly, one should be at once a poet, a painter, and a sculptor. " It is necessary to understand shades of colour, chiaro oscuro, and the proper distribution of shadows, so as to confer animation on the complexion, and make other charms more expressive. The art of dressing a prude, and of letting pretensions be apparent, yet without thrusting them forward; that of pointing out a coquette, and of making a mother look like her child's elder sister, of adapting the style of dress to the disposition of the individual, which must sometimes be guessed at, or to the evident desire of pleasing . . . in fine, the art of assisting caprices, and occasionally controlling them, requires a more than common share of intellect, and a tact with which one must be born."
I am not drawing on my imagination. The memorial of the ladies' hair-dressers is still in existence, and bears the names of the procureur and advocate-general of the time. The artists in hair exclaim in poetical accents, Cf If the locks of Berenice have been placed among the stars, who shall say that she reached that height of glory unaided by us !" They vaunt their honesty: " The treasures of Golconda are continually passing through our hands ; it is we who decide how to arrange diamonds, crescents, sultanas (a particular form of necklace), aigrettes.'' They compare themselves to heroes : cc A general knows how to take advantage of a demi-lune in front of his position—in the van, he has his engineers;
we, too, are engineers so far; a crescent advantageously placed by us is hard to contend against, and it seldom happens that the enemy does not surrender at discretion! . . . A lady's hair-dresser is, as it were, the first officer of the toilet . . . and under his artistic hands, amid his artistic influences, does the rose expand and acquire her most brilliant beauty."
The conclusion to be drawn is that wig-makers and their assistants are evidently unfit to dress the hair of women.
The law proceedings, however, did not prevent the competition of wig-makers and female hair-dressers, even at the period when all trade guilds were suppressed.
" The toilet of the queen of France was a masterpiece of etiquette, according to Mme. Campan; everything was done by rule : the lady of honour and the lady of the bedchamber were both present, assisted by the first dresser, and two others who did the principal part of the service ; but there were distinctions to be observed. The lady of the bedchamber (dame d'atours) put on the queen's petticoat and handed her gown, the lady of honour poured out water for washing the royal hands, and put on the queen's chemise."
Marie Antoinette carried the fashion of "panaches " or plumes to an extreme. If we may believe Soulavie's memoirs of the period, "when Marie Antoinette passed through the gallery at Versailles, one could see nothing but a forest of waving plumes a foot and a half higher than the ladies' heads." The king's aunts, who could not make up their minds to follow such extraordinary fashions, nor to copy the queen's dress day by day, used to call her feathers " ornaments for the hair."
The majority of the court ladies, however, imitated the queen.
Hats and caps were so overladen with feathers, that not only were coaches too small to contain the plumed dames of the period, but ladies were fain to bend their heads in the "entresols" of certain suites of rooms, because of the lowness of the ceilings."
" Nevertheless," says a lady of the court, " it was a fine sight to see that forest of plumes in the Versailles Gallery, waving with the least breath of air. It looked liked a moving garden of bright-coloured flowers, gently caressed by the zephyrs."
There was, however, a party in opposition. According to Mme. Campan, " mothers and husbands grumbled, and there was a general feeling that the queen would ruin all the French ladies." But discontent and criticism were vain ; Fashion as usual had her way, and feathers sometimes fetched as much as fifty louis (1250 francs) apiece.
Generally speaking, the smallest caprices of Marie Antoinette were received as law by the ladies of the court. When, on the occasion of the birth of one of her children, her beautiful fair hair was cut off, and she consequently adopted a u coiffure basse," the "coiffure à l'enfant," or baby's head-dressing, immediately became the rage„ No one could be found to say a word against it, nor to hesitate at sacrificing her hair to the prevailing fashion. There were, nevertheless, many styles of dressing the hair : "au plaisir des dames" (the ladies' pleasure), "à l'urgence" (the urgent), and "à la paresseuse" (the idle). At the same time various hats came into fashion, viz. the " artiste " (the artist), the "grandes prétentions," (great pretensions), the "bandeau d'amour " (the bandeau of love), the " Carmelite," the " lever de la reine " (Queen's lever), the " novice de Cythère " (the Cytherean novice), and the "prêtresse de Vénus" (the priestess of Venus). The hat " à la revoke " was so called in allusion to the Flour warfare, or Grain disturbances, under Turgot.
When Marie Antoinette took a fancy for playing at shepherdesses and a so-called rural life at Trianon, the great ladies of Versailles dressed their hair " à la laitière " (milkmaid) and " à la paysanne de la cour " (court peasant). The Parisians, on the contrary, wore successively hats "à la Suzanne" (from Le Mariage de Figaro\ " à la Randon " (from Bayard, a play by Monvel), and " a la diadème," or turban-shaped.
In the early summer of 1775, the queen made her appearance in gown of a kind of chestnut-brown, and the king said laughingly,—
"That puce (flea) colour becomes you admirably."
The next day every lady at the court wore a puce-coloured gown, old puce, young puce "ventre de puce" (flea's belly), "dos de puce " (flea's back), &c.
As the new colour did not soil easily, and was therefore less expensive than lighter tints, the fashion of puce gowns was adopted by the bourgeoisie, and the dyers were unable to meet the pressing requirements of their customers.
During the reign of Louis XVL, many new colours were worn, either in combination or successively, such as "puce," " rash tears," " Paris mud," Carmelite, " entraves de procureurs " (procureurs tricks), &c. These were all quiet colours, and were used for simple costumes.
In 1763, the Opera House was burnt down ; and the fine ladies would wear nothing but " couleur tison d'opéra," or " brand from the opera;" in 1781, they held to "opéra brûlé," or burnt opera-house. I should find it difficult to describe these two shades otherwise than as flame-coloured.
After the performance of Athalie at the Court Theatre, in 178c, women of fashion wore the Jewish Levitical tunic; and shortly after the opera of Atys (by Quinault and Lulli) had resumed its place on the stage, they dressed their hair " à la doux sommeil " (gentle slumber). Mme. Dugazon, in Blaise et Babet, an opera by Desède (1783 ), wore a blue silk skirt shot with pink, and shot silks became all the fashion. In 1786 the same actress set the fashion of caps " à la Nina," from Dalayrac's opera of that name. " Coiffures à la créole " were worn next, made of Madras handkerchiefs, like those in Kreutzer's opera of Paul et Virginie ; and lastly, hats " à la Primerose," from another play of Dalayrac's.
During many years of the reign of Louis XVI., the court of Versailles was ignorant of the very name of Oberkampf, a manufacturer who had at last (1759) obtained permission to establish a factory of coloured prints (indiennes) near Versailles.
A mere accident made him suddenly famous. A certain great lady, whose Persian cambric was the envy of all the princesses, had the misfortune to tear it. She hastened to the factory at Jouy, and claimed the help of Oberkampf, who succeeded in his efforts to produce a similar gown, and whose name was immediately in every one's mouth. The ladies at Versailles would wear nothing but Jouy cambrics ; and from that time prints have been constantly worn by the women of the people, but they are seldom seen at the present day.
Gowns trimmed with one material only were much in favour ; straw-coloured satin was very much used. These dresses were trimmed in various ways, either with gauze, lace, or fur. There were innumerable varieties of trimming, besides brocaded or painted satin, and each had its own special name.
The most fashionable tint for satin was either " soupir étouffe" (stifled sigh), or apple-green with white stripes, called "vive bergère " (the lively shepherdess).
Some of the names given to trimmings are curious, and remind us of the " précieuses " of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. Such are : " indiscreet complaints," "great reputation," "the unfeeling," " an unfulfilled wish," " preference," " the vapours," " the sweet smile," " agitation," " regrets," and many others.
Paniers were generally small, but padded at the top. Shoes, either puce colour or " queen's hair," were embroidered in diamonds, and women's feet might be compared to jewel-cases. Long narrow shoes, with the seam at the heel studded with emeralds, were called in the trade " venez-y-voir," or " come-and-see."
Women wore over their shoulders an arrangement of lace, gauze, or blond, closely gathered, and called " Archiduchesse,' or " Médicis," or " collet monté." Tulle was in great request, and was manufactured everywhere.
As for ribbons, the most fashionable were called " attention," " a sign of hope," " a sunken eye," " the sigh of Venus," " an instant," and " a conviction." Sashes were worn " à la Praxitèle," an opera by Devismes. Once more we are reminded of Molière's " Précieuses."
A great sensation was caused at the opera one night by the arrival of a lady dressed as follows. Her gown was " a stifled sigh " trimmed with " superfluous regrets," with a bow at the waist of" perfect innocence," ribbons of "marked attention," and shoes of " the queen's hair" embroidered in diamonds, with the " venez-y-voir " in emeralds. Her hair was curled in "sustained sentiments," a cap of " assured conquest" trimmed with waving feathers and ribbons of "sunken eye," a "cat" or palatine of swans'-down on her shoulders of a colour called " newly-arrived people" (parvenus), a " Medicis" arranged " as befitting," a " despair " in opals, and a muff of " momentary agitation."
Since that evening how many extraordinary costumes have been displayed at the opera, and have attracted the attention of the fair spectators!
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