1870 to 1874.
The years 1870 and 1871—The siege of Paris—General mourning—Simplicity and economy —Parisian velvet and pekin—A concert costume—A cloth costume—Alsatian bows and costumes—Soirees at the Presidency—Marie Stuart and Michael Angelo bonnets—" Hunting stockings"—Rabagas hats—The years 1872 and 1873—Fan parasols—" Leopold Robert" bonnets—The year 1873—Return of luxury -Regent belts and "sovereign " dress-improvers—-Silks—"Moderate" costumes—The burning of the Opera House— Sale on behalf of those maae orphans by the war—-The ball for the Lyorki weavers— Cashmere tunics—Dislike to gloves—Petticoats—Charles IX. shoes—Slippers—The year 1874—ft Page " bonnets and " Margot " hats—Hair in the Swiss style ; false hair —The ball given by the Chamber of Commerce—Green—Jet—Various costumes -Hair-dressing—(t Mercuiy " bonnets.
The fata] year of 1870 will be long and sorrowfully remembered. Our hearts are still bleeding for the misfortunes of our beloved France, suddenly called upon to undertake a frightful war, and to accept a peace purchased only at the cost of terrible sacrifices.
During the siege of Paris by the German troops, when all communication with the departments was cut off, the part played by Fashion was interrupted, and the source of caprice in dress completely dried up. How could Frenchwomen indulge in the luxuries of dress while their native soil was red with the blood of their fathers, husbands, brothers, or sons ? How could they occupy their minds with superfluities, when millions were in want of the necessaries of life, when the inhabitants of the capital lacked food, and when France, from one end to the other, was in the agony of a great despair ?
For many months the pleasant things of home were laid aside, and Fashion veiled her face. Women passed their days in encouraging the soldiers, in making lint, in nursing the wounded, and in all sorts of contrivances for alleviating the privations of innumerable households. There was no room for other pursuits.
Paris was encompassed by her enemies, and became like an extinct sun to the rest of France. The journals of Fashion that had formerly taught the whole world the latest Parisian inventions in attire or hair-dressing were now silent! The love of dress, of jewels, of brilliant finery, had vanished!
Charitable collections were set on foot, to which the wealthy contributed some of their diamonds and lace.
How great was the change in a few months! From riches to poverty, from thoughtless gaiety to universal mourning! The few heartless women who ventured to parade the streets in gay attire were scathed by the contempt of those who passed them by, and pitied by all generous minds.
Such theatres as remained open, gave performance3 only on behalf of the wounded soldiers, all fetes were for charitable purposes, and Fashion, entering into the spirit of the times, ruled with both simplicity and economy. The audiences on these occasions had no desire to shock public opinion by brightly coloured dresses, by exaggerated " poufs," or by the display of valuable jewels. They bore in mind that boundless luxury had contributed to the downfall of France, and they set the example of reform both in dress and manners. They selected appropriate costumes, ladylike and graceful it is true, but free from affectation, and with due regard to the melancholy circumstances of that terrible time.
At the Trouville Races, in 1871, there was nothing new in the costumes worn, in the true signification of the word, but they were neither like those of the preceding year, nor, as regards brilliancy, like those of the latter years of the Second Empire, and on that account alone they deserve mention. Gowns, without crinolines or trains, no longer swept the beach as formerly, nor did they display the wealth of their wearers; the visitors to the seaside were simply and modestly attired, and resorted thither for bathing merely.
" Parisian velvet" was the new winter material. This was a sort of black satin, with velvet lozenges or diamonds. Another kind of velvet-satin, called Pekin, was very fashionable. Different varieties of these two materials made them suitable to every figure. The costume was completed by a black velvet bonnet with curled black feathers falling over the crown, and velvet strings.
Satin was mixed with "Irish " cashmere for gowns, and trimmed with fringe, gimp, and lace. The above styles were, I repeat, dignified, and appropriate to the then position of France. There were some rare exceptions that contrasted with the general rule.
At a private concert for the benefit of the sufferers by the war, the principal singer—an amateur—wore a gown of white double crape, with demi-train and puffings at the bottom; three large "pattes " of black velvet fell over the skirt, and on each of these was an anchor in Rhine crystal; the bodice was low, and trimmed with two ruchings of black velvet, divided by one of white crape. The head-dress was black velvet and pale Bengal roses.
Under the melancholy circumstances, black was universally worn, but it was not like ordinary mourning, being richly trimmed ; and by degrees, as months passed on, and the remembrance of recent disasters became fainter, lighter shades were permitted to modify the exclusively black garments. The so-called "cloth costume " was also much worn ; this consisted of a tunic, jacket, and skirt. The tunic was polonaise shape, plain in front, and with two Watteau plaits behind; the skirt was of silk, either flounced or kilted, or else in Orleans or cashmere, for morning wear. A wide-sleeved jacket, cut out all round in " battlements,M was worn over this costume.
Alsatian bows for the hair, in remembrance of our beloved and lost Alsace, were much worn by young girls. Marie Antoinette fichus and Charlotte Corday caps were still in fashion, and becomingly adorned with Alsatian bows.
During the Carnival of 1872—hardly a brilliant one, as may be imagined—the Alsatian costume was quite a success. The same may be said of the costume of Lorraine. But, to our mind, there was something childish in thus exhibiting our regret at having ceded two of our finest provinces to Germany ; it was no affair of fashion. Visiting costumes were trimmed with ribbon rosettes at the side, in imitation of the Alsatian custom, and this style remained in fashion for more than a year.
When summer came, alpaca, mohair, and grey " poil-de-chevre" or goats'-hair dresses were seen at all the public promenades. Black and dark shades were worn less and less every day. It was evident to all that the worldly spirit was reviving to a certain extent. Moreover, trade and manufacture required support ; manufacturers, traders, and workmen had all of them suffered, and custom was needed to repair their losses.
Towards autumn the managers of theatres began to bring out new pieces; and shortly afterwards, receptions at the Presidency gave some impetus to the manufacture of dress-stuffs, which had been seriously affected by the siege of Paris.
Among other dresses, I recollect having seen one made with a demi-train, a deep kilting "a la vieille'' round the bottom of the skirt, at the head of the kilting five rows of thick cording, and two bias flounces gathered together. The bodice was in one piece, and cut like a long square waistcoat. The basques and sleeves were in woollen material, and the waistcoat in silk. With this was worn a Marie Stuart bonnet in China crape and " faille'' silk, edged with jet beads, and trimmed with a tuft of black feathers with one long hanging plume. The "Michael Angelo" bonnet, lined with some light colour, and the " sailor " hat, in felt or dark velvet, were also favourites. Sets of collars and cuffs were made in linen, trimmed with Valenciennes or guipure; and dresses were trimmed with China crape, cashmere, and black or white lace.
We may mention, as novelties, doeskin, kid, and cashmere gloves, with as many as five, six, and even ten buttons; and clocked stockings in all colours, called hunting stockings, and very much liked by the public.
Ladies' costumes were completed by small muffs, braided and fur-trimmed dolmans, circular lined cloaks of silk or cachemire; the comfortable " Duchess mantles," that might well have been called Oriental; satin-lined hoods; and " Rabagas " bonnets, which were made of the same velvet or satin as . the dress, and with a long feather curled round the crown.
The " Rabagas" hat was brought into fashion by a play of Victorien Sardou's, that attracted much attention by its political and reactionary character.
An absurdity of the winter of 1872 deserves notice. Ladies carried enormous fans, almost as big as parasols, with a painted bouquet of flowers in the left-hand corner. This unfortunate invention was intended to serve both as fan and screen, but its reign was of short duration. The " fan-parasol" was, in fact, a failure.
The "Leopold Robert" bonnet, on the contrary, had a great success, owing to its artistic shape. It consisted of a wreath of flowers or foliage placed on a band of plain or puckered velvet; ribbon or lace at the back fell over the chignon ; there were no strings. A veil called a " provisoire " was wound round the head; it covered the face, Jewish fashion; and the long ends crossed behind, then brought forward and tied under the chin, took the place of bonnet strings.
The " Leopold Robert" bonnet lent a charm to ugliness itself. Was it on that account that pretty women gave it up ? Were they afraid of being lost in the crowd, and of receiving only a divided homage ?
In 1873, feminine dress became extremely complicated. All kinds of ornamentation were used with more or less happy effect. It seemed as if feminine vanity were endeavouring to make up for the lost years 1871 and 1872. Simplicity was succeeded by finery of all sorts, and the trimmings of dresses cost ruinous prices. Fifteen or twenty flounces would be put on one skirt. Costumes were trimmed with chased, bronzed, or oxydized buttons.
After an interregnum of many years, steel ornaments were again worn in the hair, and young girls wore a locket on velvet round their throat "Regent" belts and "sovereign" dress-improvers were much worn, and were very becoming.
Although there were no essential changes in the fashions, they became every year more difficult to define, because women were beginning to dress independently, each one according to her own taste, and with reference to age, position, and means, without servile imitation of any particular fashion. The ground-work of dress varied little, but the details were almost infinite in number, and were, in fact, characteristic of each individual wearer. This was regarded as anarchical by persons accustomed to the strict discipline of Fashion.
In a space of less than two months appeared the " Montenegrin," a sort of dolman which defined the figure becomingly, and was covered with braid and silk embroidery ; jet ornaments in great profusion (aigrettes, buckles, sprigs, and wheat-ears) ; cf Michael Angelo" bonnets, trimmed with moss-roses and lilies of the valley; Tussore gowns (an Indian silk), trimmed with black velvet ; "Abbé" collars of the Louis XV. fashion, in plaited muslin, with embroidered bands in front; and deep cuffs worn over tight sleeves.
A great variety of materials was used, but plain or figured silks in medium qualities were always more popular than fancy stuffs. Frills, and ruchings of net or " crêpe lisse," were worn round the throat.
Lockets and ff saint esprits " in brilliants, strass, or Alençon diamonds, and Normandy crosses delicately carved in light foliated patterns, were favourite ornaments at this period.
Many Parisian ladies wore tight-fitting tunics or polonaises in the street. Some very fashionable bonnets were made without crowns ; these were merely a thick wreath of vine leaves or flowers, rising rather high in front. Clusters of curls fell over the back of the neck, displaying the colour and beauty of the hair in a most charming way.
Costumes were of two kinds, the ff extraordinary99 and the f( moderate "—the latter were rather less worn than the former. Waistcoats and corslets remained in favour during the summer ; also long sleeveless cashmere and velvet jackets, and Louis XV.
casaques " in winter.
On Tuesday evening, October a 8, 1873, an unforeseen calamity befell the world of fashion. The Paris Opera House, in which so many masterpieces had been performed, and which was so admirably adapted for music, was burned to the ground.
One of the temples of Fashion had perished in a night; and for a time the splendid attire that had been wont to display itself at the Op era, had also to vanish and be seen no more. No more was the dazzling light of the great chandelier to be shed upon the "poufs" in English point, blond, jet, or tulle; the tiaras and c<rivieres'' of diamonds, the state costumes, the magnificent Circassian belts!
The destruction of the Opera House dealt a terrible blow to aristocratic finery, and forced it to take refuge in balls and promenades.
The f< toilette d'Opera," which was to rival that "des Italiens," had to wait until its temple should be rebuilt. The probation, however, was short.
We are bound to admit that things were not so bad as might have been expected. At that very moment luxury and fashion were assuming gigantic proportions, and under the Third Republic women continued to wear clothes of excessive costliness. It was fortunate that persons of slender means were permitted to copy in simple materials the shape and trimming of high-priced costumes. The ci cut" became the principal point in dress, other things being left to the choice and discretion of the wearer.
On the occasion of a charity sale on behalf of the orphans of the war, at the new Opera House, Parisians perceived that the love of striking costumes had not passed away. The lady stallholders— Mme. Thiers, Mdlle. Dosne, the Marechale de Mac-Mahon, and the Princesses Troubetskoi and De Beauvau—vied with each other in elegance of attire, and the lady purchasers were not left behind ; their dresses were of various colours, more or less harmonious, and composed of mazes of material and floods of ribbon, heaps of lace, kiltings, flounces, and bows; in a word, all that can be conceived of richness and elegance.
Under the peristyle of the Opera Gamier, parasols in Cf ecru " silk spotted with blue or pink, trimmed with bows and two rows of lace ; and also cf cane " parasols with large handles, were s seen. According to the strict laws ot costume, the parasol should be suited to the costume, and even the fan should match.
A ball was given afterwards at the same theatre for the benefit of the Lyons weavers, and the dresses were more magnificent than ever. But no one found fault Mme. Musard made a great sensation in a dress of lime-tree colour, richly brocaded with bouquets of roses. The material had been manufactured at Lyons at a cost of 100 francs per yard. White predominated in the dresses of the queens of the ball—Mmes. de Mouchy, Aymery de la Rochefoucauld, De Behague, De Pene, De Beaufort, Alphonse and Gustave de Rothschild. The latter wore a wonderful "apron " of pearls worth several fortunes.
A lady not quite in the first circle, would practise economy by wearing a cashmere tunic. This was simply her venerable burnous, that had been lying for years in her wardrobe, re-made and trimmed with lace and jet braid. Or she would resort to the art of the dyer, and her old green gown would emerge from his hands a new handsome black one, with a few yards of velvet added. The art of dyeing performs miracles, and at small cost.
A strange rumour was current in the highest circles in 1873.
What was that ?
Nothing less than the abolition of gloves! This was assuredly no question of economy, for their place was to be taken by a fashion worthy of the days of the Directory. Women of fashion proposed to wear clusters of rings between every finger joint; each hand to bear a fortune.
This was the fantastic dream of some " blasee" fine lady, longing for novelty at any price. It was not realized, as may be imagined; and gloves kept their place—an important one—among articles of feminine attire.
A desirable change in taste was manifested in the almost total suppression of the trimmings with which gowns had been overloaded. Dress remained as pretty as before, and cost much less. A Frenchwoman can easily attain the beautiful, without overstepping the bounds of moderation. Much of the grace and becomingness of a costume depends on the under-skirts, and, simple as they seem, they will long retain their importance.
Waistcoats, "French Guard" coats, and "Leaguer" hats seemed like encroachments on masculine dress, but the waistcoat was partially disguised by a good deal of ornamentation.
Charles IX. house-shoes were much worn; they were of fine kid, rounded at the tips, with high pointed heels and low vamps trimmed with bows; a kid strap across the instep, with a large square buckle in steel or Rhine crystal.
Felt slippers were worn of every shade of colour, braided in wool. Cloth boots, with kid under-leathers^ were made to match the costume with admirable skill.
The year 1874 effected no change in the fashions of 1873 as we have described them. But some of the minor accessories were varied, and thus an air of novelty was given to the beginning of each season.
Flounces of English, Alengon, and Mechlin lace were mixed with quantities of raised embroidery, beautifully executed.
A new shape for bonnets was favourably received in the highest circles of fashion. It was of black velvet, with low round crown, and wide brim slightly curled, something like a miller's hat. The edge and crown were bordered with jet beads. Some ladies wore this shape in felt, with a long natural ostrich feather. Young girls preferred the " Page" hat, with soft crown and drawn brim, and the " toquet Margot/' the brim of which was plaited, and widened at the back into something like a bonnet curtain.
Black continued in fashion during the winter, and was made brilliantly effective by the addition of lace trimmings and quantities of jet. Very pretty fichus made of white or black tulle, sprinkled with jet beads, and a high collar with frills on the inner side, were sometimes worn over black costumes.
Ball dresses were characterized by deep cc Henri JI." ruffs, and Cc Louis XV." sleeves trimmed with steel, silver, or gold beads, embroidered, and even gold lace. Muslin and tarlatan resumed their former place in female attire. Past periods were called upon for their fashions, either successively or together. Costumes of a s 2
composite order, if I may borrow an architectural term, were introduced.
The hair continued to be dressed high, and frizzed or waved over the forehead. Ringlets at the back of the head went out of fashion; only a couple of curls were allowed to stray on the neck. We may mention the "Swiss" style of head-dress as something new. It consisted of two long plaits hanging behind, and ending in a curl, above which was tied a narrow ribbon.
False hair was worn more generally than ever. We learn from some interesting and curious statistics that 51,816 kilogrammes of false hair were sold in France in 1871; 85,959 in 1872; and 102,900 in 1873. These figures were probably surpassed in 1874 and the succeeding years.
The hair is chiefly procured from Normandy, Auvergne, and Brittany. Haircutters whose special business is the collecting of it, procure it in April and May. They give in exchange coloured prints, muslin, and calico, or they pay for it in money at five francs the kilogramme.
Who could have thought, at an earlier period, that the trade in hair could have become so greatly developed in France ?
During the winter, ladies principally aimed at warmth, and replaced the classic waterproof by a circular cloak of silk, lined with flannel or with fur, and slightly wadded. The furs most commonly used, besides squirrel and Russian wild cat, were otter and Russian fox.
The Chamber of Commerce in Paris gave a ball in honour of Marshal MacMahon, the second President of the Republic, at which thousands of fairy-like costumes were all the more admired because they had been so long unseen at official receptions. Few dresses came unhurt out of the palace on that occasion; the dust was stifling, the crowd overwhelming, and the pushing most unpleasant.
In the spring of 1874, tunics were succeeded by a sort of peplum, cut in one piece with the bodice, and forming basques at the back.
Ladies wore "merveilleuse" hats in jet lace, one side turned up, with a bunch of flowers.
Green was the favourite colour for gowns—verdegris, mignonette, frog-green, bottle-green, canarv-green, sage-green, &c., &c.
This reminds us of an historical incident in the reign of Henri III., on the occasion of a banquet given by that king to some gentlemen who had accompanied him to the siege of La Charité. " The ladies," says Pierre l'Estoile, " were all dressed in green; and all the guests were likewise in green, for which cause, 60,000 francs worth of green silk had been obtained from Paris."
But to return to 1874. Green did not in that year create any great excitement in trade ; but jet was so extensively used, that the effect was similar to that produced by the rage for green silk under Henri III. In the course of a few months, several bead manufacturers at Venice made immense sums of money. The foreign manufacturers who supplied our French ladies with jet beads are at the present day millionnaires.
Together with the "merveilleuse" hat, the "incroyable" bodice came into fashion. The latter opened over a waistcoat fastened by handsome fancy buttons. The top was trimmed with a ruching lined with lilac ; the sleeves were in three pieces, with embroidered bands between.
Generally speaking, costumes were made in shades of one colour, rather than in contrasting colours.
Pelted boots for ladies were introduced. This fashion probably originated on the turf, but the boots were practically useless, except for travelling.
Foulard was the favourite material for gowns, and the delightful Hungarian or Croatian paletot was universally adopted. This was trimmed with glass beads and frogs, and the shape was exquisitely becoming to the figure, while the long flowing sleeves lent grace to the least graceful.
Some women of the highest rank favoured an extraordinary costume called the " sheath " or " cloche." They enveloped themselves in a garment which fitted closely to the whole body,
This whim was adopted only by a few, because it was not becoming.
A great deal of trimming was worn on beige, mohair, tussore, alpaca, and ecru foulard gowns-
False hair went out of fashion, and was succeeded by the " knocker " or ff Catogan " style. Instead of being frizzed and twisted in every direction, the hair was gathered together at the back of the head in a loose wide plait, and looped on the nape of the neck with a ribbon bow.
Several new bonnet shapes were introduced during the summer, viz. the "Trianon," the "Elizabeth," the "Charlotte Corday," the "sailor hat/' the "shepherdess," the " Bersagliere," the " Bandoulier," the " Fra Diavolo," the " Orpheus," and others. At the seaside the " Mercury " hat was popular; it was a sort of " toquet," with two wings in the front, springing from an Alsatian bow, and the crown turned up at the back under a Catogan bow, in which was fastened a poppy, or a large " Reine Marguerite " or ox-eyed daisy.
In the autumn, the polonaise was succeeded by the tunic. Beaded, shining trimmings became more fashionable than ever-Open or flat collars took the place of frills. A small gold pencil-case was worn hanging from the watch chain.
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