Fashions under the Empire—Sacks—"Personnes cossues "—A saying of Napoleon's—White gowns—Valenciennes lace—Ball dresses ; walking dresses—Polish " toquets" and bonnets—Turbans—Muslins—Artificial flowers—Wenzel's manufactory; "The Offspring of Imposture," Campenon's verses—Parisian ladies, as sketched by Horace Vernet— Stays —Cashmeres—Protest by Piis—Ternaux assists in establishing the manufacture of cashmere shawls 111 France—Cotton stuffs—Richard Lenoir; importance of the Rouen manufacture—Violets during the Hundred Days—The "eighteen folds," and white silk.
Under the Empire, which was proclaimed in 1804, the fashion of short waists continued in favour, and even developed into extraordinary results. The fair sex adopted " sack " dresses, with the waist close under the arms, and the bosom pushed up to the chin. This was far from graceful, and a woman needed to be perfectly beautiful to look well in such a costume.
Gold, precious stones, and diamonds were lavishly used. Numerous balls were given, and official receptions held, and the dress of the women was handsome, nay, even magnificent. Unfortunately, it was chiefly remarkable for its bad taste. A Frenchwoman seemed to have attained the height of glory when it could be said of her : " Voilà une personne cossue !" 1
Napoleon wished his court to be splendid, and was accustomed to rebuke ladies who committed the sin of economy.
"Madame la Maréchale," said he one day to a lady, "your cloak is superb ; I have seen it a good many times."
She took the hint. Extravagance prevailed in every class of society, we might almost say " By order."
Towards the same period, Gerard's picture of Love and Pysche 1 " There's a warm, substantial person."
brought pallor into fashion. Rouge was altogether abolished, white pearl-powder was universally used, and women tried to be interesting by making up their faces cc a la Psyche.''
This departure from the ways of the eighteenth century did not prevent Frenchwomen from continuing to borrow some few fashions from foreign countries and other times, viz. Palatines from the north, Falbalas from the reign of Louis XV., and some minor accessories from Spain, Italy, Turkey, and England.
For the most part women wore fronts instead of their own hair, and diamonds in place of flowers. They were above all anxious to show off their wealth. Many of them were parvenues who sought to do honour to their husbands' position.
Yet the white gowns with spiral trimming of pink satin, and a wreath of brightly coloured flowers round the bottom of the skirt, must have been pretty. The bodice was fastened on the shoulders by many-coloured ribbons, and trimmed at the neck with Valenciennes lace of great cost. The bare arms were covered with long white gloves; round the throat was a necklace of real pearls, and on the hair, worn in curls, a wreath of roses.
Such a dress as the above was for ball-room wear; the skirt was short, revealing the ankle and foot in a white satin shoe.
Walking costumes were much the same as to shape, with the exception of the skirt, which was very long. They were much heavier by reason of the kerchief round the neck, and the shawl covering the shoulders. Dresses were worn cc a la Jean de Paris," an opera by Bo'ieldieu; the hair was dressed cc a la Chinoise," with gold pins, from which hung little gold balls.
With the same style of hair, the Cf cap-bonnet," trimmed with feathers, was fastened under the chin with silk strings. There were toquets of embroidered tulle, and hats "a la Polonaise," of a somewhat ungraceful square shape; turbans also in clear muslin spotted with gold, and turban-caps, both souvenirs of the Napoleonic victories in Egypt. How many fine ladies resembled Mamelukes!
Some women wore cloth, merino, or velvet coats; and almost all excessively short waists. Their gowns were indecently low..
High gowns made without fulness were frequently trimmed with many rows of flounces or falbalas.
From the beginning of the century, the manufacture of muslin, which is said to be so named from the town of Mossoul, had been greatly developed at Tarare and St. Quentin.
In addition to this, the principal innovation of the period was the definitive introduction of artificial flowers, which, until then, had only been occasionally employed in feminine attire.
The Italians had long possessed the art of producing artificial flowers, and had practised it with great success; but in France this branch of industry had only been introduced in the year 1738. A man named Séguin, a native of Mende, and a very clever chemist and botanist, succeeded in manufacturing artificial flowers quite equal to those of Italy. He also made them after the Chinese method, from the pith of the elder-tree ; and he was the first to invent a sort of flower made of silver-leaf, which has been much used to ornament feminine attire.
Wenzel, a maker of artificial flowers in various materials, who received an award at the Industrial Exhibition in 1802, sold very admirable specimens of his art, and greatly contributed to the success of artificial flowers when employed for the dress or hair. Flowers were worn mingled with braids of false hair.
Philippe de la Renaudière dubbed these cc the offspring of imposture." Campenon, in his "Maison des Champs," exclaimed,—
" Oui, loin des champs, il est une autre Flore, Que l'art fait naître et que Paris adore . - -Sur ces bouquets méconnus des zephirs, Un pinceau sûr adroitemont dépose L'or du genêt, le carmin de la rose, Ou de l'iris nuance les saphirs ; Puis on les voit dans nos folles orgies, Au sem des bals, loin des feux du soleil, S'épanouir aux rayons des bougies. L'art applaudit à leur éclat vermeil ; Mais sur ces fleurs, enfants d'une autre Flore, Je cherche en vain les pleurs d'une autre Aurore."2
2 " Yes, far from fields there is another Flora, Born of art, and adored by Paris . . .
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