Or, les Bal des Victimes…
The celebratory atmosphere following the “Reign of Terror” gave way to a number of frivolous yet gruesome fashions and pastimes, one of which was the Victim’s Ball. In order to qualify for admittance in one of these sought after soirees one had to to be a close relative or spouse of one who had lost their life to the guillotine. Invitations were so coveted that papers proving your right to attend had to be shown at the door, and some were even known to forge this certificate in their eagerness. All the rage at these grand balls was to have the hair cut high up off the neck, in imitation of “le toilette du condamne” where the victim’s hair is cut so as not to impede the efficiency of the blade. There were several popular hairstyles including cheveux à la titus or à la victime for both women and men, where the hair is given very short and choppy cut, and the “dog ears” worn by Muscadins, where long flops of hair are left on either side of the face, but cut right up to the hairline on the back of the neck. And for the ladies, a thin red velvet ribbon worn round the neck, or red ribbons worn croisures à la victime, a kind of reverse fichu, or ceinture croisée, across the back of the bodice forming a symbolic “x marks the spot” across the upper back.
Will posterity believe that persons whose relatives died on the scaffold did not institute
days of solemn and common affliction during which, assembled in mourning clothing,
they would attest to their grief over such cruel, such recent losses, but instead [instituted]
days of dancing where the point was to waltz, drink and eat to one’s heart’s content.
Like most fads, these reactionary styles and those of the Incroyable et Merveilleuse crowd that ruled Paris the days after 9 Thermidor, this one was over before it began. By the end of the decade once mutually exclusive sartorial insignia such as knee breeches (monarchist) and the tricoloure were sported together with verve, irrespective of their once pertinent symbolism. It’s just fashion! The short and sassy hair cut à la titus never caught on outside of France for women, but lasted in France into the next century. Men’s hair never recovered. From the unpowdered long locks of the revolutionary sympathizer, to the dashingly short titus, men have endeavored to look unfussed ever since, even if it took a whole lot of fussing to achieve.
- Gothic Thermidor: The Bals des victimes
- Journal des Dames et des Modes (Costume Parisien): [source] [source] and eBay ^_^
- The Art of Louis-Leopold Boilly: Modern Life in Napoleonic France
- Fashion in the French Revolution by Aileen Ribeiro