Patriots & People: Parisian Fashion 1789-1795

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1793-94 Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Milhaud,
Deputy of the Convention

Jacques Louis David

Just as the 1770s saw Marie Antoinette celebrated France’s naval prowesswith the famous ship pouf hair coiffeur, the revolution inspired, and even regulated, the fashions of the day. People enthusiastic for the Revolution and reform festooned themselves in tricolour ribbons, sashes and cockades. Women began dressing like greek goddesses, and men shorn their hair and forewent the poudré. The period of the Terror, things like fashion plates disappeared and Paris went artistically quiet (except for David, who was busy sending people to the guillotine in the Convention). When Robespierre fell there was a backlash against “virtue” and people put rings on their toes, danced in the streets, and beat eachother up with sticks.
Some Terms:
Incroyables et Merveilleuses: the Muscadins and Demi-mondaine are covered in their own post.
Sans-culottes: Also have their own post. In short, it means literally “without knee breeches”… in other words, not an aristo, as the working man wore trousers. Just like cooks today wear checkered pants, the artisans of the day typically wore a red and white striped trouser. This became the defacto uniform for the Sans-culotte, along with the Phrygian Cap, removed from the lofty spear of Liberté, and the tricolour cockade.
Le Tricoteuse (female knitters) were famous for sitting in the front row before the guillotine, knitting. Like the laundresses and fishwives, they were known for their volatility and zeal. Madame DeFarge from Dicken’s “Tale of Two Cities” was a tricoteuse.
Source for all good things on the art of dress: Aileen Ribeiro (my hero!)

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