페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

"INCROYAsLE," 1796.

fold nor the brutalities of Jacobinism could long suppress the pretensions of the young elegants to dress as they pleased. Indeed, it became a species of heroism, by extravagant finery and outrageous taste, joined to a mincing, effeminate voice, to throw contempt upon the coarseness of their political opponents. The "jeunessc dorce" of this period were clerks, young lawyers, and ethers of equally humble origin, who, having aided in destroying the old aristocracy, now sought to excel them in vice and folly.

Each succeeding year gave origin to fashions if possible more absurd than the preceding. The moral chaos that prevailed in France affected all material things. Dress was not only more or less typical of polities, but illustrative of the classical theories of the times. The military scholar of the school of Mars in 1793, wore a mongrel uniform, invented by the painter David, and intended to bo partly Roman, partly Grecian, but which any old legendary or phalanx veteran of Cassar or Alexander would have indignantly rejected as wholly French.

Upon the overthrow of Robespierre, fashion took

for a time a strange turn. A year before men went in red night-caps, and magistrates wore wooden shoes. Now the citizens emulated the times of the Regency in the extravagance if not in the elegance of their costumes. The most popular entertainments were the bals ii victime. To be admitted to these one must have lost a relative by the guillotine. The dancers wore crape about the arm, and gayly danced in honor of the deceased. It became the fashion to show the profoundest abhorrence of the Reign of Terror. Instead of Robespierre's tappedurs, "hard-crackers," young muscadines, or dandies, in swallow-tailed coats, with their hair plaited at the temples, and flowing behind in military fashion, made it a duly to knock down any shag-coated Jacobin they chanced to encounter. The ladies, too, expressed their horror of the bloody time in a fashion of their own. The Jacobins had made a virtue of destroying life; the production of life must be

FsOKENADE COSTHME, 1801.

[graphic]

BONNET, 1801.

the grand virtue under the new state of things Hence in 1794 it was noticed that every fashionable citoyennc was either really or apparently far advanced in maternity.

The '' Mcrveilleuac" of the same year, by the eapacity of her bonnet and the slimness of her skirts, will recall a fashion which undoubtedly some of my readers thought " extremely elegant" in its day, but which would now be likely to consign its wearer to a mad-hospital.

The male specimen of this species was scarcely less remarkable in his choice of attire; while the "Agioleur"—a political bully, a blackguard, on a par in principles and practice with some of his kindred who disgrace our republic—wore a costume which, like the stripes of a hyena, distinguished him at once from the more respectable citizen.

The attempt, under the Etuspices of David, to revive the classical toga, and to model the fashions for the ladies after the costumes of Aspasia and Agrippina, met with but transient success, owing to the severity of the climate—which was particularly unfavorable to bare throats and legs,

[graphic]

"MEEVEILLEUX," 1793.

and transparent muslin. Besides, none but those whom nature had bountifully clothed with charms could with complacency thus dispense with dress. Coughs, rheumatisms, and ridicule, soon extinguished all classical ardor among these few. though many of the fashionable women of the day were willing to sacrifice both modesty and health in their desire to carry back the civilization of the world two thousand years, when silk was worth its weight in gold and cotton an unknown thing. While the fashion lasted its want of adaptation to the climate gave rise to some ludicrous scenes. Thus at the famous "Feast of Pikes," when all Paris was gathered in the open air, a sudden storm of rain came down The thin muslins with which the females had at tired themselves "like the women of the free peoples of antiquity," were soaked through in a moment, and clung closely around their wearers, so that, as the dry chronicler remarks, "the shape was clearly discernible." "Titus" and "Aleibiades" would have been more than human to have refrained from laughing at the spectacle presented by the bedraggled " Clorinda" and " Aspasia." The coup dc grace was given to the classical fishion hy the appearance of a favorite actress in the character of a Chinese girl. Her costume would hardly have been recognized in Pekin; but such as it was it struck the fancy of the town; and the Parisiennes loaded themselves with frills and rutfs, fancying that they were habited a la Chinoise.

[graphic][merged small]

The classical party were divided into Romans and Athenians, whose simplicity of attire gave rise to another sect in the world of fashion called '' Incroyablet." They protested against the invasion of antiquity by an opposite extreme in dress; so that, what between superfluity of coat collar, cravat, and hat, it was difficult to see that they had any head at all.

At this epoch the confusion, or, more properly speaking, medley of fashions—in which every extreme and incongruity was represented—was at its height. Each taste and political sentiment

wantoned in its own masquerade. The liberty of dressing as one pleased for once reigned triumphant. The Jacobins reveled in dirt and dishabille; the classical scholars in nude simplicity; the fops in perukes, powdered heads, three-cornered hats, and hair cut a la Tihis; the ladies as simple country girls with bonnets a la butterfly; robes a la Cybile; chemises a la Carthaginoisc; in short, il la any thing their caprices or ingenuity could devise. Each one strove after originality; and a more extraordinary crowd than that of the streets and salons of Paris under the Consulate the world will never again see. It was fashion run crazy. The world of "ton" were more like the inmates of a mad-house than the rulers of society. Madame Tallien—the beauty of the day—wore transparent costumes, in imitation of the Olympian gods. Her stockings were flesh-colored and divided at the toes, on which she carried rings and jewels. Her friend Josephine—afterward Empress—was her rival in fashion. Feminine whims did not stop even at this degree of immodesty, but went to such lengths as I shall not undertake to describe. Suffice it to say that dresses "d la sauvage" became in vogue; while the pictures and ornaments openly displayed would have scandalized even the Roman world, and been thought not quite "the thing" in Sodom.

[graphic][merged small]

I shall run hastily over the intervening space between that era and our own, depending mainly upon illustrations to show by what changes of cut, and gradations in taste, our present costumes have been formed; and how Paris—having for a while rioted in every species of extravagance that a depraved and licentious taste could conceive—has at last quietly and indisputably assumed the supreme rank in the world of fashion. From being the butt of mankind for her grossness of garments, she has become the arbiter of civilization as to

what it shall wear, and how it shall live. Not a rival disputes her sway.

As the Revolution receded so luxury augmented. At the commencement of the present century dress had simplified wonderfully, and the worst features of previous absurdities had disappeared, although it would not be quite safe for man or woman to walk the streets in our day in the attire of that. The grand passion, after the Egyptian expedition, was for India shawls, pearls, diamonds, and lace of the highest price. Men rivaled women in their desires for these luxuries. The debts of Josephine for her toilet in a short time amounted to one million two hundred thousand francs. She had ordered thirty-eight new bonnets in one month; the feathers alone cost eighteen hundred francs. With such an example, the Court followed so rapidly in the path of extravagance that even Napoleon was scandalized, although he had said to his wife, "JoseCHAVAT "JL Oreilles Ne Lievre," 1812.

[graphic]

phine, I wish that you shall astonish by the beauty and richness of your dress;" following up the precept with action one day, when she was not clad with sufficient elegance to satisfy him, by throwing the contents of his inkstand upon her costly robe. Josephine owned one hundred and fifty cashmere shawls of remarkable beauty and great price. She offered Madame Murat for one that pleased her fourteen thousand francs.

Judging from the past, nothing admits of greater variety of form than the modern bonnet; while its rival—the male hat—is restricted to the slightest possible variation of its pipe shape. Now, the fashionable ladies wear their bonnets merely suspended from the back of their heads, like the outer leaf of an opening rose-bud. Then—in 1801—they overhung the forehead much after the manner of a candle extinguisher.

In 1812, the modem hat had assumed the general shape which it has unfortunately ever since retained, and with which it seems likely to make the tour of the globe. The ladies have at times made various assaults upon it, and even attempt

[graphic]

LEG-OF-MUTTON SLEEVE, 1828.

ed to take it into their own possession—a conquest which, luckily for the influence of their charms, they never wholly accomplished. He would be a benefactor to the human race who could invent a suitable covering for the head, which should utterly annihilate the present source of torture and ugliness which surmounts the front of him made in the image of God.

In 1812, the leg-of-mutton sleeve, which descended in its full amplitude to the present generation, was in full vogue; also low necks and backs, which have ever maintained their popularity, by a strange sort of anomaly, as full dress; while short petticoats—which are so convenient —have been lengthened into untidy skirts that save the street-cleaners half their trouble.

I have brought together, in one tableau, the four principal types of dress that have swayed the fashionable world for the past century. The striking changes therein depicted are indicative of what we may look for in the future. With so plastic a many-colored material as dress, there can be no limits to the varieties of costume.

« 이전계속 »