Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Caraco

I decided to continue my series on Staring at Fashion Plates to Learn Vocabulary when I found some polonaise caracos, and I realized that I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a caraco in-period.  I feel like I usually see it used for something that's between a jacket and a gown in length, but I'm not at all sure that that's how it was used in the late eighteenth century.


The Caraco

Jolie Danseuse vêtue d'un Caraco plissé et à gorgerette décoltée de taffetas d'Italie mordoré, avec un tablier de linon à fleurs pareil à la garniture du Caraco; les noeuds rosettes et rubans couleur de rose.
Pretty dancer dressed in a pleated caraco of bronze Italian taffeta with georgette on the low neckline, with a sprigged linen apron trimmed similar to the caraco; the knots, rosettes, and ribbons are of pink.

Femme en Caraco plissé de taffetas changeant gorge de pigeon, la garniture en pouf de gaze très claire, le chapeau garni aussi en pouf.
Woman in a pleated caraco of changeable taffeta in "pigeon throat", the trim in transparent poufs of gauze, the hat also trimmed in poufs.

Femme d'un certain ton se promenant la canne a la main, vétue d'un Caraco de taffetas garni en Pouf
Lady of a certain society walking with a cane in hand, dressed in a pouf-trimmed taffeta caraco.

Jolie Femme coëffée dun Bonnet à la Nouvelle Paysanne, avec un caraco galant de taffetas couleur verd pomme, garni en gaze d'Italie ainsi que le juppon.
Pretty woman in a new peasant bonnet, with a gallant caraco of taffeta in the color of green apples, trimmed in Italian gauze like the petticoat.

LA DISTRAITE. Cette Femme, après s'être habillée entierement, se ressouvient qu'elle ne s'est laveles pieds, et se sait apporter une cuvette par sa femme de chambre. Sa Robe est de Gourgouran gris vineux garnie de même, le Ruban qui règne le long de la garniture est bleu celeste, noué par interval avec des petites fleurs. La femme de chambre en Caraco de Buras pâle.
THE DISTRACTED WOMAN.  This woman, after being completely dressed, remembers that she hasn't washed her feet, and has her chambermaid bring her a basin.  Her dress is of grape-grey gourgouran [a type of silk], trimmed in the same, the ribbon which reigns the length of the trim is sky blue, knotted at intervals with little flowers.  The chambermaid is dressed in a caraco of pale buras.

Apparently, a caraco is simply a jacket with a somewhat substantial but short skirt.  What's most interesting to me here is that they seem to be mostly pleated in the back - similar to what is usually called a pet-en-l'air in costuming parlance, but without pleats in the front.  It does seem to be important, as it often is with the polonaise, for the petticoat to match.


The Caraco à la Polonaise
Caraco à la Polonoise garni de gaze, un ruban de couleur sur le haut des garnitures: chapeau à la Devon-shire ou à la Spa.
Polonaise caraco trimmed in gauze, a colored ribbon on top of the trim: Devonshire or Spa hat.

Jeune femme vêtue d'un caraco à la Polonoise de toile vermichelle, bordé d'une bande étroite: le juppon bordé d'une bande large d'etoffe fond blanc à guirlandes de fleurs.
Young lady dressed in a polonaise caraco of vermicelli cloth (linen?), bordered with a narrow band: the petticoat bordered in a large band of stuff with a light background and garlands of flowers.

Jeune Demoiselle etudiant la musique; elle est vêtue d'un caraco juste à la Polonoise. Sa coeffure est un bonnet à la laitiere.
Young lady studying music; she is dressed in a [short?] polonaise caraco.  Her headdress is a milkmaid bonnet.

Jeune Dame tenant sou enfant dans ses bras: elle est vêtue d'un caraco à la Polonoise à bandes et à nervures d'une autre couleur: les bandes sont ornées autour, d'une petite blonde. Elle est coïffée d'un joli chapeau de paille bordé de ruban avee une garniture de gaze en forme de champignon, et un ruban roulé.
Young lady holding her child in her arms: she is dressed in a polonaise caraco with bands and veins in another color: the bands are surrounded in thin blonde lace.  She is wearing a pretty straw hat bordered in ribbon with gauze trim in the shape of a mushroom, and a round ribbon.

Again, the caraco seems to have matched its petticoat.  Unlike the ordinary caraco, it is fitted in a similar way to the polonaise gown - three seams terminating in pleats, with a front edge that curves into the bottom and no waist seam.  However, there is no attempt to pull up the skirt into the poufs of the polonaise gown, which indicates that the method of constructing the bodice was probably about as important to the "polonaise-ness" of a gown as the treatment of the skirt.

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