Theatrical Dress, for Balls and for Characters. These Outfits, numbering eighteen, have been sufficiently described in the caption which accompanies them. They are nearly all the invention of Jean-Baptiste Martin, who has been the Designer for the Opera for twenty-five years, and who has engraved the greater part of them; they are all of a richness and magnificence without equal; but this same richness, often embarrassing and always expensive, has been found, for some times, in less important Dress, and that one may be able to renew more often, without multiplying the expense.
Recourse has been made to light materials, gauzes of cloth of artificial gold and silver, lamés, fringes, links and sequins, imitating the most precious stones; and the Dress is constructed with an éclat which makes the illusion, and procures even more of an effect of reality.
This revolution is not the only one that has happened to Theatrical Dress: for a long time, one knew neither the costume of diverse Peoples, not the truthful manner of dressing as Gods or Heroes. The costume of each Nation, and of each character, has only begun to seem rather truthful since the Comédie Française's Kain, Brisard, Clairon, and the Comédie Italienne's Favard have spared nothing to procure for themselves familiarity with the real dress of Nations, making their Dress consistent with the costume proper to their role, and in rejecting those trinkets that are always as expensive as they are useless.
We will remark also that in the Opera, they have abolished, in Theatrical Dress, using panniers. The female Dancers have given up the amadises, which give them arms that are too long and without grace. The male Dancers have taken up, for the same reason, bouffant sleeves. Actors' chests have been freed from hard and closed bodices, which has given them almost complete freedom. These changes are hoped, at last in Theatrical Dress to soon arrive at a degree of perfection and truth to which they are susceptible.
Deshabillé of white taffeta, bordered with pink chiné silk; pink shoe edged with green anglais in rosettes; white taffeta mantelet trimmed with fantasy gauze; négligé cap, pink tigré ribbon on a chien couchant with two large curls. (1779)
Waiting is cruel, especially when, in order not to miss the rendez-vous, the expectant one has only made a half-toilette. Vainly she checks a pretty watch over and over; the hand has already crossed the intended hour, and the only being who should be ahead of it seems to have forgotten.
Let us allow this amiable Mortal to abandon herself to her somber reflections, and let us say a word or two on the mantelet in which she is enveloped. Nothing is more gallant for Négligé than the mantelets with flared points, called "rise of Dawn" Mantelets. Their trimming must be large, and of fantasy gauze.
The first mantelets appeared around 1745; they only became generally fashionable in 1750: they were short and without hoods, as was detailed in the first volume of this collection.
Mantelets and their trim have always been of one color, except in 1777, when piebald mantelets were worn, that is to say, white trimmed with black. Mantelets of black lace wanted to reappear in these latter times, but they have not been strongly welcomed. The hood of the mantelet has also felt these changes; the latest fashion wants that it be nearly entirely open or reversed, forming more of a type of capote on the mantelet, rather than a hood.
Elegant Cauchoise in the costume of her country; she wears a peasant justetrimmed with a flounce, in pink taffeta; petticoat of the same material, apron of clear muslin. (1779)
DESHABILLÉ A LA CAUCHOISE. The Pays de Caux, in Haute-Normandy, which contains the kingdom of Yvetot, is renowned for being inhabited by beautiful Women. The fact, is it true? The Women of this country, should they not have this reputation for dress, which is particular to them, and which passes to be very-galant? That is not the question examined here. We observe only that these Women are known as Cauchoises, and their dress as Cauchois or Cauchoise Dress.
We could, later, engrave this dress. About that which the figure represents, it is a fantasy Deshabillé; the two hanging lappets of the Coiffure are the only object which has some rapport with the dress of the real Cauchoises.
Robe à la Lévite with bodice en fourreau, petticoat coupé with flat trim in the color of the gown;* demi-négligée coiffure called à la Picarde, with Italian gauze lappets scalloped with lace. (1779)
ROBE A LA LÉVITE, degraded of its honors. A young girl, supervised by her mama, never has what she desires. The one shown in the Print, and who, until best, amuses herself in giving pastilles to her dog, can provide proof. She has obtained from her mother a Robe à la Lévite; simple, plain, truthful; but it is still a Lévite. It only lacks a bagatelle to complete the outfit: a belt and a hat. The inexorable mama has pretended that it was her duty to mitigate a Dress which seemed too galant.** It was necessary to obey and to be contented with a very bourgeois medium cap, capable only of making the rest of the dress ridiculous, if it were not given to the Youth to embellish all that is around her.
* I believe this means that the body of the petticoat is meant to be a different color, which shows better in the print below. ** Galant is used frequently in the fashion plates, sometimes to mean "gallant", but sometimes more like "pejoratively sexy".
Yes! I figured out how to do it, and now you can get my updates directly from your Facebook feed (should you have one). I'll hopefully be remembering to share every morning's post after I make it, but I also plan to use it for sharing relevant things I come across, and status updates on sewing that I wouldn't make a whole post on here. Might be fun?
Also, while I'm on the subject, I have a Tumblr where I mostly try to be pretentious and write museum labels (but sometimes I'm more conversational) or repost historic fashion plates with their descriptions when available, Mimic of Modes. And a little while ago, a friend remarked that there should be a Tumblr on the costuming of Downton Abbey and the clothes of that era, so I started Dress at Downton. I'm pretty decent at keeping a queue for those two, so they update twice daily.
Robe à l'Anglaise, trained, of taffeta trimmed with gauze in poufs; hat of Italian gauze edged with plumes; below the ribbon is an aigrette and an héron of black plumes. (1779)
ROBE A L'ANGLAISE. Amiable Youth with slender waist, see here what makes her shine. Women who mutter against the Polonaises because they leave the train-bearers idle, do not complain any more; the Robe à l'Anglaise satisfies all. It unites graces, majesty, magnificence, and simplicity at the same time: such that it is, it never ceased to be beautiful.
The elegance of the waist being the principle charm of these Gowns, they have declared war on mantelets with large hoods, flared points, and are only in agreement with round mantelets, such as that in the Print, with contis, or simply with bouillonné or trimmed fichus.
Robe à la Polonaise of white linen with a border of painted linen, a gauze Apron; the coiffure is a Hat trimmed fashionably. (1779)
ROBE A LA POLONAISE, of white linen, with borders or a frame. This Gowns have seemed so comfortable, especially in the country, that Women were eager to give them the most favorable reception. It is true that these Gown give service only momentarily: soon it is necessary to restore them to their first whiteness. But it seems that nothing can resist the desire to satisfy the fair sex; the Calenderers have found the means of rendering these Gowns to their original luster, without being obligated to take them apart, nor remove their trim, and this discovery must certainly make an epoch in the History of Fashion.
Young Wife, as she is led to the altar; she is dressed in a gown of Pekin* trimmed with gauze ribbon and flowers. Her gown is full dress over a medium hoop: the man conducting her is wearing a suit and a vest with a gold ground embroidered around with colored gold threads. (1779)
WEDDING DRESS. This is a full sacqueof rich stuff, trimmed with taste.
Formerly, not only Dress but also the manner of being conducted to the Church and the place of Marriage varied according to the rank and quality of the person. This is the result of a report from the first of December 1446, in the reign of Charles VII, which is here analyzed, which could give an idea of the fashions and customs of the time. "The Dean of Gaye maintained, that Jean Bureau was a Human body, and was provided to serve his Church, because of his mother, wife of Jean Bureau of Tas, his father; and to prove the contrary, and that their people were not only frankish, but also noble, he alleged two things; the first, that this Jean Bureau of Tas was commonly dressed in tatters, in checks, and in a Gentleman's Suit; the second, that the same Jean Bureau had four sons, and a daughter called Perrette Bureau, married to Jean Legras; that she was carried in a hand-barrow, and a bundle of thorn and juniper, to the Monastery, as a gentle woman; that she appeared first in line on the wedding day, and was married in front of the Crucifix, in the Church of Demoine, and the next day was taken in a hand-barrow, on top of a bundle of thorns and juniper, and carried in that state, as it was formerly accustomed to do to Gentlemen and Gentlewomen of the country. This is not done for those who are not noble, even if they are frankish people. For the non-noble Wives of the country are conducted on the wedding day with their chaperone, without being first in line, and they are married at the door of the Church, and are not carried the next day in a hand-barrow."
With the times, these customs, these distinctions are fallen into disuse. In the reign of Louis XIV, a suit of etiquette was introduced for Men on the wedding day. It included leaving the hair hanging on the shoulders. This was an ancient remainder of the fashion of long locks. The purse, the tresses, and the train were deemed part of the Négligé parure, and would not be admitted in a ceremony as august as that of marriage. One is already familiar with purses; they have become an integral part of the parure; and recently, a young Seigneur was seen on his wedding day to have his hair split in two queues.
Regarding Women, the etiquetteis that their hair is coiffed, with let-down lappets, and they are shown in the Print that we are describing. They must also have on the head, what is called a chapeau. This was formerly a type of crown of flowers; it is now some orange blossom buds, forming a quarter circle, placed behind the head. Capuchins and mantelets are also forbidden, and the hand bouquet must be composed of white flowers. It is in this costume which the young Wife is represented in the Print. It will not be, however, irrelevant to observe that all that traditional parure has no place for Widows tying their second knots. The chapeau and the white bouquet, the loose lappets, etc., items that pertain to innocence and virginity, cannot be used by them.
It seems that the young Wife that the Print represents has not forgotten to make use of all the Jewels that her Husband, brave man, without a doubt, and a good Bourgeois, has given her. Trembling earrings, soaring St. Esprit on her chest, brilliant star in her hair, gold bracelets of diverse colors, fan and shoe buckles trimmed with diamonds, nothing lacking, apart from the watch; but it is not she that must give the time to the Shepherd.
The St. Esprit which was just spoken of is one of the ornaments or jewels of the latest fashion: it succeeded the Cross that Womenhad so inappropriately converted to a piece of jewelry; as it is true that luxury and coquetry know how to take advantage of everything, even of that which seems to be the most opposite of them. One can say as much of the St. Esprits, which have replaced the Cross, and that a new fashion has already taken apart. To suspend from her neck and allow to rest on her chest a miniature portrait of her father, her benefactor, her husband, such is the fashion that Women have just adopted. Charming fashion! sacred fashion! its invention is due, without a doubt, to the sweet impulses of a sensitive and faithful heart. May it endure a long time! may it never be profaned! But we return to our Print, and finish. It is said in the caption, that he who conducts the Spouse is dressed in a Suit and a vest with a gold ground. It is necessary to read: dressed in a Suit of spring cannelé velvet, lined with silk of a sharp color; breeches matching the Suit, the whole cut with a vest of cloth of gold, relieved with gold embroidery and sequins of diverse colors. White gloves, bouquet in the hand, chapeau brisé under the arm. * Pekin is silk with stripes of equal width, but the stripes have been omitted in the drawing.