Sunday, January 18, 2009

Following the Fashions

This print is pretty self-explanitory. Regency Gowns simply don't flatter every figure. Compare Gillray's take on the new fashions of the late 1790s with Boilly's, where a dedicated follower of fashion (a merveilleuse) is mistaken for a prostitute because of the general skimpiness of her attire.

In the 1790s, fashion took a complete 360 from the poufs and panniers associated with Marie Antoinette. The French Republic wished to complete change French culture, and what better medium than fashion? Since the National Assembly wanted to build a republic the likes of which had only been found in ancient Rome, tailors and dress-makers took their cues from ancient Roman statues, which meant high waists, long, trailing drapery, and simpler, curlier hair-styles.
Since the French set the fashion, England followed, even though for most of the period when empire-waist dresses were popular, England and France were engaged in a series of long and vicious wars against each other.
Fashion, apparently, is the one import that continues despite naval blockades and Russian winters.


  1. I love the Romanesque hairstyles of the Empire era, and that style of dress survives today, but I much prefer the historical dress of the late eighteenth century (before the waistline started creeping up around the armpits). The stays must have been rather uncomfortable, although they don't look as constricting as Victorian corsets, but the whole look was much more feminine - and hid a multitude of sins! A woman was pulled in, pushed out and covered up where every woman should be, and the fabrics were gorgeous (if you were rich, of course, but what other life is there?) And of course, reinforced bosoms and copious petticoats were much kinder to the multitude, as your first diagram illustrates! Great blog.

  2. Sorry to spam your blog with my incoherent comments, but I just wanted to comment on the awesomeness of the merveilleuse-drawing. She had it coming, really.