Incroyable and Merveilleuse. French revolution dresses

Incroyable and Merveilleuse costumes. French revolution dresses. Modes Parisiennes (1795) by Horace Vernet.

Modes Parisiennes (1795) by Horace Vernet.

French revolution dresses. Incroyable and Merveilleuse.

Incroyable and Directoire. French revolution dresses.

Despite the implacable hatred of anything verging upon “aristocratisme” and despite the suspicion which was apt to attach to anyone but a “sans-culotte” (without breeches), the desire for the novel, if not the beautiful, in dress could not be kept down and, as a consequence, the French Revolution gave us two remarkable and distinctive modes, the ” Incroyable ” and the ” Directoire,” and laid the foundations of what are known as the First Empire styles. (Read more)

Gallery: Incroyables and Merveilleuses

Pen-Portrait of an Incroyable by Honore de Balzac.

“Incroyable” (incredible) was the sobriquet given to the fops or dandies of the later Revolutionary period. Here is the description of one of these remarkably dressed personages as given by the French writer, Honore de Balzac:

The costume of his unknown presented an exact picture of the fashion which at that time called forth the caricatures of the Incroyables. Imagine a person muffled in a coat so short in front that there showed beneath five or six inches of the waistcoat and with skirts so long behind that they resembled a codfish tail, a term then commonly employed to designate them. An immense cravat formed round his neck such innumerable folds that the little head emerging from a labyrinth of muslin almost justified Captain Merle’s kitchen simile. (Merle had described the Incroyable as looking “like a duck with its head protruding from a game pie.“) The stranger wore tight breeches and boots à la Suwarrow; a huge white and blue cameo was stuck, as a pin, in his shirt. Two watch chains hung in parallel festoons at his waist, and his hair, hanging in corkscrew curls on each side of the face, almost hid his forehead.

Finally, as a last touch of decoration, the collars of his shirt and his coat rose so high that his head presented the appearance of a bouquet in its paper wrappings. If there be added to these insignificant details, which formed a mass of disparities with no ensemble, the absurd contrast of his yellow breeches, his red waistcoat, his cinnamon brown coat, a faithful portrait will be given of the height of fashion at which dandies aimed at the beginning of the Consulate Preposterous as the costume was, it seemed to have been invented as a sort of touchstone of elegance to show that nothing can be too absurd for fashion to hallow it.

Related:
 Louis XIV. , Louis XV. , Louis XVI., Baroque, Rococo, Directoire, French Revolution, Regency, Empire, Restoration or Romanticism fashion era. German Biedermeier.




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  1. The Incroyables and Muscadins. The French directory dandies.
  2. Les Incroyables et Merveilleuses. “The Directoire Style” between 1795–1804.
  3. Fashion in Paris after the Revolution. By Octave Uzanne. 1796-1800.
  4. Les Modes sous la revolution 1792-1799 by Paul Louis Victor de Giafferri.
  5. Fashion under the  French revolution 1789 to 1802.
  6. Timeline of the French Revolution 1789 – 1799.
  7. The French Fashion History.
  8. Reign of Louis XIV. 1643 to 1715
  9. The Reign of Louis XV. 1715 to 1774.
  10. Reign of Louis XVI. 1780 to 1789.
  11. The French Republic 1789 to 1802.
  12. Reign of Napoleon I. 1804 to 1814. France empire.
  13. Reigns of Louis XVIII. and Charles X. 1815 to 1830. Restoration,  Romanticism
  14. Fashion in the Reign of Philippe. 1830 to 1848. Victorian era. Romanticism fashion.
  15. The Second Republic. 1848 -1851. Victorian era. “Second Rococo”.
  16. The use of the Corset in the reign of Louis XVI.
  17. Ladies hat styles from 1776-1790 by Rose Bertin.
  18. Paris fashion 1793 to 1795. French revolution.
  19. The Execution of the King Louis XVI.
  20. The Execution of Marie-Antoinette.
  21. Nymphs and Merveilleuses. By Octave Uzanne.
  22. Portraits by people during the French Revolution
  23. The Gallery of Fashion. by Nikolaus von Heideloff, London.
  24. Comparison of the French and English modes. 1808 to 1815
  25. The Salon of Madame Récamier during the French Revolution.
  26. The Salons of Paris before the French Revolution.
  27. Caraco a´la francaise in 1786.
  28. The Evolution of Modern Feminine Fashion 1786.
  29. Fashion in Paris and London, 1780 to 1788.
  30. Historic hairstyles from Ancient times to the Empire.