Directoire. Characteristic costume of the French revolutionaries.

directoire, Incroyables, Merveilleuses, French, revolutionaries, costumes
Directoire. Characteristic costume of the French revolutionaries.

DIRECTOIRE 1789 A.D. – 1800 A.D.

French revolutionaries.


Hers is an example of the characteristic costume of the French revolutionaries who, to show their radical political ideas, affected extremely faddish garments. The men were called the Incroyables (Unbelievables); the women, Merveilleuses (Marvelous ones). Their dress showed an interest in lower class garments, a studied carelessness, and, as can be seen in the picture, a pleasant ensemble.

The bicorne hat, made popular by Napoleon, is shown here in its most simple form. It has a round crown exactly like the tricorne, but the brim instead of being folded in three sections has been folded in only two, front and back, giving the effect shown here. It is trimmed on the front brim with a cockade and ribbon, popular among the revolutionaries. The powdered wig and hair have disappeared; men wear their hair in its natural color, rather long and disheveled. A high, upstanding collar is visible here in the point of his left cheek. The remainder of this collar is hidden by the “choker,” a wide linen cravat wound around the neck and concealing even the chin. Its two ends are tied in front in a bow.

The coat is the new tail-coat. The skirts of the Louis coat had shrunk and moved back until they formed two tails, which, in the case of the Incroyables, hung very low on the leg. Its high double collar and extremely wide lapels, though characteristic, are exaggerated when worn by this group of French dandies. Notice the square, double-breasted front, long, normal-fitting sleeve, small cuff, and the pocket flaps high on the hip. The waistcoat is a simple flowered garment, cut square across the front and high on the chest.

The trousers are longer than those worn in the preceding era and are tailored to fit the thighs without a wrinkle. They open down the sides. Notice the four buttons on the leg. The striped stockings and crooked stick are characteristic of the Incroyables. The pumps of black kid are heelless, and decorated with silver buckle. Pumps were very popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

This revolutionary French woman presents a striking contrast to the late Louis XVI figure in Plate 76. The trend toward simplicity resulted in a classic silhouette for women.

Notice the poke bonnet the young lady is wearing. Also notice her loose, tousled hair. The neckcloth, like the man’s, has been drawn over her chin.

It was typical of this period to cut the bodice dangerously low, as indicated. The tiny puff sleeves are classic. The long waistline and voluminous skirt were soon to give way to a higher waistline and a more slanted simple skirt.

The woman’s shoes are mere soles with long wrapping-straps attached. They are decidedly Greek in style, and unquestionably constitute the truest classic imitation of the ensemble. The woman carries in her left hand an embroidered purse. She wears a shawl and a long full skirt, which of necessity must be held high.

The scanty nature of the dress of these years caused the shawl or some other wrap to be an almost constant accessory.

History of Costume.


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