Friday, July 24, 2009
Le Salon de Josephine: Les Incroyables et Merveilleuses...
Bonjour! Here's a continuation of Theresa Cabarrus and Josephine…
It’s no surprise that Josephine is often referred to as a fashion icon. Josephine and her friends, especially Theresa, were long known for wearing the latest fashions and setting new trends. And, although there was a certain regality and poise about Josephine that was ever present, even before her becoming Empress…Ever wonder, how it became that she was also known as a ‘Merveilleuse’?
‘Les Incroyables et Merveilleuses’, was the name given to followers of a fashion movement that evolved in consequence of the period of ‘Terreur.’ It encompassed not only a fashion statement, but a political one as well. At its extreme, the trend went as far as people altering their speech…
Les Incroyables imposed a new dress fashion and distinct hairstyles that often involved having one’s hair shaven or pulled back at the nape to resemble and commemorate those who had been condemned to death. It was not uncommon for many of these fashionable ones to walk around with a knotted sort of club that they would use to thrash any Jacobins-type passer-bys. So fanatically pushed were these Incroyables that they also altered their pronunciation; to reflect their total aversion to the Revolution that they actually omitted all ‘r’ sounds from their speech. Les ‘Incroyables’ was therefore pronounced : ‘Inc oyables’- complete conversations were had in this newly developed jargon.
After having been imprisoned, but before meeting Napoleon, Josephine and her friend Theresa were often called, Les Merveilleuses (the Marvelous ones). The fashion style of Les Merveilleuses called for less rigidity than that of Les Incroyables. These trend setters dressed with the more flowing Greco-Romano style of muslin and light fabric tunics; every style bearing different names such as, the Minerva, the Diana, La Fore…their sandals lacing up their ankles with ribbons or pearled strings. The queen of this fashion, Theresa herself, loved wearing expensive jeweled rings on her toes and bangle-bracelets on her calves. Hair was then worn short and curly resembling those of ancient Romans.
Many of these Merveilleuses indulged in being the center of attention and stopped at nothing to get themselves noticed. Many were known to stroll with poise and confidence through public gardens and parks wearing the sheerest and most audaciously transparent of dresses. Consequently, this scandalized the regular folk and an awful stigma of indecency and frivolity followed these fashionistas to their dismay…Theresa though, was seemingly unperturbed and refused to conform.
Fortunately for her, Theresa’s style was anything but cramped in the salons she often visited. She was a prominent guest at Barras salon; a man who also enjoyed extravagances and worldly pleasures.
Of all the unlikely places, it was in this very salon that the young and seemingly inexperienced Bonaparte was introduced to Josephine. And, even though our favorite lady was by no means as extreme or outrageously overt as Theresa, it was of no coincidence that Bonaparte later forbid Josephine to keep any contact with Theresa. The Emperor did not want his wife to be remembered as having had any associations with a lady, in his opinion, of such shady reputation…
Here is a caricature of Barras and two dancing women (probably in his salon), by James Gillray (1805)
Picture sources: http://revolution.1789.free.fr/page-10.htm
Posted by Lucy at 8:40 AM