Shapes and outlines
Pair of shoes worn by the Empress Joséphine on the day of her coronation (1804)
Embroidered with stars and bees, they give an idea of the luxury on show during these events and of the strong symbolism associated with imperial outfits. Indeed, the bee is one of the emblems chosen by Napoleon 1st (1804-1815) to symbolise work but also for its reference to jewellery found in a Merovingian king's tomb, thus ensuring a filiation with the first dynasty of Kings of France.
While he was still only Consul (1799-1804), Bonaparte had promised the city of Lyon, whose textile activities were devastated by the fall of the « Former Régime », to revive and support production by public commissions. The tapestries and seat fittings of many imperial residences were renewed, while a new clothing label was imposed at the court.
Wedding dress (around 1805)
In summer as well as winter dresses are cut mostly in light white fabrics; cotton muslin or linen. While the embroideries were not frequent in the women's wardrobe of the « Former Régime », they make a timid appearance here, foreshadowing a return to luxury.
Short « balloon » sleeves replace long sleeves finishing in mittens while the square neck largely reveals the bust.
Cashmere scarf, Guillaume Ternaux (around 1812)
Ternaux does not hesitate to finance breeding where goats from Asia are crossed with local goats in order to produce a raw material that is both fine and warm.
The Ternaux shawl poetically interprets the cashmere palmette and responds to the whiteness of the Empire dresses. The wider red shawl adapts to the size of the new romantic dresses.
« A la française » clothing (1804-1815)
For men, although more sober clothes such as embroidered frocks, frock-coats and trousers are worn in everyday life, clothes « à la française » from the Former Régime, reappear with little change.
Appearing at the end of the 17th century this type of men's clothing comprises three pieces. Bloomers that stop at the knees, the waistcoat (white in general), and the coat with a high officer collar worn on top that contrasts through its dark colour without being austere. The embroidery, with rich plant motifs punctuates all the borders and flaps.
This dress has a much more traditional and outdated character compared to dresses with the radical and vertical modernity of the early 19th century.
While the Restoration policy was established (1815-1830), whale-boning was itself restored under the name of corset. The nostalgia of past styles is also confirmed by a reference to the « leg of lamb » sleeves and the bell skirts supported by a Renaissance farthingale.
Brightly coloured printed textiles contrast with the watered-down colours of the Empire. They find a counterpoint in the decorative overkill of jewellery, using various types of techniques in order to vary textures and shines.
Frock coat worn by Barbey d'Aurevilly (around 1840)
At the end of the Former Regime, a wave of anglomania resulted in the wool fitted coat derived from a riding coat appearing in France. For a time, this garment, symbolising the masculine elegance of the 19th century, timidly followed the increase in volume of the female skirt.
One would have imagined this frock coat, worn by the more eccentric dandy-writer Barbey d'Aurevilly, but as Baudelaire points out, recalling Barbey : Also, in his eyes, above all else, the perfection of clothing finds itself in absolute simplicity, which is indeed the best way to distinguish yourself !
In these times of industrial and financial revolution, social success was reflected in the size of the skirt. The shape of the hoop skirt evolved rapidly. Round until 1860, it then adopted a conical shape, then flattened on the front and projected backwards in the second half of the 1860s, disappearing before the end of the decade.
The dresses now form a pouf at the back, accentuated by draped over-skirt effects. Several more or less adjustable support accessories followed one another or competed. Ladders of ruffles armed with hair or crayfish tail made of half-hoops of superimposed metal or willow, descend almost to the ground, padded horsehair cushion, faux-cul, or fold-up-seats, accentuated the buttocks with their reduced height.
Cashmere shawls, prized for a good part of the century, were neglected by the elegant in light of the upsurge of cheap printed versions. Some shawls were recycled, as here.
Symptomatic of the discomfort of feminine outfits, victims of fashion, this short jacket called a « visite », presents a constraining sleeve cut which, imprisoning the entire upper body, allows for only limited movements. It adapts to the raised shape of a skirt and shows a fondness for the « upholsterer » style.
The first signs of industrial innovation were seen at the beginning of the century. In the field of weaving, Jacquard looms allowed woven patterns to be created. Then, clothing assembly methods were overturned by the distribution of the sewing machine. The embroidery machine appeared while textile printing benefited from new techniques. Finally, the progress of chemistry enriched the range of textile dyes. Thanks to these innovations, sale prices fell ; a new form of tailoring was born. Indeed, production cycles were now distinguishable from sales channels. Anticipating customers' needs, temples dedicated to commerce were built using the new model of the department store. Advertising, affecting ever broader targets, contributed to economic development.
Text and choice of images: Corinne Dumas-Toulouse, Art historian and speaker at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Editorial coordination of the virtual exhibition: Maude Bass-Krueger, assisted by Alexandra Harwood and César Imbert