La Poule D Inde En Falbala

Painted faces—Reply of a Turkish ambassador—Ineffectual criticism—Mme. Turcaret's " pretintailles " — Mme. Bonnet's law-suit — Brocaded materials — Andriennes " — "Criardes"—Return of " hoops " arid paniers—A sailor's leap—Actresses'paniers, and the Greek head-dress—Mme. de Létorières—D'Hèle arrives frozen at the Café Procope—Waterproofs—Finishing touches—Fans and fan-makers in the seventeenth century—What Mme. de Staël-Holstein thought of fans—Transition.

"The women of this district (Versailles)/' writes La Bruyère, " hasten the decline of their beauty by the use of artifices which they imagine will increase their charms; they paint their lips, cheeks, eyebrows, and shoulders, and liberally display them as well as their bosom, arms, and ears. ... If by the fault of nature women became such as they make themselves by art, that is to say, if their complexion suddenly lost all its freshness, and looked as fiery and leaden as they make it by the use of rouge and paint, they would be inconsolable." And he adds : " If their wish is to be pleasing to men, if it is for the men's sake that they lay on their white and red paint, I have inquired into the matter, and I can tell them that in the opinion of men, or at least of the great majority, the use of white paint and rouge makes them hideous and disgusting ; and that rouge, by itself, both ages and disguises them/'

This reminds us of the reply of a Turkish ambassador who, on being questioned as to the beauty of Frenchwomen, said, " I am no judge of painting."

La Bruyère criticizcd sharply ; while Fénelon, with characteristic gentleness, pointed out that the elegant simplicity of the antique races was far more favourable to beauty than the fashions of the day, which were tending more and more to affectation and over-ornament.

While moralists were thus testifying against their interpretation of the art of pleasing, women continued perseveringly to " improve upon Nature," and load themselves with pretentious finery. They sneered, like the men, at the Abbé de Vassetz's " Traité contre le Luxe des Coiffures," and at the satirical prints on extravagant dress.

Exaggeration robbed the fight-fitting bodices of all grace ; and cc pretintailles," enormous cut-out patterns laid on to skirts of a different colour, made the dress unbearably heavy. There was an extraordinary variety of nomenclature in the fashions of the reign of Louis XIV. The author of Attendez-moi sous l'Orme, a comedietta in one act, performed in May 1694, puts the following remark into the mouth of one of his characters, Agatha, a farmer's daughter :—

"How clever the Paris ladies must be to invent such pretty names ! "

To which Pasquin, the valet, replies,—

u Malapeste! Their imagination is lively enough! Every fashion they invent is to conceal some defect. Falbala high up for those who have no hips ; lower down for those who have too much. Long necks and flat chests brought in the Steinkirk ; and so it is with everything."

The critics were in the right, but let us admit that women were not in the wrong.

On what grounds did the former attempt to limit feminine caprice ? Criticism is easy ; the art of pleasing is much more difficult.

Large cut-out patterns laid on a dress were called " pertintailles " or " pretintailles." Lesage mentions them as a new thing in

" I am always eager after new fashions," says Mme. Turcaret. " I have them all sent to me (in the country) immediately after they come out, and I flatter myself that I was the first to wear pretintailles in the town of Valognes,"

Now we must remember that the comedy of " Turcaret " was first performed in February, 1709.

Faibalas and pretintailles were much alike. The falbala itself was known in ancient times, but the name was invented by M. de Langlée.

A caricature was published on the Poule d'Inde en Falbala. Beneath the engraving were the following lines :—

" Femme, en pretintaille et fontange, Croit être belle comme un ange ; Mais ce vain falbala, par son ample contour,

La rend grosse comme une tour, Et tout cet attirail si fort l'enfle et la guindé, Qu'elle ressemble un poulet d'Inde."1

Our ancestors used to hum a song on the pretintaille to the tune of " La Cheminée du haut en bas : "—

" Lorsqu'une chose est nouvelle, C'est assez pour estre belle ; Des autres on fait peu de cas,

La, la, la, La pretintaille en falbala !

" Il n'importe qui l'invente, Quoyqu'ell' soit extravagante, De bon goût lui cédera,

La, la, la, La pretintaille en falbala !

<É Mais 011 la voit disparaître Au moment qu'on la voit naître, Car tout change et changera,

La, la, la, La pretintaille en falbala !" 2

1 " A woman in ' pretintaille' and ' fontange' Thinks herself as beautiful as an angel \ Eut this vain falbala, by its vast size, Makes her as big as a tower; And all this set-out inflates and stuffs her up, Until she resembles a fat turkey."

" When a thing is new, That suffices to make it handsome^ And little is thought about other things, La, la, la, &c.

The " pretintaille " continued to encroach.

A "devanteau," or apron, was sometimes "pretintaille" to such an extent, that the biggest piece was no larger than the palm of the hand. Falbalas were " pretintailles," for instance, by putting on first a red, then a green, then a yellow one, and then alternating the above colours. Flounces were "pretintailles" in four or five colours : first, a green one, then yellow, red, blue, and white successively.

When the fashion of " pretintailles" first came in, Mme. Bonnet's dressmaker brought an action against her for the sum of 800 livres, the cost of making a " pretintaille" skirt, and gained her cause. Mme. Bonnet was condemned in costs. The bargain had been made at one denier for every yard of sewing.

After the rage for " pretintailles " had passed away, materials with large brocaded patterns in gold or colours came into fashion, and gowns resembled window-curtains. Knots of ribbon were fixed on the tucked-up skirts ; but these again were succeeded by " andriennes," or long, loose, open dresses, like those worn by the actress Marie Carton Dancourt in Terence's " Andrienne."

For a long time past women who wished to show off a slender waist had been wearing "criardes," or dress-improvers of stiffened linen. In 1711 the vertugadins came again into fashion under the name of " hoops " and " paniers."

Certain authors contend that hoops first made their appearance in Germany, whence they found their way to England, and then returned to the Continent by way of France. Paniers were but revived vertugadins, of exaggerated size.

The noise made by the stiffened linen, when pressed against ever so lightly, obtained for them the expressive name of

" No matter who invents it, So that it is extravagant, Good taste yields to it, La, la, la, &c.

" But it disappears Almost as soon as it appears, For all changes and will change, La, la, la, &c.

c:criardes." "Paniers" were so called because they resembled cages, or poultry-baskets. Their framework was open, and the hoops of straw, cord, cane, or whalebone were fastened together by tapes.

Small women, with these paniers on them, were as broad as they were long, and looked at a distance like moving balls. At the concert in the grand reception-room, Mdlle. du Maine, who was wearing enormous paniers, placed herself too near the queen, and incommoded her so much that her majesty could not bear it in silence. In order to prevent the recurrence of such inconvenience, it was ordered that thenceforth the princesses should not draw their seats so near the queen, nor on the same line with her armchair.

Coopers and basket-makers undertook the manufacture of dress-improvers. In vain were these articles railed against ; they prevailed over satire of every kind. Paniers were the ruin of homes, the oread of husbands, and the misery of passers-by.

Paniers for morning wear were called " considérations."

If we may believe M. Emile de la Bédollière, a writer on fashions in France, one Panier, a " maître des requêtes," was drowned on the passage from Martinique to Havre. His name became a catch-word ; and ladies amused themselves by asking each other as they displayed their dress,—

" How do you like my c maître des requêtes * ? "

The jest produced laughter, but the wit is open to criticism.

Paniers, however, remained in fashion, and even increased in size. In vain did men protest against them. There is a story told of a sailor, who, meeting two ladies in the city of Paris whose paniers took up the whole width of the street, found it was impossible to get past them. Pride forbade him to turn back, and in a moment he had taken a flying leap over paniers and ladies, to the admiration and applause of the spectators of both sexes.

An actress, who was making her first appearance in the character of a princess betrothed to a king of Sparta, appeared on the stage in a panier five yards and a half in circumference, under a skirt l 2

of silver gauze. This was trimmed with puffs of gold gauze and pink crape, edged with blue jet, and with bouquets of roses scattered here and there. The under-skirt was of pink silk. Trailing garlands of roses were fastened on by sashes of fringed-out cloth of silver. The train dragged six yards on the floor. Handsome silver embroidery, mingled with white roses, bordered the gown; the sleeves were half-long, draped like the skirt, and caught up with diamond buttons, over pink silk like that of the slip. Her bracelets were of rubies and diamonds, and above the panier was a belt of "s trass," or imitation diamonds and rubies.

Her hair was dressed in what the celebrated hair-dresser Herain was pleased to call the Greek style. A quantity of hair, frizzed into the shape of a pyramid upside down, was framed in roses, gems, and silver gauze. A regal crown surmounted the whole, and a long veil hung down to the edge of the gown. The veil was "a vapeur d'argent," that is, of very light gauze covered with gold spangles; on the left side was an enormous cluster of pink and white feathers, topped by a gigantic heron.

This extraordinary attire was completed by gloves from Martials; white silk stockings with pink and silver clocks, and shoes to match, with heels at least three inches in height.

Louis XIV. presented Mdlle. de Brie and Mme. de Moliere with the mantles worn by them in the ^comedy of the " Sicilien." This was an additional reason for actresses to be included among the queens of fashion. Did they not receive presents from the king ?

It is hard to believe, but members of the sterner sex also yielded to the fascination of hoops. They, too, had their paniers, consisting of whalebones fitted into the wide basques of their coats.

M. de Letorieres had " a straw-coloured watered silk coat, faced with a dark green material shot with gold; a green and gold shoulder knot (aiguillette), and a set of large and small crystal opal buttons set in brilliants, as also was the handle of his sword; his hair was arranged in two waving locks powdered with tan-coloured powder, and fell lightly and gracefully on his neck."

In those days, Fashion ruled very despotically, and took no heed of the severity of the winter.

One very cold day, D'Héle made his appearance at the Café Procope dressed in nankeen.

" How do you manage to dress like that ? " exclaimed his friends.

" How do I manage ? Why, don't you see gentlemen, I freeze!"

Whether for paying visits, or for walks, camlet rain-cloaks or waterproofs were worn in wet weather, and in cold weather " balandrans " were worn, that is, cloaks with armholes.

In the seventeenth century, precious stones took the principal place as ornaments; and gold, however beautifully chased in garlands, flowers, or designs of all sorts, was only used to set and show them off. The provost of trade at Lyons issued an edict forbidding the goldsmiths to sell stuffs woven with silver at more than seventy francs a yard.

But we know the uselessness of sumptuary laws. Numerous and costly articles for the toilet, real specimens .of industrial art, were produced in accordance with the prevailing fashions. There is a tobacco-grater in the Louvre collection which evidently belonged to some lady or gentleman of the time of Louis XIV. It is rather well carved in ivory.

Large fans with handles were in fashion towards the year 1700. It was considered a mark of high breeding for men to chastise their wives and daughters with them. This was putting fans to a singular use, which probably did not last long.

The trade in fans increased to such an extent in France, and particularly in Paris, that the workers formed themselves into a guild, like the guilds of other trades. They petitioned for statutes and privileges, which were willingly granted to them by Louis XIV. In the eighteenth century there were more than five hundred manufactories of fans in Paris.

From this we may judge how widespread was their use.

cc Let us picture to ourselves," wrote Mme. de Stael to a friend, at a later period, "let us picture to ourselves a most charming woman, splendidly dressed, graceful and gracious in the highest degree : yet if with all those advantages she manages her fan in a f bourgeoise' way, she may at any moment become a laughingstock. There are so many ways of playing with that precious appendage, that by a mere movement of the fan one can tell a princess from a countess, a marchioness from a plebeian. And then it imparts such gracefulness to those who know how to manage it! Twirling, closing, spreading, rising or falling, according to circumstance! "

Mme. de Stael carefully abstains from describing fans as adopted for the u chastisement of wives and daughters." A monstrous innovation, probably, in her opinion.

There is a scarcely perceptible transition between the reign of Louis XIV. and that of Louis XV.

Mme. de Maintenon's influence, which had caused a momentary eclipse in the brilliant costumes of Versailles, soon passed away, and the passion for the most eccentric novelties became stronger than ever, at court, in the palaces of princes, and in the salons of the bourgeoisie.

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