Fashion of the week - Daydress, 1790

This is a French drawing showing the fashion right after the onset of the French Revolution (began in 1789). The French Revolution was not an episode that can be understood as just one event, it was not just the storming of the Bastille, or the execution of the king and queen.

The fashion that you mostly connect to the French Revolution is the regency fashion with high waists, thin fabrics (though 'Regency fashion' in itself might be a dangerous title to adopt when talking about French fashion - it is an English term, tailored for English circumstances. In France the styles are referred to as directoire and empire). The fashion of 1790 had nothing to do with the fashion that was to come.

To put it a bit bluntly, the fashion was what it had been before the start of things. It was wide skirts and slim waists - requiring a corset. It was an overdress in one material, a robe - here in blue, and in the front it gave way so that you could see the skirts worn under. It would be wrong to say that you showed your petticoats, these skirts were meant to be seen and it was not just any old under-garment you had in your closet you put on.

The first thing that happened after the onset of the Revolution, fashion-wise, was a restriction in the already existing fashion, fabrics chosen were simpler, there was not as much ornaments to the dress - and quite frankly this dress is not a good example, being covered in quite a lot of lace. But bonnet, gloves and fan were still accessories very much needed and worn by any upper-class woman - even in France in 1790.

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