Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vernet's 1814 Merveilleuses and Incroyables

I enjoy Historical costuming for several reasons. The obvious reason is it allows me to dress up and pretend I am a pretty pretty princess. I also enjoy it as a creative outlet. But another reason, that most people don't hear about, is the academic reason. I love history, and because of that I enjoy finding out the whos, whats, and whys of the garments I make.
Recently I was given the opportunity to join a new group.

But WHAT ARE Merveilleuses and Incroyables? 
The Merveilleuses or the Marvelous Ones (women) and the Incroyables or the Incredible Ones/Unbelievables (men) were part of an aristocratic youth (young adults) movement during the French Revolutionary War.
I already knew that the fashions during this time had taken a drastic turn. The more elaborate and ornate styles, of a century earlier, that included lush fabrics, jewels, wide skirts and over the top hairstyles were now out. This style reflected the earlier regime's extravagance that the Revolutionist were against. Instead a new style was adapted that borrowed from the simpler fashions of the past. The main influences can be seen in the flowing tunics and gowns that were worn by the Ancient Greeks.
The Merveilleusus and Incroyables rebelled against the simplicity of the new fashions. 
For the Merveilleusus their rebellious outfits went in two directions. One direction was to take the thin flowing garments that were fashionable to the extreme. The fabric of their gowns was so sheer it was transparent, and their legs could be seen through the skirts of their dresses. They often increased this "naked look by dampening the cloth of their dresses to make them cling more closely to their bodies. Many gowns displayed cleavage and were so tight the wearer would not be able to carry things in her pockets. One source said that even a handkerchief would disrupt the lines of the dress. This can be seen in many caricatures made during the time period.

Caricatures tend to show fashions in extreme but paintings done at that time,of Merveilleuses, show the same trends.

The other trend that both men and women followed were to wear eccentric clothing that was a comical exaggeration of the new simple fashions. Young men wore what was essentially a English Country Suit that had been Caricatured-ized. sums it up nicely. Men wore:
"Skintight pants with extremely short vests, often made of flowered fabric, were topped with a jacket made so long its wide flared tails reached the ankles. The coat sleeves were so long that they hid the hands from sight, and the lapels were so large they often stuck out several inches beyond the wearer. The back of the bulky coat was bunched in folds, and the front was cut to look uneven when the jacket was buttoned. The jacket collar stood up high behind the head in back, and a huge cravat, or neck covering, was wrapped so high around the neck that it covered the chin and mouth. Incroyables cut their hair raggedly, and it hung long and shaggy on the sides of their heads, in a style called "dog's ears." They wore large, two-cornered hats, carried over-sized eyeglasses, and often wore two watches."
The women's outfits were much more varied to sum up nicely in one paragraph. But starting in January of 2015 many of Vernet's Merveilleuses and Incroyable fashion plates will be coming to life. There may not be a lot of dampening of our gowns, but there is plenty of over the top caricature-ized crazy and fun gowns.
If you'd like to learn more or to follow along, you can find us on Facebook, and I promise to share all the parts I find especially intriguing in Mundane Monday links.

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