Led by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Enlightenment concerns about the negative consequences of luxury and artifice, as well as clothing's physical and moral effects, meant that by the late eighteenth century naturalism, simplicity, comfort, health, and morality had become the bywords of dress. In the newly invented French fashion press, editors adopted philosophes' arguments to resolve potential conflicts between consumption and Enlightenment ideas. However, they did so primarily with Ottoman-inspired French fashions rather than with the English styles that have thus far been the primary scholarly concern. Turquerie—Turkish-focused Orientalism—allowed the creators of these magazines to connect fashion to Enlightenment principles while reinforcing consumption through more subtle promotions of luxury; moreover, unlike the democratically linked English-inspired styles that followed, turquerie did not challenge France's autocratic monarchy.
Dans la seconde moitié du dix-huitième siècle, le mouvement des Lumières a eu des effets considérables sur la culture française, notamment sur l'habillement et l'apparence. Soulevées par le philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau, les préoccupations des Lumières au sujet des méfaits du luxe et de l'artifice, ainsi que les conséquences physiques et morales du port du vêtement, ont fait du naturalisme, de la simplicité, du confort, de la santé et de la moralité les maîtres mots du vêtement à la fin du dix-huitième siècle. Dans la presse de mode française, nouvellement créée, les éditeurs adoptèrent les arguments des philosophes afin de résoudre les conflits potentiels entre la consommation et les idées des Lumières. Cependant, ils le firent principalement à travers la promotion des modes françaises d'inspiration ottomane, plutôt qu'avec les styles anglais qui jusque-là ont fait l'objet de nombreuses études. La turquerie—l'orientalisme turc—permit en effet aux éditeurs des journaux de réconcilier la mode avec les principes des Lumières tout en renforçant l'incitation à la consommation via la promotion du luxe par des moyens plus subtils. Contrairement aux styles d'inspiration anglaise liés à la démocratie qui s'en suivirent, la turquerie ne remettait pas en cause la monarchie autocratique française.
In 1778 the French fashion magazine Gallerie des modes et costumes français proclaimed that Jean-Jacques Rousseau's (1712–78) proposed dress reforms were finally achieved in women's mainstream fashion:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau . . . having declaimed strongly against the practice of swaddling infants, and against the manner they are dressed, has finally had the satisfaction of making converts; children are raised, dressed according to the method he indicated; but the simplicity he sought to introduce to the clothing of men and women did not have the same success. It was not until 1778 . . . one ventured to make gowns [robes] analogous to the principles of the Author, and it was on the polonaises that this was attempted; they are known under the name of polonaises à la Jean-Jacques.1
In the second half of the eighteenth century the Enlightenment had substantial effects on French culture. Philosophes debated how best to order societies and the most beneficial ways of living, including issues related to fashion and appearance. The intellectual leader in this area was Rousseau, who was concerned about the negative consequences of luxury and artifice on society, as well as clothing's physical and moral effects, arguing in favor of more “natural” dress. Many Enlightenment writers developed his ideas, such that by the late eighteenth century naturalism, simplicity, comfort, health, and morality became the bywords of dress.
The robe à la polonaise described by the Gallerie was part of a trend for Ottoman-inspired women's fashions that occurred in France from the 1760s through the 1790s. Its name referred to Poland, whose dress was under Ottoman cultural influence; this was a component of Turkish-focused Orientalism, a movement scholars call turquerie. Multiple historians have argued that late eighteenth-century fashion magazine editors adopted philosophes' arguments to resolve potential conflicts between consumption and Enlightenment ideas. However, editors did so primarily with Ottoman-inspired fashions, rather than with the English styles that have thus far been the scholarly focus. Turquerie allowed the creators of these magazines to connect fashion to Enlightenment principles while reinforcing consumption through more subtle promotions of luxury; unlike the democratically linked English-inspired styles that followed, turquerie did not challenge France's autocratic monarchy. As editors embraced Enlightenment thinkers' imagined associations around Ottoman culture, Turkish design elements were assimilated into French fashion and thus daily lives.
In the eighteenth century interest in the Ottoman Empire was common across western Europe. Although many non-Western societies fascinated the French, information about the Ottomans was the most readily available.2 After the Ottomans' failed siege of Vienna (1683), regular trade and diplomatic missions between the empire and western Europe encouraged turquerie. Turkish envoys to France in 1669, 1720–21, and 1741–42 created widespread fascination, while artworks and writings by travelers like the painter Jean-Baptiste Vanmour and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu circulated extensively, building interest in a region considered exotic, mysterious, and luxurious.3 Goods like coffee, tea, textiles, and furniture were imported from or through the empire, while copies and adaptations were produced domestically.4 Over time turquerie integrated into French culture via art; architecture; domestic goods; food; interior and exterior décor; gardens; entertainment, including literature and theater; and dress, including masquerade, theater costumes, and fashion.5 These were not just upper-class phenomena: Julia Landweber reveals that theater brought Ottoman representations to French nobility and bourgeois, while Cissie Fairchilds demonstrates that Parisian working classes (small shopkeepers, master artisans, journeymen, day laborers, and domestic servants) made Turkish coffee and textiles part of their daily lives.6
The foundational work on turquerie is Edward Said's Orientalism. Said argues that western Europeans created a fictional “Orient” to be Europe's fundamental “Other” as a means of “dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient”; Orientalism subsumed many disparate countries and cultures into one semihomogeneous idea, which Westerners compared negatively (childlike, irrational, depraved, different) to Europe (rational, virtuous, mature, normal).7 Successive historians have complicated Said's argument, demonstrating that contradictory images of the East encompassed accurate and fictional information, ranging from positive to negative, depending on the era. Regarding the eighteenth century, scholars debate to what extent turquerie served as a dominating force of West over East and whether it is better understood as cross-cultural questioning. Srinivas Aravamudan argues that eighteenth-century Orientalism focused on understanding “civilizational differences both relativistically and universally,” while Nebahat Avcıoğlu contends that the era's relatively balanced power structures meant that turquerie was a Western experiment with “alternative aesthetic, cultural, and political role models.”8 Most useful for this study, Adam Geczy argues that Orientalism enters fashion via three core processes: unconscious “assimilation, improvement, adoption and influence”; “masquerade, repatriation or reidentification,” wearing the literal costume of the other, affording “temporary release from social restrictions”; and “inflection, inspiration, tokenism and galvanization,” whereby Orientalism becomes a political tool to separate from the usual.9 All three processes operated in late eighteenth-century French fashion: the conscious masquerade of wearing an Ottoman costume for a masquerade, portrait, or theater combined with the tokenism of adopting Ottoman characteristics into French dress and then calling the style Turkish, leading to real influence and assimilation.
Fashion in Late Eighteenth-Century French Culture
Under Louis XIV's reign (1643–1715), French elite society centered on titles, status, and wealth at the court of Versailles and the urban center of Paris.10 However, the simultaneous exponential growth of consumption meant that by the early eighteenth century a substantial bourgeois class existed with ready access to consumer goods.11 This fundamentally affected dress: bourgeois and wage earners in Paris and other large cities increasingly participated in the growing fashion system, expanding the number of items purchased and the amount of personal preference given to clothing selection.12 With more effective communication, flourishing secondhand clothes markets, and manufacturing and trade advances that lowered costs, an exponentially broader swath of French society engaged with fashion.13
During the seventeenth century women's principal fashion garment was the robe, a gown consisting of a boned, stiffened bodice and one or more full skirts. However, growing enthusiasm for Eastern-inspired dressing gowns led, in the 1670s, to the manteau's introduction for fashionable informal dress.14 This gown was cut in large, simple pieces that mimicked Middle Eastern and Asian kaftans.15 It was loosely draped, with a sash cinching the waist. Its look was soft and easy, but separate boned stays were added underneath for anything beyond private, at-home wear. Over time the manteau became stylized through seaming and pleating, transforming into the robe volante in the 1720s and then into the robe à la française in the 1730s. Both featured wide pleats from shoulder to hem in front and back, although the française grew increasingly fitted through the front and side torso as it continued in popularity. Both presented loose or semiloose appearances but were worn over stays, with the addition of hoops, giving the body an artificial shape underneath.
The century's final decades saw many new gowns introduced, as well as increasingly popular shorter jackets. These can be grouped thematically; those derived from Ottoman and English dress are of interest here. Ottoman-inspired modes took their signature layering and loose silhouettes from the dress of the empire.16 This included areas under Ottoman cultural influence, like Poland, where nobles' dress was “strongly influenced by Ottoman, and more broadly Eastern fashion,” causing Westerners to use “their knowledge or idea of what was Ottoman, or ‘Oriental,’ to understand the clothing.”17 Characteristics drawn from Ottoman dress were layering (including open fronts and short oversleeves displaying longer undersleeves), loose fits, sashes, striped fabrics, tassels, asymmetry, looped-up skirts, minimal seaming, and wide fur trims. Robes à la polonaise (Polish) (fig. 1), circassienne (Circassian), and turque (Turkish) mimicked Ottoman kaftans, fastening at the breast and falling open in a triangular line; the circassienne and turque added short oversleeves over longer undersleeves; the polonaise and circassienne featured looped-up overskirts. The lévite was cut similarly to dressing gowns and kaftans, with a collar and sash from Ottoman dress; its name referred to the Jewish priestly caste, while its design was inspired by costumes from Racine's play Athalie, set in the ancient kingdom of Judah, now modern Israel but part of the eighteenth-century Ottoman Empire. Several less popular styles similarly referenced the empire, including robes à la levantine (the Levant, the Ottoman-controlled eastern Mediterranean) and sultane. By contrast, English-inspired fashions were more fitted, often including traditionally masculine design elements. The riding habit jacket and redingote gown were tailored and menswear styled, while the robe à l'anglaise (English), adapted from the French manteau via the English mantua, was characterized by a tight torso fit achieved through complex seaming and pleating. All styles of this era were generally worn over corsets (although these were becoming lighter), petticoats, and small hoops or, increasingly, pads.
In the last quarter of the eighteenth century the French fashion industry grew and became more diverse, in part due to the invention of fashion magazines.18 Since the late seventeenth century the Mercure de France and ladies' pocket books had contained occasional fashion news. With the founding of the Courier de la mode (1768–69), followed by the hugely influential Gallerie des modes et costumes français (1778–87), fashion information was disseminated regularly to a wider audience of noble and bourgeois readers in Paris and the provinces.19 The Gallerie was followed by the Cabinet des modes, ou les modes nouvelles (1785–86), which became the Magasin des modes nouvelles, françaises et anglaises (1786–89) and then finally the Journal de la mode et du goût (1790–92). The French Revolution interrupted this sequence, but new titles commenced with the Journal des dames et modes in 1797.
Fashion was held to be an important record of contemporary tastes, so editors tried to convey what was really worn in Paris.20 However, multiple creators drew, wrote, edited, and published these periodicals. For example, the Parisian printmakers Jacques Esnault and Michel Rapilly edited the Gallerie, while at least five artists drew its plates: Claude-Louis Desrais, Pierre-Thomas Leclerc, J.-B. Martin, de Saint-Aubin, and Watteau fils.21 Meanwhile, Jean-Antoine Le Brun (“Lebrun-Tossa”) was responsible for both the Cabinet des modes and the Journal de la mode et du goût.22 A hatmaker's son, Le Brun studied for the priesthood before teaching and publishing. He was young and inexperienced when beginning the Cabinet, relying on printer, bookseller, and journalist François Buisson's assistance.23 Thus these creators were not necessarily fashion experts, multiple hands were involved, and creators contradicted one another and themselves.
The Enlightenment and Fashion
Dress interested Enlightenment thinkers as they explored interconnected ideas about commerce, display, and performance in urban public life.24 Writers like François Fénelon, Etienne de La Font de Saint-Yenne, Louis-Joseph Plumard de Dangeul, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and François Véron Duverger de Forbonnais articulated concerns about artifice and luxury's negative effects, in part as expressed through fashion, on individuals and society. Physicians like Jacques Ballexserd, Pierre Brouzet, Jean Charles Desessartz, Alphonse LeRoy, Joseph Raulin, and Charles Augustin Vandermonde focused attention on the health aspects of children's (and sometimes adult women's) dress. These medical concerns were then adopted by a number of philosophers, including John Locke, Rousseau, and George-Louis Leclerc, the Comte de Buffon.25
Rousseau's writings underpin most Enlightenment thinking on dress. His response to perceived social ills was to search for a mythical “state of nature” that would be more appropriate, healthful, and constructive to well-functioning societies. Although Rousseau's writing on dress was general, his advocacy of naturalism had significant impact on ideas about fashion. His book Emile (1762) was hugely influential, leading to fundamental changes in children's clothing, while his promotion of simple, comfortable lifestyles subtly affected adult dress. Jennifer Jones argues that near the end of the century Enlightenment thinkers built on Rousseau's ideas and reached broad agreement that “fashions should be ‘natural’ rather than artificial and dissimulating.”26 By the 1770s these concepts had achieved widespread popularity across French society, leading to a growing desire for naturalism and simplicity in appearance and real effects on fashion.27
Connections between Enlightenment ideas and English-inspired fashions have long been established in historical scholarship. Aileen Ribeiro, who has extensively researched this period, argues that Anglomania was responsible for introducing “more informal,” “simpler, more egalitarian” styles, which were “important as they were linked to a ‘democratic’ political system.”28 Others have followed suit, such as Madeleine Delpierre, who discusses Rousseau's influence in the context of the “taste for simplicity and comfort” and “passion for things English that grabbed French society,” while Jones contrasts the “simpler robe à l'anglaise” and “more spare, neoclassical garb” with the “fantastical creations of the marchandes de modes.”29 Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is one of the few scholars to note that, despite being “outwardly distinct,” Orientalism, Anglomania, and neoclassicism in fashion were “philosophically related.”30 She demonstrates that the English passion for outdoor, physical activities led to their creation of “functional, comfortable garments,” which the French adopted, associating these with the Enlightenment writers who championed England's constitutional government.31 Meanwhile, Chrisman-Campbell argues that “eastern dress was considered morally superior to western dress as it was more practical, more comfortable, and less susceptible to whims of fashion.”32 Nearly all these scholars put the transition to simpler modes in the 1780s; only Jones has examined contemporary fashion magazines in-depth, but her focus is gender.33
English-inspired dress was indeed fashionable in late eighteenth-century France due to its informal and democratic connotations.34 Fashion periodicals document, however, that the vogue for anglomanie occurred in the 1780s, after the Ottoman trend, and elicited little Enlightenment-themed discourse—at least in the contemporary fashion magazines studied here. When editors did connect English fashions to Enlightenment ideas, they did so primarily with men's fashion, which received little coverage.35 By contrast, fashion magazines extolled the Enlightenment virtues of Ottoman-inspired women's dress from their earliest issues in the late 1760s. Discussion surrounding English modes may be undocumented, as no fashion magazines were published between 1770 and 1778. Furthermore, as the Gallerie began in 1778, the American Revolution and resulting Anglo-French war temporarily dampened enthusiasm for anglomanie.36 Pascale Maillard's research on Parisian noble wardrobes supports my argument, however: the inventories she examines demonstrate that the Ottoman-inspired polonaise and lévite were the two most popular styles in female wardrobes from 1775 to 1782, while the English-inspired anglaise and redingote did not appear until 1784 and never in comparable numbers.37
The Enlightenment and Turquerie in the French Fashion Press
Turquerie interested Enlightenment thinkers because, as a facet of Orientalism, it provided a focal “other” to compare against French society and symbols through which French writers could critique their own culture while avoiding government censors.38 Additionally, although Rousseau usually pointed to Native North Americans as exemplars, his search for more “natural” models encouraged others to look at non-Western cultures.39 Regarding specific dress advice, Enlightenment writers overwhelmingly recommended children and, occasionally, adult women wear non-Western, usually Ottoman, clothing instead of French. For example, the physician Guillaume-René Le Fébure recommended dressing toddlers in “Muslim” clothing that was literally Ottoman, including kaftans, trousers, and turbans, as these could be “simple or decorated with magnificence” and avoided “constraint,” which “opposes growth and blood circulation.”40 These same advantages were applied to Ottoman-inspired French women's fashions; specifically, Enlightenment authors frequently endorsed the robes à la polonaise and turque, as well as the lévite. For instance, the Swiss doctor Jean-André Venel encouraged adult women to wear “robes turques and those à la polonaise, which snugly mark the natural contours of the torso. . . . [They] are an infinitely more pleasant illusion in the eyes of sensible and tasteful men.”41 Similarly, the novelist Restif de la Bretonne declared, “Any honest girl will wear a dress like those that are called à la polonaise”; later he wrote approvingly of “a general revolution in the manner of dressing, especially that of women. One can only approve of robes-à-la-polonaise, à-l'anglaise, à-la-levite,” becoming one of the few to promote English styles.42
Fashion magazine editors responded to these recommendations by promoting women's fashions named and styled after foreign locations and cultures, primarily the Ottoman Empire and areas it influenced. While some scholars have dismissed the naming conventions of late eighteenth-century fashion, it is significant the fashion press promoted, and readers embraced, styles whose designations overwhelmingly referred to the empire. Chrisman-Campbell argues that readers were interested in what was worn “but also what these fashions were called: the fashion culture was clearly verbal as well as visual, and the descriptions of the fashions in the journal were as important as the fashion engravings.”43 Furthermore, recent research substantiates real distinctions between styles of different names, and those with Ottoman names indeed incorporated characteristics of Turkish dress.44
A primary reason for Enlightenment enthusiasm for Ottoman clothing was the mistaken assumption that dress there was unchanged since ancient times.45 For example, the philosopher Sylvain Maréchal declared, “Costume, in Turkey, is not subject to the caprices of fashion; if variations are allowed, they are so small that they are scarcely perceived.”46 Antiquity was a period philosophes venerated, and this extended to clothing of the period; Rousseau argued that the “comfort” of the ancient Greeks' “garments that did not cramp the figure preserved in both sexes . . . beautiful proportions.”47 Additionally, these writers were enthusiastic that an unchanging style of dress meant that there was no need to purchase new clothing for only stylistic reasons. Jones argues that, when neoclassicism became fashion's dominant theme in the late 1790s, magazines positioned these “seemingly ‘timeless’” styles as “just another in a seemingly ceaseless succession of styles.”48 However, in preceding decades editors did not promote classical origins for Ottoman-inspired styles. Only the lévite (fig. 2) referenced any ancient source, but its description made clear that it was copied from contemporary stage costumes.49 Editors were focused on inventing new modes to create demand for future issues and fashion goods and appear to have avoided promoting styles that could be considered timeless until compelled by cultural forces.
In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France luxury was considered fundamental to fashion: one should dress in appropriately expensive, sumptuous garments that corresponded to one's status. When intellectuals condemned luxury, they focused on dressing or otherwise consuming above one's station. In the second half of the eighteenth century, however, philosophes decried conspicuous consumption—buying goods to demonstrate wealth—shifting their admonitions to the upper classes.50 Enlightenment thinkers also expressed concern about female consumption, arguing that women's supposedly inherent desires for luxury meant that they might waste the family's income on dress, deceive men using fashion, and trade their virtue for goods.51 Another key anxiety was artifice. Contradictions between appearance and character troubled Rousseau, and he feared that dress masked social position, lifestyle, occupation, and morality more often than not.52 He focused his disapproval on the fashion industry, which he felt was a key promoter of artifice: “Love of fashion is in bad taste, because faces do not change with the fashion, and while the face remains the same, what suits it at one time will suit it always.”53 In fact, Rousseau personally wore Ottoman dress for several years partly in an attempt to avoid the fashion system.54
Fashion periodicals responded to concerns about luxury and artifice by promoting Ottoman-inspired styles as more “natural” and “simpler”—literally smaller and minimalist and also thematically informal, unpretentious, and sincere—than outdated fashions, which were portrayed as overly complicated and cumbersome. For example, describing a robe à la turque, the Cabinet des modes declared: “Women no longer wear those large hoops which give an immense width, or those robes with trains that trail an aune on the ground. . . . In the most formal dress, the clothes are similarly simplified.”55 Editors gave clear instructions for coordinating overall ensembles to create a modest effect, as when the Gallerie informed its readers that when wearing the polonaise, “one should not . . . adopt a very elegant coiffure. . . . The shoe should be simple and matching with the rest of the costume.”56 Responding to Rousseau's overwhelming influence, the Gallerie even integrated a literal reference to that philosophe into the name of one variant of the Ottoman-inspired robe à la polonaise: the aforementioned polonaise à la Jean-Jacques, which the Gallerie proclaimed the first adult women's style to fulfill Rousseau's precepts.
Although fashions à la paysanne (peasant) were their own trend, they sometimes overlapped with Ottoman modes. The “noble savage” was the Enlightenment's primary focus, but philosophes also argued that French peasant clothing was natural, healthful, and virtuous.57 Wearing provincial- or peasant-inspired garments allowed urban upper- and middle-class women to incorporate the rural lifestyle's virtues without the poverty that might accompany it. Examples of Ottoman-inspired styles that merged with the peasant trend include the circassienne à la provençale, a variant of the robe à la circassienne, named after the Provence region.58 Meanwhile, jacket (caraco) versions of these modes incorporated Turkish designs into the short garments long worn by bourgeois and working women. The caraco à la polonaise “originated in Nantes in Bretagne where the Bourgeois women of this city wore it,” according to the Gallerie, while the “caraco à la Arlaise” (Arles) featured in the Magasin des modes was essentially “the bodice and sleeves of the robes à la turque.”59 Similarly, the Gallerie declared that the fashion for decorative aprons was partly due to the polonaise's popularity; although these were frothy, fashionable confections, they referenced a practical element of rural and working women's wardrobes.60
Despite this emphasis on naturalism and simplicity, a coded theme of luxury emerged in magazines' descriptions of Ottoman-inspired styles. Jones has demonstrated that editors responded to luxury's critics by emphasizing “taste,” different from ostentation and positively associated with morality and religion.61 Nonetheless, as Daniel Roche argues, “natural” styles were no less artificial than preceding modes, and dressing fashionably remained expensive, even more so as the pace of fashion change increased.62 Moreover, informal dress, and the Eastern lounging wear that inspired it, was understood to be luxurious: only the rich could afford clothing specific to that activity.63 Some of the names used for Ottoman-inspired styles had patrician associations. Robes and other garments à la sultane placed French women in the position of the empire's first ladies, while the circassiennes for whom that gown was named had a reputation for prominent positions in the Ottoman harem hierarchy.64 The Gallerie declared that a French woman wearing the robe à la circassienne invoked these elite concubines: “Of all the beauties that adorn the seraglio of the sultan, there is none that match those from Circassia. . . . Their clothing matches their charms.”65 Almost a decade later the Cabinet des modes praised the robe à la turque for originating “in the Orient,” where clothing had “nobility,” declaring that in this gown “a pretty woman . . . won more confident and enjoyable triumphs than those of a Georgian or Circassian in the harems of Constantinople. Not even the sultana was immune from jealousy of her elegance, her grace, and the tributes afforded her.”66 Furthermore, in the mid-1780s the robe à la turque evolved into the dress for the most formal occasions, like balls and weddings. In fact, Turkish details were so fashionable that they eventually found their way into ceremonial court attire (fig. 3).67 Both the Ottoman Empire and France were absolutist regimes, unlike England with its constitutional monarchy. Although democratic ideals would certainly win out in the French Revolution, turquerie may have been less threatening than Anglomania in preceding decades because, despite concerns about despotism, the empire's regime did not serve as a conceptual or practical challenge to the French monarchy.68
The idea of comfort in material surroundings was relatively new but gained significant traction during the eighteenth century. In clothing, from the mid-sixteenth century women created fashionable appearances using constricting corsets or equivalently stiffened bodices, unwieldy hoops, heavy fabrics, and structured garments. As physical comfort was increasingly valued, and philosophers and physicians connected it to health and morality, women's fashionable dress became lighter and less constricting. Geczy argues that comfortable clothing was connected to liberal thought, and philosophes looked to Turkish clothing for garments “sympathetic to the body.”69 Indeed, Enlightenment writers often highlighted Ottoman clothing's ease, as when the dramatist Louis-Sébastian Mercier declared, “Oriental clothing is made for the human form.”70
In response to these ideas, French fashion magazines promoted comfort as a major benefit of Ottoman-inspired fashions. Compared to the previously reigning robe à la française, the polonaise ushered in an era of lighter fabrics, looser fits, and smaller silhouettes, not to mention the practicality offered by its lack of train. Many of these characteristics persisted in the circassienne. While the turque's train removed one element of ease, the lévite returned to the relaxed silhouette of the manteau. Although most fashion plates featured standing figures, it is notable that the few presenting more comfortable poses did so with Ottoman-inspired styles. One example featured a lady wearing a caraco à la polonaise while “carelessly” half-sitting, half-laying on a sofa (fig. 4).71 Magazines frequently praised Ottoman-inspired styles for their comfort, as when the Gallerie declared the lévite “another one of those . . . dresses that the desire to banish any constraint in clothing has led us to adopt.”72 The robe à la levantine appeared in the Gallerie only once, but it is nonetheless notable for how its description emphasized physical comfort:
The desire to empower women with those clothes, in which the figures are revealed . . . has made imagined, in recent years, various clothing no less convenient than graceful. It was felt it was ridiculous how, under the pretext of decorating nature, it is stifled . . . under pompous ensembles . . . overwhelming by their weight, their figure and lines. Any discomfort was outlawed, and the French, free in their clothes, have finally recovered the ease, no less necessary for health, which supports the development of beauty. The Levantine is among the number of these new clothes. It is so easy and requires so little preparation, whether in dressing or undressing, that it has earned the nickname of Négligé of Pleasure.73
Turkish women did not wear boned or stiffened garments, and their clothing gently skimmed the torso and hip, characteristics Enlightenment authors endorsed for both aesthetic and health reasons. For example, the physician Alphonse LeRoy argued that Turkish women's dress was “the most modest, and at the same time the most charming, because it displays the body's [natural] contours.”74 While French women never abandoned stays, new versions coming into fashion were generally more lightly boned than those of earlier decades. These combined with more body-conscious Ottoman-inspired styles to create a significant change from the robe à la française with its structured back pleats and rigid, corseted torso underneath. Fashion magazines enthused that Ottoman-inspired French styles revealed the “natural” figure, using language strikingly similar to that used by philosophes when they praised Turkish dress. Describing the polonaise, the Courier de la mode declared, “Women have made simple small hoops [coudes] succeed the large hoops, renounced the multiplied frills, the tight dress and trimmings in order to reveal the elegance of their figure.”75 Some Ottoman-inspired gowns featured trim along the back seams, further drawing attention to the line of the figure. These modes were also frequently accented with a sash, an element drawn from Ottoman dress that, by cinching the waist, allowed “a glimpse of the figure in all its lightness” and “liberated the figure and gave it grace.”76 The English-inspired robe à l'anglaise received similar praise, although for fitting tightly (“The merit of this Ensemble is to slim the body as much as is possible. The robe must hold and well define the figure”), while Ottoman styles were commended for skimming the body (“the bodice detached and floating on the figure”).77
Philosophers and physicians were concerned about clothing's supposedly damaging effects on bodies, particularly for mothers and children, arguing that comfortable clothing promoted health and morality. Rousseau argued that illness, deformation, and—for women—infertility could result from constricting garments. Later authors developed these ideas, pointing to other cultures, particularly the Ottomans, for better models. For example, the Orientalist writer Claude Etienne Savary argued that whalebone and busks, corsets' supportive elements, caused “the martyrdom of European youth”; as these were unknown in “Oriental” dress, “it is in the Eastern countries that man rises in all his majesty, and that woman deploys all the charms of her sex.”78
Although philosophes and physicians railed against corsets, fashion magazines never promoted abandoning stays, which were considered critical to women being suitably attired for public display. Stays created a fashionable silhouette, and as Susanne Scholz argues, a “‘defensive wall’ around the female body and so sartorially supply the rigid body boundaries that are the preconditions of proper subjecthood in the West but which are found to be lacking in the ‘natural’ bodies of women.”79 However, corsetry's health and aesthetic aspects had been important to Enlightenment writers for decades, so fashion magazines eagerly endorsed the lightly boned corsets coming into fashion as improved alternatives to traditional, heavily boned corps de baleine. Many Ottoman-inspired styles are described as being worn over corsets as visible underbodices. It is unfortunately difficult to know whether in these cases the corset was worn over separate stays, like other options for wear under open-front gowns appear to have been, but if the corset replaced the stays, that would be significant. One fashion plate featuring the robe à la turque suggests such a substitution, as the woman is described as wearing “a busked corset.”80
Given philosophers' concern for maternal health and their elevation of motherhood to a noble cause, it is noteworthy that fashion magazines linked motherhood with Ottoman-inspired modes. Although most fashion plates featured a solitary adult woman, a small number included a baby or child along with a declared or implied mother or governess, most of whom wear polonaises or lévites. Rousseau particularly encouraged the health and moral benefits of mothers nursing their own children, so the Gallerie plate depicting a mother nursing a child while wearing a lévite is striking; the magazine declared that she was “fulfilling the sublime functions of motherhood” and “the elegant dress of this tender mother can prove that pure morals are not incompatible with the taste for the most graceful, newest fashions.”81
The newly invented fashion press needed to find ways to integrate consumption with the Enlightenment's potentially contradictory principles, given their influence. Not every French person of the late eighteenth century was necessarily a scholar, or even a direct supporter, of the Enlightenment, but the values philosophes promoted—naturalism, simplicity, comfort, health, and morality—were broadly accepted, even if only on a surface level, as the proper way a modern French person should live and dress. In response, fashion magazine editors argued that Ottoman-inspired fashions best embodied Enlightenment principles, thus positioning themselves as arbiters of both what was fashionable and which styles were in line with modern intellectual thought. Widespread interest in turquerie in this period meant that, instead of looking to England for inspiration, the creators of fashion magazines promoted French fashions influenced by the Ottoman Empire as the ultimate expression of Enlightened dress. Ottoman-inspired styles offered two key benefits: they were based on a dress that had established connections to Enlightenment ideas, but they also stood as veiled symbols of luxury and decadence that avoided challenging the French political system. The discourse surrounding Ottoman-inspired dress in French fashion magazines of the late eighteenth century demonstrates how turquerie underpinned the connection between Enlightenment ideas and fashion consumption.
This work was supported by the Costume Society of America, the Design History Society, San Francisco State University, and the Society of Antiquaries of London. The author thanks Brenna Barks, Trystan L. Bass, J. Leia Lima Baum, Sarah Curtis, and the editor and anonymous reviewers of French Historical Studies for their many helpful comments and suggestions.
“Jean-Jacques Rousseau . . . avoir fortement déclamé contre l'usage d'emmailloter les enfans, & contre la manière de les vêtir, eut enfin la satisfaction de faire des prosélytes: on éleva, on habilla des enfans suivant la méthode qu'il avait indiquée; mais la simplicité qu'il avait tenté d'introduire dans l'habillement des hommes & des femmes n'eut pas le même succès. Ce ne fut qu'en 1778 . . . on hasarda de faire des robes analogues aux principes de cet Auteur, & ce fut sur les polonaises qu'on fit cet essai; elles sont connues sous le nom de polonaises à la Jean-Jacques” (Gallerie des modes et costumes français, 1778–81, 12e cahier, plate 5).
Harvey, French Enlightenment, 11.
On ambassadorial visits, see Göçek, East Encounters West; Landweber, “How Can One Be Turkish?”; Neumann, Uses of the Other; Solnon, Le turban et la stambouline; Tekin, Representations and Othering; and Williams, Turquerie. On art, see Nefedova-Gruntova, Journey into the World; Newton, Images of the Ottoman Empire; Sheriff, “Dislocations of Jean-Etienne Liotard”; Sint Nicolaas, Jean-Baptiste Vanmour; Solnon, Le turban et la stambouline; Stein, “Exoticism as Metaphor”; and Williams, Turquerie. On travelers, see Apostolou, Orientalisme des voyageurs français; Aravamudan, “Lady Mary Wortley Montagu”; Konuk, “Ethnomasquerade in Ottoman-European Encounters”; Onur, “Women's Fashions in Transition”; and Scholz, “English Women in Oriental Dress.”
See Bevilacqua and Pfeifer, “Turquerie”; Eldem, French Trade in Istanbul; Faroqhi and Veinstein, Merchants in the Ottoman Empire; Landweber, “Turkish Delight”; and McCabe, Orientalism in Early Modern France.
Landweber, “Turkish Delight,” 203. On masquerades, see also Landweber, “Celebrating Identity”; Ribeiro, “Elegant Art of Fancy Dress”; and Williams, Turquerie. On theatrical costumes, see also Bevilacqua and Pfeifer, “Turquerie”; Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims; Göçek, East Encounters West; Landweber, “Turkish Delight”; and Wolff, Singing Turk. On high fashion, see also Aschengreen, Albukhary, and Landini, Dress for the Body; Boer, “Just a Fashion?”; Boucher, Twenty Thousand Years of Fashion; Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims; Crowston, Fabricating Women; Delpierre, Dress in France; Geczy, Fashion and Orientalism; Jirousek, Ottoman Dress; Jones, Sexing la Mode; Leloir, Histoire du costume; Martin and Koda, Orientalism; Pietsch, “Different Types of Women's Dresses”; Pietsch, “Eastern Influences”; Ribeiro, Art of Dress; Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe; Ribeiro, Fashion in the French Revolution; Roche, Culture of Clothing; Van Cleave, “Lévite Dress”; Van Cleave and Welborn, “‘Very Much the Taste’”; and Weber, Queen of Fashion.
Landweber, “Turkish Delight,” 203; Fairchilds, “Production and Marketing of Populuxe Goods,” 229–30.
Said, Orientalism, 3, 40.
Aravamudan, Enlightenment Orientalism, 5; Avcıoğlu, “Turquerie” and the Politics of Representation, 7.
Geczy, Fashion and Orientalism, 11–12.
See Bernier, Louis XIV; Bluche, Louis XIV; De Marly, Louis XIV and Versailles; and Petitfils, Louis XIV.
See Jones, “Bourgeois Revolution Revivified”; Jones and Spang, “Sans-Culottes, Sans Café, Sans Tabac”; Roche, Culture of Clothing; and Roche, History of Everyday Things.
Roche, Culture of Clothing, 144–45.
Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 19.
See DeJean, Age of Comfort; and Hart, “Mantua.”
The term kaftan is frequently used as a generic term for the long robes worn in Islamic cultures. It derives from the Persian xaftân and was used in this period in Russia (Turnau, History of Dress, 161). Despite its inapplicability, I employ it because of its widespread recognition among Western readers and because it handily differentiates from the French robe, meaning “dress” or “gown” in the Western sense.
Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 249; Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe, 228, 270; Ribeiro, “Turquerie,” 21. On Ottoman dress, see Jirousek, Ottoman Dress; Micklewright, “Ottoman Dress”; and Scarce, Women's Costume of the Near and Middle East.
Jasienski, “Savage Magnificence,” 173–74; Jirousek, Ottoman Dress, 173. See also Marschner, “Ceremonial Dress”; and Turnau, History of Dress.
See Benhamou, “Fashion in the Mercure”; Calahan, Fashion Plates; Carson, “Economique de la Mode”; Cornu, Galerie des modes; Gaudriault, Répertoire de la gravure; Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau”; Sgard, “Dictionnaire des journaux,” s.v. “Cabinet des modes,” “Courrier de la mode,” “Galerie des modes,” and “Magasin des modes nouvelles”; Tétart-Vittu, “Entre suite d'estampes et journal de modes”; and Tétart-Vittu, “La Gallerie des modes.”
Noblewomen more frequently subscribed with their husbands to expensive journals, while bourgeois and provincial women more often subscribed to cheaper “women's” publications, including fashion magazines (Rimbault, “La presse féminine de langue française,” 119). No complete Gallerie collection exists. This study draws on two bound collections at the Bunka Gakuen University Library, Paul Cornu's 1912 compilation, and the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Vittu, “Presse et diffusion des modes,” 129–36.
Sgard, “Dictionnaire des journaux,” s.v. “Galerie des modes.”
Sgard, “Dictionnaire des journaux,” s.v. “Cabinet des modes.”
Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 950.
Ellison, “Rousseau and the Modern City,” 497; Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 940; Shovlin, Political Economy of Virtue, 13–48. See also Grélé, “Et si l'habit faisait l'utopie”; Jones, Sexing la Mode; and Roche, Culture of Clothing.
Alyea, “Dress, Childhood, and the Modern Body,” 55–127. See also Join-Diéterle and Teétart-Vittu, La mode et l'enfant; Pellegrin, “Uniforme de la santé”; and Sanciaud-Azanza, “L'évolution du costume enfantin.”
Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 949.
Delpierre, Dress in France, 18.
Ribeiro, Art of Dress, 30; Ribeiro, Fashion in the French Revolution, 21; Ribeiro, Art of Dress, 30. See also Ribeiro, Art of Dress, 35; and Ribeiro, Fashion in the French Revolution, 35, 44.
Delpierre, Dress in France, 21; Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 946.
Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 155.
Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 220. See also 216–37.
Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 242. See also 238–55.
Ribeiro draws primarily on the visual arts, particularly painting. Delpierre's work is an overview, so periodical references are few. Chrisman-Campbell uses artwork, fashion magazines, contemporary publications, and memoirs and considers Enlightenment discourse about fashion but does not focus specifically on fashion magazines. Her analysis of Orientalism emphasizes the 1780s.
Grieder, Anglomania, 11–12. See also Gonthier, Montesquieu and England; Hammersley, English Republican Tradition; Israel, Democratic Enlightenment; Israel, Radical Enlightenment; and Tombs, That Sweet Enemy.
On the lack of emphasis on men's clothing, see Jones, Sexing la Mode, 184–85.
Grieder, Anglomania, 18–19.
Maillard, “Contributions à l'histoire du costume.” The English-inspired riding habit appears in only two inventories, in 1781 and 1784.
Joubin, “Islam and the Arabs,” 197–98. See also Boer and Bal, Disorienting Vision; Clarke, Oriental Enlightenment; Çırakman, From the “Terror of the World”; Coller, “Rousseau's Turban”; Lewis, Gendering Orientalism; Lewis, Rethinking Orientalism; McCabe, Orientalism in Early Modern France; and Rousseau and Porter, Exoticism in the Enlightenment.
Harvey, French Enlightenment, 73.
Le Fébure, Le manuel des femmes enceintes, 191.
“Robes Turques & celles à la Polonoise, qui marquent élégamment les contours naturels de la taille . . . seront toujours une illusion infiniment plus agréable aux yeux des hommes sensés & de bon goût” (Venel, Essai sur la santé, 176).
“Toute Fille honnête portera une robe comme celles que l'on nomme à la polonaise” (Bretonne, Les gynographes, 68); “une revolucion generale dans la manière de s'habiller, surtout dans celle des Fammes [sic]. On ne peut qu'approuver les robes-à-la-polonaise, à-l'anglaise, à la-levite” (Bretonne, Les contemporaines par gradations, 12:543).
Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 153 (emphasis added).
See Jirousek, Ottoman Dress, 171–79; Pietsch, “Different Types of Women's Dresses”; Pietsch, “Eastern Influences”; Van Cleave, “Lévite Dress”; and Van Cleave and Welborn, “‘Very Much the Taste.’”
Avcıoğlu,“Turquerie” and the Politics of Representation, 27–28; Geczy, Fashion and Orientalism, 48; Moussa, “Peuples primitifs, peuples décadents”; Stein, “Exoticism as Metaphor,” 204.
“Costume, en Turquie, n'est point sujet aux caprices des modes; si l'on s'y permet quelques variations, elles sont si peu considérables, qu'à peine s'en apperçoit-on” (Maréchal, Costumes civils actuels, 13).
“L'aisance des vêtements qui ne gênoient point le corps, contribuoit beaucoup à lui laisser dans les deux sexes ces belles proportions” (Rousseau, Emile, 4:25).
Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 947.
Cornu, Galerie des modes, plate 83.
Shovlin, “Cultural Politics of Luxury,” 577–78.
Jones, Sexing la Mode, 180.
Starobinski, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 5; Ellison, “Rousseau and the Modern City,” 499, 513–14; Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 944.
Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 945; “L'amour des modes est de mauvais goût, parce que les visages ne changent pas avec elles, & que la figure restant la même, ce qui lui sied une fois lui sied toujours” (Rousseau, Emile, 4:38–39).
See Crowe, “Le manteau arménien de Jean-Jacques Rousseau”; and Matossian, Et je ne portai plus d'autre habit.
“Les Femmes ne portent plus de ces grands Panniers qui leur donnoient une quarrure immense, & de ces Robes avec des queues qui traînoient d'une aulne par terre. . . . Dans les plus grandes Parures, les Habillemens même sont simplifiés” (Cabinet des modes, May 15, 1786, 98). The aune was the standard measurement for cloth. In Paris it measured 1.188 meters or 46-7/16 inches.
“Il ne faudroit pas, avec ces robes, adopter une coëffure trop élégante. . . . La chaussure doit-être forte simple & uniforme avec le reste de l'ajustement” (Gallerie, 12e cahier, plate 5).
Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 177.
Gallerie, 29e cahier, plate 2.
“Cet habillement tire son origine de Nantes en Bretagne où les Bourgeoises de cette ville le porterent” (Gallerie, 12e cahier, plate 6); “des corsages & des manches des robes à la Turque” (Magasin des modes, Feb. 10, 1788, 65).
Gallerie, 11e cahier, plate 3.
Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau,” 947.
Roche, Culture of Clothing, 46.
Bevilacqua and Pfeifer, “Turquerie,” 30, 104–5.
Thus these styles also had erotic connotations. See Ahmed, “Western Ethnocentrism and Perceptions of the Harem”; Boer and Bal, Disorienting Vision; Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims; and Lewis, Rethinking Orientalism.
“De toutes les beautés qui ornent le serrail du Grand-Seigneur, il n'en est point qui égalent celles qui viennent de Circassie. . . . Leur habillement répond à leurs charmes” (Gallerie, 8e cahier, plate 2).
“Une jolie femme . . . remporte des triomphes plus sûrs & plus agréables que ceux d'une Géorgienne ou Circassienne dans les Harems de Constantinople. Il n'est pas même de Sultane qui ne fût jalouse de son élégance, de sa grace, & des hommages qu'on lui rend” (Cabinet des modes, Jan. 15, 1786, 33–34).
Gallerie des modes, plates 167, 274, 297, 301. On court dress, see Gorguet-Ballesteros and Arizzoli-Clémentel, Fastes de cour et cérémonies royales; and Mansel, Dressed to Rule.
See Çırakman, “From Tyranny to Despotism”; Kaiser, “Evil Empire”; and Rubiés, “Oriental Despotism.”
Geczy, Fashion and Orientalism, 48–49; Bevilacqua and Pfeifer, “Turquerie,” 30.
“L'habillement oriental est fait pour la taille humaine” (Mercier, Tableau de Paris, 7:147).
Gallerie, 9e cahier, plate 3. Comfortable furniture like the sofa also had Ottoman associations. See Çevik, “Boudoirs and Harems”; and DeJean, “Age of Comfort.”
“Encore une de ces robes . . . que le désir de bannir toute contrainte dans les vêtements, a fait adopter” (Cornu, Galerie des modes, plate 83).
“Le désir d'affranchir les Femmes de ces Vêtemens, dont les formes semblent . . . a fait imaginer, depuis quelques années, divers Habillemens non moins commodes que gracieux. On a senti combien il était ridicule, sous le prétexte d'orner la nature, de l'étouffer . . . sous des ajustemens pompeux . . . mais accablant par leur poids, leur forme & leurs ligamens. Toute gêne a été proscrite, & les Françaises, libres dans leurs Vêtemens, ont enfin recouvré cette aisance, non moin nécessaire à la santé, que favorable au développement de la beauté. La Levantine est du nombre de ces nouveaux Vêtemens. Elle est si commode & exige si peu de préparatifs, soit pour la vêtir, soit pour la quitter, qu'elle a mérité le surnom de Négligé de la Volupté” (Gallerie, 17e cahier, plate 1).
“Le plus modeste, & en même tems le plus charmant, parce qu'il offre la forme des contours” (LeRoy, Recherches sur les habillemens, 244).
“Les femmes ont fait succéder à de grands paniers de simples coudes, ont renoncé aux falbalats multipliés, la robe serrée & garnie de parements droits laisse voir l'élégance de leur taille” (Courier de la mode, Apr. 8, 1768, 6).
Gallerie, 27e cahier, plates 3, 6.
“Le mérite de cet Ajustement est d'amincir le corps autant qu'il est possible. Il faut que la Robe prenne & dessine bien la taille” (Cabinet des modes, Mar. 6, 1786, 59); “le corps détaché & flottant sur la taille” (Gallerie, 28e cahier, plate 3).
“C'est dans les contrées orientales que l'homme s'élève dans toute sa majesté, & que la femme déploie tous les charmes de son sexe” (Savary, Lettres sur l'Egypte, 161).
Scholz, “English Women in Oriental Dress,” 89. Although Scholz writes about Britain and the United States, Joan E. DeJean demonstrates the same forces operated in France (Age of Comfort).
Magasin des modes, Jan. 20, 1788, 50.
“Remplissant les fonctions sublimes de la maternité. La parure élégante de cette tender mère, peut server à prouver que les mœurs pures ne sont point incompatibles avec le goût pour les Modes les plus gracieuses, les plus nouvelles” (Cornu, Galerie des modes, plate 142).