Directoire era

December 18, 2009

Directoire, 1795-1799
The Directoire represents the last 6 years of the 18th century, since after the
French Revolution a governmental structure called the Directory was set
up. It was short-lived and was overthrown by Napoleon. However, the
costume in this period gives rise to the costume of the Empire period.
French Revolution – 1789-1799
Reign of Terror – 1793-1794
Directory (1795-1799

Marat was later assassinated by Charlotte Corday in his
bathtub. The mob cap is sometimes referred to as the Charlotte Corday cap. Note the
front figure in the red hat. Red was an important color for the French Revolution and this
hat is reminiscent of the Phrygian bonnet used by the Greeks. It is seen in Figure 1 as
There were many architectural excavations unearthing the ruins of Pompeii and
Herculaneum and the writing of J. Winckelmann (History of Ancient Art) became
popular, so the costume and furnishings took on a Neo-Classic look. The English had
embraced the classical look.
Some costume items directly related to the French Revolution were the color red, the
cockade (a small ribbon pinned to a hat or bodice), and the sans-culottes (long pants). An
effort to get ride of traditions, habits, language, manners, and customs for something new.
The extremists (Incroyables and Merveilleuses) took the changes seriously and
displayed them in fashion statements (a contradiction of the times).

Revolutionary Dress
The dress of the revolutionary groups was a short lived style, but it did identify them as
part of the resistance. Generally this was seen in the wearing of sans-culottes (without
breeches) which meant long pants, often a Phrygian bonnet, a cockade (ribbon of red,
white, and blue colors), a longer frock coat for men, and a round gown for women. See
Figure 5.

Women’s Costume
The most remarkable characteristic about the women’s costume was the drastic change,
as we saw in 1947 after World War II. People were looking for something different.
There was a sharp reaction to the terror of the revolution and emotional strain.
The English had paved the way with attention to the classics, and the directoire and the
French took that movement a bit further. Greek dress, architecture, and philosophy were
highly acceptable, perhaps because it was so radically different from the artificial,
restricting fashions of the despised court.
Therefore, the tubular dress, or round gown, appeared. It was made of simple muslin, fell
straight to the ground with short sleeves and girdled under the breasts. That is in its
simple form. You can imagine what alterations were made as time passed.

Painting showing a round gown
made of very sheer muslin. Note the lovely draping of the sleeves and across the bodice.
The lowness of the bodice was typical at this period. Her shawl is draped on the nearby

Another painting. Note the detail of the round
gown, especially the tightness across the back and then the very detailed draping from the
raised waist. The sleeve, too, has much detail in its simplicity. Hairdos at this time were
rather simple and natural.

A series of illustrations of
women from the Directoire period. The bonnet is becoming more and more important
and often feathers are put into it. The round gown is sometimes layered with a tunic and
you see in several of these illustrations. The color is predominately white, but may have
some pastels. Often the shawls are a dark contrast.

The round gown with a reticule or purse as an
accessory. Shoes were flat. Embroidery at the edge of the gown started at the end of the
Directoire period and is very important in the next costume period.

Illustration of a Merveilleuse in Directoire style. This
illustration gives a very typical feeling of the Directoire style for women. Her hair is in
the a la Titus style.

A man in a frock coat (that is not large enough
to close in the front, a waistcoat, and striped breeches with a ribbon at the knee. Note the
cockade in this bicorn hat.

Portrait of a man and woman.
The dark costume of the man makes it difficult to see his frock coat, but the outline of his
waistcoat at the neck, his shirt, and minimal cravat are in evidence. Note the shiny hose
and natural hairstyle. Wigs are gone.

Men’s Costume
The men continued wearing a frock coat, waistcoat, shirt, and breeches. However, the
breeches became longer in this period

The materials used are highly important in identifying the directoire period. Most of the
elegant silk damasks, brocades, and embroidered fabrics gave way to plain cotton muslin.
You might recall the stone relief of “Niki Adjusting Her Sandal” in the Greek lecture.
The fashion people tried to emulate that look by wetting down their muslin, by wearing
pink undergarments or no undergarments, by going into public places nearly nude. This,
of course, was not the entire female population, but the extremists. What had happened is
that the conventions of modesty had relaxed, so more of the woman’s body was apparent.
Muslin was also called the pneumonia disease as when the women wet themselves and
went into the cold, they often developed pneumonia.

yellow hat is called a bonnet. You will see more of them in the Empire period.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: