Paris: City of Light

Parisian Fashion in the Time of the Revolution


Parisian Salons
 ~Salons of   Enlightenment
 ~Madame de   Stäel         
~Salons of the   Restoration
 ~The Salons of   Victor Hugo

Influence of Printed Materials
 ~Pre-Revolutionary   Timeline
 ~Post-Revolutionary   Timeline


Defining the Parisians
 ~Parisians Viewed   by Foreigners
 ~Parisians   Viewed by   Themselves
 ~Paris Fashion




Figure 3.4 French Revolutionaries

The image above depicts French Revolutionaries, as they can be recognized by their clothing. The colors of their clothes are primarily blue, white, and red; the colors of the French flag (le tricolour). The bonnet rouge, or red cap, is another very important and prominent symbol of revolutionaries. The last article of clothing that is clearly associated with revolutionaries is the long pants or sans-culottes. This attire was also a class marker, for wealthier Frenchmen could afford finer, more elaborate clothing.

During the 1780's Paris was not only the center of the French Revolution, it was also the center of fashion. Paris culture was often considered to be a 'culture of appearances' and the city itself served as the headquarters for the latest manufacturing and fashion designs. However, the costumes found in Paris at the time served as a social and political message as much as they did a fashion statement. Clothing created another method of marking social hierarchy and political affiliation.

Hence, it was simple to divide and categorize people into their rightful place in society based on their attire. Certain colors and articles of clothing also acted as political devices, emphasizing a person's political affiliation. The seemingly innocent practice of dress was unmistakable in adding to the mounting tensions between the classes. Therefore, Parisian fashion not only fostered a means of self-expression and identity, but it was also representative of social and political trends.


In Victor Hugo's epic Les Misérables (1862), the role of fashion during Revolutionary France was used to further emphasize the social and political mentalities of the time. Costume description provided rich imagery and a deeper understanding of character development,

"She was young,-and pretty? It was possible, but in that garb beauty could not be displayed. Her hair...was severely fastened up beneath an ugly, close, narrow nun's head-dress, tied under her chin...her form was clumsily masked by a large blue handkerchief folded across her bosom...she wore a coarse brown delaine mantle, a calico dress, and large heavy shoes. It was Fantine" (Hugo, 128).