Bloomsbury Cultural History - Ethnicity
A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion in the Age of Enlightenment
A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion in the Age of Enlightenment

Peter McNeil

Peter McNeil is Professor of Design History at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Bloomsbury Academic, 2017


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DOI: 10.5040/
Page Range: 139–160

Writing in 1680, the Mercure Galant noted that “one now only wears Indiennes; but these Indiennes are so well done that nothing adorns one better.” A century later, discussing contemporary fashions, the Magasin des Modes Nouvelles remarked that “no one could deny that our French ladies influence the fashions of nearly every other kingdom; that said, we must admit that these are nearly all restitutions for, in less than two years, haven’t they borrowed their own fashions from Poland, England, Turkey and China?”[1]

These two quotations from some of the most influential and widely read French periodicals of their time testify to fashion’s ongoing dialog with exoticism and otherness. French fashions in the early modern period cannot be understood outside of the global commercial networks of exchanges between Europe and the rest of the world. Europe’s reliance on imported luxury goods, ranging from porcelain, lacquer, or coffee, has been the subject of extensive scholarly scrutiny. As Maxine Berg has shown, “in the eighteenth century a global trade in luxuries and manufactured consumer goods provided not just the labour and the materials that went into making of new goods, but the designs, fashions, and sophisticated marketing that shaped the product development of the period. Consumer products, if not consumption more broadly, were forged then in a global economy.”[2]

The seventeenth-century development of powerful mercantile interests in the East and the dynamism and success of Eurasian trade brought to Europe a wealth of rare and precious goods. The English East India Company played a pivotal role in the dissemination and importation of luxury goods to Europe. Founded in 1600 to trade with the Indian subcontinent, it is considered to be the main agent in the diffusion of luxury goods from the East. It was followed two years later by the establishment of a Dutch chartered company, the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie and, in 1614, by the Danish East India Company. Its French counterpart, the Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales, established in 1664, also imported large quantities of precious goods, including spices, porcelain, and textiles. Contracted by Jean-Baptiste Colbert to write a pamphlet intended to attract shareholders for the company, the academician François Charpentier conveyed in no uncertain terms the status of these imported goods as essential luxuries, noting that “importing all these things has now become an indispensable necessity.”[3]

The establishment of a number of chartered companies and trading posts in India and China therefore facilitated the importation of large quantities of Indian textiles in Europe. Indian printed cottons had been exported from the Coromandel Coast for centuries before the arrival of European traders and the first known records documenting the trade of textiles date to the fifth century AD. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, they accounted for 70 percent of the East India Company’s entire export trade.[4]

Cotton became “the most important commodity traded by the chartered companies between Asia and Europe.”[5] While muslin and white cottons constituted a significant part of such imports, they were not as popular and sought after as the vibrant chintzes known as Indiennes. As Beverly Lemire and Giorgio Riello have argued, those chintzes were “one of the most revolutionary commodities to appear in western markets” and “one of the most important Asian imports into Europe.”[6]

Hand-painted or block-printed and usually characterized by vibrantly colored sprigged and meandering repetitive floral patterns, imported textiles were quick to enchant Europeans.[7] Their exquisite designs were widely employed in the domestic interior as wall or bed hangings, usually in small or intimate rooms. Chintzes also became used for clothing almost immediately. From dresses to waistcoats, petticoats, jackets to linings of straw hats (Figure 7.1), chintzes were ubiquitous, prompting the influential Parisian periodical and taste maker the Mercure Galant to remark in 1681 that “all the garments that are currently being done are made of Indiennes.”[8]

The appeal of chintzes could be explained in practical terms: pleasant to wear, they had the great advantage of being washable.[9] The physical comfort they might have provided should not, however, detract us from their aesthetic appeal. The fastness of their colors and their rich and varied designs significantly contributed to their desirability. Printing processes enabled the creation of a broad range of patterns and motifs, thereby making chintzes fully suited to the vagaries of fashion.[10]

Figure 7.1. Plaited straw hat, English or Dutch, c. 1700. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Chintzes were generally adapted to European tastes. For instance, while Indian consumers preferred pale flowers on darker grounds, Europeans favored flowers on a pale or white background.[11] Merchants never lost sight of the importance of pleasing their European clients. As Olivier Raveux has argued, “the English East India Company played a major role in this development. It decided on a new policy for acquiring textiles when, as early as 1643, its London directors asked their agents to send fabrics with motifs more in line with the tastes of British consumers.”[12] Contemporary French fashions could also influence the design of those chintzes and, for instance, Jean Berain’s popular grotesques traveled East in printed form and found their way on to an early eighteenth-century printed wall hanging made in the Coromandel Coast, although the patterns’ rarity would suggest that it did not find much favor in Europe.[13] The chintzes based on finely drawn European silk patterns were more popular.

Embroidered and hand-painted silks were also widely exported. They constituted one of China’s main categories of export goods. The establishment in the seventeenth century of a successful European silk industry underpinned by economically profitable manufacturing centers in Venice, Lyon, and Tours arguably diminished the impact and necessity of such Chinese imports. In fact, as Lesley Miller has rightly shown, by the end of the eighteenth century, France was the one exporting its silks “as far as the Ottoman Empire, the Levant and the Antilles.”[14] Nevertheless, Chinese silks offered a suitable alternative to its European counterparts and their desirability was sustained throughout the eighteenth century, as demonstrated by Madame de Pompadour’s portrait by Hubert Drouais executed in 1763 where she was depicted wearing a painted flowered Chinese silk robe à la Française (Figure 7.2).[15] Rather than being an extension of the traditional Chinese art of painting on silk, the motifs seen on the dress would, however, suggest a skillful adaptation to the popularity of floral motifs founds on Indian chintzes.[16]

The popularity of exotic printed and painted cottons was such that alternative products started being made in France in the 1660s.[17] As a result, by the mid-seventeenth century, the term Indienne was used interchangeably to describe both authentic, colorfast Asian textiles and their French imitations. Perceived as a threat to the French silk and wool textile industries, those colorful printed cottons became bound by a strict legislation. In 1686, the importation of silks and chintzes was banned and so was the creation of their imitations, the painted Indiennes. The royal ordinance justified its decision by referring to the “millions that had left the Kingdom [. . .] the diminution of the silk, wool, linen manufactures long-established in France [. . .] and the desertion of workers who found themselves out of work and had to leave the Kingdom.”[18] Implicit in this statement is the idea of a “brain-drain” that would severely hinder France’s ambition to remain the leader in the production of luxury goods. Eventually this extreme protectionism spread to neighboring countries and was also implemented in Spain (1713) and England (1721 for a total ban).[19]

Originally given until December 31, 1687 to get rid of their stocks, merchants and shopkeepers were granted an extension until December 31, 1688 to sell their existing stocks of toiles. They were also expected to destroy all their printing blocks. Those disobeying orders were severely reprimanded and were subjected to hefty fines. Some exceptions were nevertheless granted and, for instance, on January 22, 1695, the Compagnie des Indes was allowed to bring back on its ships 150,000 livres worth of painted toiles for a duration of three years, but only to be sold abroad.[20]

A series of legal loopholes meant that the cities and regions unchallenged by the central government such as Marseilles, Rouen, Nantes, and the Arsenal in Paris were allowed to continue producing Indiennes.[21] Despite these free enclaves, smuggling was rife. Unsurprisingly, the disobeying of orders was carried out in the highest spheres of French society and it was widely remarked that the use of painted toiles by the wealthy and the well-born was tolerated: “one does not stop a Duchess in her carriage, or the wife of a tax collector. And even if we succeeded in preventing them from wearing painted dresses outside, we could never prevent them from wearing them at home and for using such fabrics to furnish their apartments in the countryside and in the city.”[22] Baron Grimm petulantly remarked that Madame de Pompadour, the king’s mistress herself, openly flaunted the ban and furnished her interiors at Bellevue with smuggled fabrics.[23] The blatant use of Indiennes in the highest spheres of society, the clandestine factories, and widespread smuggling all contributed to the eventual lifting the ban on September 5, 1759.[24]

Figure 7.2. Madame de Pompadour at her Tambour Frame, François-Hubert Drouais, 1763–4. Photo: DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/Getty Images.

Indian chintzes and Chinese silks were firmly established in Western European dress and domestic interiors by the early eighteenth century, but their widespread consumption should not just be envisaged as a reflection of material fashions. The appeal of flowery Indiennes intersected with Europeans’ general fascination with florilegia and exotic plants. This interest found its manifestation in the numerous exotic gardens such as those at the Tuileries Palace or later at Versailles, Het Loo, and Hampton Court. Illustrated flower books published at the time, such as Crispijn van de Passe’s influential Hortus Floridus (1614) and Nicolas de Poilly’s Livre de Plusieurs Paniers de Fleurs (c. 1680), also ensured that this interest for exotic plants transcended the botanical realm and found a wide expression in the fine and decorative arts, ranging from Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer’s colorful canvases to Jan van Mekeren’s virtuoso marquetry panels (Figure 7.3).

Importantly, external events also boosted the appeal of exotic fashions. The first Siamese embassy visiting Versailles in 1680 brought to the public eye painted toiles with flowers that greatly contributed to spreading the taste for those textiles. The second Siamese delegation of 1686–7 produced, on the other hand, a “Siamese Frenzy” fully documented in the Mercure Galant and prompted a vogue for Siamese dress, as exemplified by Nicolas Arnoult’s plate showing a young woman wearing a striped garb in so-called ‘Siamese’ fabric (Figure 7.4).[25]

The widespread demand and presence of oriental and exotic textiles for dress and domestic furnishings also needs to be seen within the wider context of French polite culture and the growing popularity of orientalist fiction. Victor Hugo’s statement that “the reign of Louis XIV was hellenistic and now we are orientalist” is therefore indeed misconstrued.[26] The commercial, intellectual, and political exchanges between France and the East were numerous and it would be misleading to view French intellectual life as an insular entity untouched by these exchanges. France’s engagement with the Orient was not just physical and material. Recent studies have demonstrated the importance of Oriental learning within the late seventeenth-century Republic of Letters. It is well known that, under the impetus of Colbert’s ambitious collecting policies, the Bibliothèque du Roi greatly expanded its collections of Oriental texts, thereby laying the foundations for French Oriental scholarship during the following century.[27] A few years later, in 1697, Barthelemy d’Herbelot’s Bibliothèque Orientale was a systematized attempt at ordering and disseminating knowledge about the Orient which marked the culmination of the intellectual enquiry stemming from France’s relationship with the Orient.[28] The vast body of knowledge covered by the Bibliothèque Orientale is a testament to the importance of the documentation assembled and created by Orientalist scholars in seventeenth-century France.[29] As early as 1641, Mademoiselle de Scudéry published the novel Ibrahim ou l’Illustre Bassa set in a fictional Orient. Antoine Gallant’s French translation of the Thousand and One Nights in 1704 was arguably the most popular Orientalist novel. It firmly cemented the presence of the Orient into the realm of fantasy and entertainment and Gallant’s seductive translations of these Arabian tales captured popular imagination.

Figure 7.3. Bouquet of Chamomile, Roses, Orange Blossom and Carnations Tied with a Blue Ribbon, Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, 1690s. Photo: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images.

Figure 7.4. Nicolas Arnoult, “Femme de qualité, en habit d’esté, détoffe Siamoise,” from the Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1687. Image courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Indiennes and their European replicas were not just subjected to European tailoring, they could be used on items whose forms were inspired by foreign clothes. With the waning of the baroque style and the advent of the rococo, the banyan became a staple of the fashionable urban male’s wardrobe.[30] From the Gujerati word vāṇiyo, signifying man of a trading caste, later employed to refer to either Hindu merchants from the province of Gujarat or traders employed by European businesses in Bengal, the term came to define the type of garb that was thought to be worn by those men.[31] As shown in Figure 7.5 the shape of the actual Europeanized garment was based in fact on the Japanese kimonos that were first imported to the West by the Dutch East India Company at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Usually made of silk or chintz, banyans could be worn wrapped round the body like a kimono. They were sometimes fastened at the waist with a belt, but some models resembling a coat secured with buttons also existed. Indoor garments, they were usually worn at home to receive guests informally such as, for instance, during the all-important ritual of the toilette. Here the luxurious gown would have served as a complement to the range of precious objects and accessories required for the occasion that would have been prominently displayed on the toilette table.

Banyans reached a peak of popularity in the eighteenth century but they were already very much en vogue in the previous century. Molière’s play The Bourgeois Gentilhomme, written and first performed in 1670, a sharp satire mocking the social pretensions of the vain and parvenu main character Monsieur Jourdain, gives evidence of the gown’s sartorial prestige. Keen to transcend his modest middle-class station, the protagonist proudly refers to his wearing an Indienne: “I had this Indienne done. My tailor tells me that cultured people wear them in the morning.”[32] The taste for banyans eventually filtered down social ranks and modest middle class households could afford a share of the exotic, albeit on printed or painted on cheaper, low-quality cotton fabrics such as Smyrnan boucassins. Wealthy clients on the other hand could comfortably assert their privileged social position by claiming the luxury end of the market and enjoying the smooth quality of Persian cottons and calankars.[33]

Figure 7.5. Banyan, Indian for the Western market, 1700–50. Image courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Banyans were produced and consumed in a range of fabrics and colors and could boast colorful brocades or subdued monochrome silks. As Lemire remarked, when employed in portraiture, banyans came to symbolize successful and erudite masculinity.[34] In 1726, J.S. Chardin’s irreverent depiction of an antiquarian monkey nonchalantly surveying his collection of medals dressed in a bright orange silk banyan evidently ridicules the pretension of these connoisseurial pursuits and the type of dress they required. While somewhat subdued in color and devoid of any floral pattern, the silk dressing gown worn by Diderot in Van Loo’s portrait of 1767 testifies to the ongoing validity of this association.[35]

The question remains: to what extent were these dressing gowns actually perceived as exotic? The popularity of the banyan was reflected by its inclusion in a number of contemporary fashion plates. In France, the market for such images was dominated by a small number of publishers and print sellers, of which the Bonnart family who specialized in the production and diffusion of fashion plates and almanachs. Cheaply produced and widely disseminated, those prints followed a simple and effective format consisting of showing mostly single figures in relatively sparse though suitably fashionable and elegant surroundings. A plate by Bonnart published c. 1676 shows a man dressed with a “Robe de Chambre” or dressing gown “à l’armenien,” the accompanying text explicitly praising the gown’s comfort and fashionable status (Figure 7.6).

The gown’s name, however, had little to do with actual Armenian fashions and was more likely inflected by the fact that Armenian merchants negotiated and controlled a large part of the painted and printed chintzes intended for European markets; chintzes which were in turn used as fabrics for dressing gowns.[36] The Armenian appellation was not, however, systematically sustained and a fashion plate from the Galerie des Modes published in 1780 referred to the sleeves of a similar gown being “en Pagode,” thereby shifting the garment’s geographical origins further east.[37] Introduced and employed regularly in the early part of the eighteenth century, by the 1780s, the term “en pagoda” was effectively used ubiquitously for anything that flared.[38]

The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was arguably the most famous eighteenth-century consumer of so-called Armenian gowns. While this cemented the garb’s inclusion in the erudite realm, legitimizing its identity as the thinking man’s uniform, Rousseau’s taste was partly justified by prosaic reasons. Plagued by painful and debilitating urinary problems, the gown’s loose cut alleviated some of his physical discomfort and allowed for the easy administration of medical treatments. Rousseau made it his main outfit while staying at Motiers-Travers in 1762 and Taraval and the painters Ramsay and Liotard famously immortalized him wearing it. Rousseau’s correspondence bears numerous mentions of his engagement with the choice of fabrics which appears to be dictated by practical considerations: “I would wish for the background not to be white and easily stained, with a small pattern that does not climb [. . .] I also prefer quality to good taste.”[39] Rousseau was, however, not impervious to aesthetic concerns and, in another letter to his seamstress Madame de Luze, adopting a coquettish tone, he commented on the garb’s pleasing effect: “I will look like a pleasing man from Téflis or Erivan in my beautiful lilac caftan and I think that shall suit me very well.”[40] Importantly, given that Rousseau were to make such gowns his main item of clothing, he was keen for them to be perceived formal enough to be worn outside in public, particularly in church. And with that in mind, he requested his gowns to be enhanced with suitable silk trimmings.[41] That said, medical imperatives only partly informed Rousseau’s sartorial choices: the gowns intersected with his critique of European civilization. For him fashion “corrupted virtue and masked vice” and his attire was thus also intended as an ostensible statement of his progressive ideas (although his recurrent engagement with the gown’s detailing would also belie his complete resistance to the world of fashions).[42] Rousseau’s insistence on wearing embellished and enhanced exemplars also highlights a crucial aspect of their use, namely as largely private, in-door garments. As Madeleine Delpierre rightly noted, Oriental or exotic dress was indeed mostly first worn informally at home.[43] For instance, Madame de Pompadour owned several pairs of wide-fitted Oriental trousers gathered at the ankles, or sirwals, which she enjoyed wearing at home, only commissioning Carle Van Loo to immortalize her wearing them as part of an elaborately staged and fictionalized exotic setting for one of the over-doors of her Chateau of Bellevue, discussed later.

Figure 7.6. Nicolas Bonnart, “Homme en Robe de Chambre” from the Recueil des modes de la cour de France, 1676. Image courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In addition to being largely worn at home, exotic fashions could be experienced vicariously and the examination of the links between fashion and ethnicity needs to be located within the wider context of the production and consumption of luxury goods. The largely private nature of everyday exotic dress fully echoed the use of exotic furnishings in the domestic sphere. The advent of the rococo style heralded a vogue for exotic ornaments, many of which incorporated pictorial representation of foreign attire as part of their decorative schemes. By the 1740s, they were nothing short of ubiquitous. China and Japan were arguably the primary sources of inspiration but, in parallel to this visual and material consumption of the Orient, the middle decades of the eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of a fashion for all things Turkish which was going to last well until the neo-classical period, as exemplified by the creation of numerous boudoirs turcs.

This taste for Turkish ornament needs to be envisaged within a broader cultural framework. The publication of Antoine Galland’s Thousand and One Nights in several volumes between 1704 and 1717, and the 1721 visit of Turkish ambassadors to Paris, had widely contributed to the popularization of an idealized Middle-Eastern culture. Permeating all aspects of French art, Turqueries were very much in demand, as evidenced by the publication of Le Hay’s Recueil de Cent Estampes Representant Differentes Nations du Levant (1714). Far from being systematically based on direct Oriental or Middle Eastern models, these Chinoiseries and Turqueries were the products of designers’ fertile imaginations and happily mixed real and imagined exotic features. Aesthetic effect was the primary goal and scientific or archeological accuracy was of negligible importance.

From ceramics to furniture, these types of ornament permeated all aspects of material culture and royal workshops and minor craftsmen alike responded with equal enthusiasm to the public demand for this European commodification and standardization of the exotic. Antoine Watteau’s painted Oriental figures at the Château de la Muette, executed between 1708 and 1715, were thought to be one of the first large scale inclusion of Chinoiseries in a domestic decorative scheme.[44] No longer extant, they are known to us via a series of engravings executed by Michel Aubert and published in 1731. They show a range of European and Oriental figures in exotic garb carefully inserted in the structure of a decorative grotesque.[45] The artist François Boucher, who rose to the position of Peintre du Roi in 1765, is often considered as the rococo’s presiding genius and one of the most prolific exponents of chinoiseries in the new Goût Pittoresque. He produced a plethora of designs that were widely applied to the decorative arts. As Perrin Stein noted, he relied on earlier printed sources, successfully adapting them to contemporary rococo aesthetics. Reproduced on the exquisite reserves of pieces of Sèvres porcelain and on large scale luxurious tapestries, Boucher’s designs could include complex figurative scenes depicting a range of characters dressed in exotic costume, such as those he produced in 1742 for the Tenture Chinoise tapestry woven at Beauvais.

Nicolas Lancret’s depiction of a turbaned man in Turkish garb in the painted arabesques of the paneling of the salon of the Hotel de Boullongne in Paris, probably executed in 1728–9, marks the initial appearance of Ottoman figures in fashionable interiors. Almost twenty years later, Christophe Huet’s larger and more complex picnic scene showing a group of men and women in Turkish dress enjoying a collation after the hunt testifies to the enduring popularity of painted exotic themes in domestic interiors. Ottoman subject matters were often represented in ceramics. Outside of France, Delft was producing flower holders in the shape of blue and white turbanned busts as early as 1700, while the Meissen porcelain factory started producing painted porcelain figures dressed “à la turque” in 1725. Some years later, it produced the figure of the Turc Amoureux, directly copied from the eponymous print by Georg Friedrich Schmidt of Nicolas Lancret’s painting of a Turkish musician (Figure 7.7).

While the representation of exotic figures allowed for the representation of costumes, these were not accurate scientific reproductions of real Oriental garments and were often hybrid fantasies mixing imagined foreign dress with elements of contemporary ornament. An example is the case of Ambroise-Nicolas Cousinet’s gilded silver figure of a dancing Turkish lady whose dress terminating in lambrequins owed arguably more to contemporary luxury domestic furnishings than to dress. This is not to say that all depictions were entirely fictional and a number of figures were copied from prints published as part of proto-ethnographic volumes intended as visual conspectuses of foreign fashions. Meissen’s porcelain sultan of 1741, modeled by Johann Joachim Kändler, was inspired by a figure in Charles de Ferriol’s Recueil de Cent Estampes, and Chelsea’s “Levantine woman” owed much to the plate of a Greek Lady in her Apartment from the same volume. Ferriol’s Recueil was arguably one of the most influential printed source available to eighteenth-century artists. The plates derive from paintings executed between 1707 and 1708 by the artist Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, who had traveled to Constantinople with the French Ambassador Charles de Ferriol in 1699. The latter had commissioned him to immortalize the inhabitants of the city, and the paintings were subsequently engraved under the aegis of Jacques le Hay in 1714.

Figure 7.7. Le Turc Amoureux, Meissen porcelain factory, 1744. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Turqueries and Chinoiseries were not restricted to single compositional figures and could be included in larger, more elaborate scenes featuring indoor or outdoor festivities and entertainments. In 1737, Charles André Van Loo, Boucher’s contemporary, produced two paintings depicting the unfamiliar and luxurious worlds of sultans and sultanas. His Grand Turk Giving a Concert, shown with its pendant Grand Turk having his Mistress Painted at the Salon of the same year, effectively contradicted contemporary literary representations of harems as sites of female subjection to masculine authority and privileged instead the representation of the “unparalleled power” of a single woman.[46] Located in an unidentified classicizing space framed by imposing columns and furnished with unmistakably western furniture, Van Loo’s painting crystallized the significance of clothes as potent mediators and signifiers of cultural identity. As the only visible indicator of otherness, they served to mark the Ottoman identity of the protagonists who were otherwise depicted with clear European features. While Van Loo’s turbans, robes, and furs might have been informed by the study of prints depicting foreign costumes, the artist nevertheless gave free rein to his imagination by including a man wearing a tunic with slashed sleeves characteristic of the rein of Henry IV. Evidently here, temporal and geographical displacement were not perceived as antinomic, but rather as mutually reinforcing strategies. Widely disseminated in printed form, Van Loo’s Turkish paintings arguably contributed to familiarizing the French public with exotic dress.

Although largely worn at home up until the second half of the eighteenth century, Oriental dress and accessories could be worn in public when used as props in carefully staged Oriental fictions, some of which employed to serve explicit mercantile interests. The Café Procope in Paris, founded in 1686, one of the city’s first public institutions to serve coffee, fully capitalized on the beverage’s exotic appeal and employed a team of waiters in Oriental costume—wrongly described as Armenian—to serve its customers. Here, amid a luxurious profusion of marble, gilding, and porcelain, urban armchair tourists could indulge in their Oriental fantasies and be served by affable waiters in exotic work clothes.[47] A driver for commerce, dress in this instance was part of an exotic performance employed to enhance the sense of displacement and wonder experienced by customers.

The world of the theater and the stage were also crucial mediators in the dissemination of exotic fashions. Plays evoking far-away shores and distant customs were indeed recurrent themes in early modern French literature. Moliere’s Turkish Interlude in his Bourgeois Gentilhomme of 1670, said to have been inspired by the recent visit of the haughty Turkish envoy Suleiman Agha Muteferrika, is one of the earliest inclusion of Ottoman fashions on the French stage. Enlivened by the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully, it boasted extravagant costumes designed by Henri Gissey, draughtsman in the Chambre et du Cabinet du Roi in the department of the Menus Plaisirs that was responsible for the management of all court festivities. Gissey enlisted the help of Laurent d’Arvieux, who had gained first hand knowledge of Ottoman dress during his travels to the Levant. A surviving watercolor of Lully’s character in the role of the mufti suggests some attempts to approximate contemporary Ottoman fashions, although magnificence was evidently the desired effect.[48] A number of plays and ballets sustained the public’s interest in the Orient throughout the eighteenth century. Voltaire’s call for religious tolerance articulated in his tragedy Zaïre (first performed in 1732) was set in Jerusalem at the times of the Crusades. This temporal and geographical displacement was underpinned by a host of costumes “à la turque,” as evidenced by Hubert François Gravelot’s illustrations. More than forty years after the play’s first performance, the French actor Henri-Louis Cain (known as Lekain), was immortalized by Simon-Bernard Lenoir as the character of Zaïre’s Orosmane (one of his most popular roles) wearing a yellow brocade robe worn under an ermine-trimmed coat and a bejeweled turban on his head. Although, according to the painter Louise-Elisabeth Vigée le Brun, the accoutrement made him “look hideous,” it testifies to the ongoing popularity of Turkish costumes on stage and to the public’s continued wish to experience some form of coherence between plot and props.[49]

Sartorial verisimilitude reached new heights with Charles Simon Favart’s popular play Soliman II ou les Trois Sultanes, produced for the first time in 1761. Showing a profusion of lavish exotic costumes that contributed to bolstering the credibility of the play’s Turkish setting, it also broke new ground and was said to have included real Turkish costumes made in Constantinople. Praising his wife’s visionary outlook (she played the lead female character), Favart noted that she had initiated this change and “dared to sacrifice the agreeableness of the figure to the veracity of characters.”[50] As noted in Favart’s memoirs, this movement towards a more truthful approach to costumes appears to have been subsequently adopted by other performers. Referring to his wife’s sultana “decent and voluptuous” costume, it was not unanimously approved of, suggesting some sort of conflict between the public’s desire for credible sets, and its attachment to traditional costumes that might help them identify with the characters on stage.[51]

The public wearing of dress inspired by foreign fashions was not solely the prerogative of actors and stage performers. In addition to plays, royal festivities were also an occasion to wear exotic dress publicly. The spectacular carrousel held in the courtyard of the Tuileries Palace in June 1662 to celebrate the birth of the dauphin featured a lavishly choreographed spectacle performed by 1299 participants on horseback dressed to represent the various nations of the world. This elaborate display was aimed at symbolizing France’s domination over the rest of the globe. Participation in carrousels was a prerogative of high rank and that of 1662 was headed by the king himself representing the Sun, and dressed as a Roman emperor leading an army of Roman soldiers. The four other quadrilles, representing America, Persia, India, and Turkey, all wore costumes corresponding to their respective countries. Designed by Henri Gissey, they were inspired by sixteenth-century prints and illustrated books of world costume such as François Desprez’s Recueil de la diversité des habits qui sont en présent en usage tant es pays d’Europe, Asie, Affrique, Melchior Lorck’s Turkish Book or Abraham de Bruyn’s Omnium Poene Gentium Imagines first published in 1562, 1575, and 1577 respectively.[52]

Recorded by Charles Perrault in his Course de testes et de bagues faites par le Roy et par les princes et seigneurs de la Cour en l’année M.DC.LXII, Gissey’s exotic costumes were illustrated by Israel Silvestre and were the subject of extensive descriptions. They were, however, only approximate renderings of real foreign and historic dress. The Prince de Condé, appointed as leader of the Turkish army, was sporting a silver turban adorned with diamonds and turquoises in the shape of a crescent and surmounted by eminently non-Turkish white, blue, and black ostrich feathers. His costume was equally lavish with a crimson and silver vest terminating in lambrequins studded with diamonds and turquoises, and a string of silver crescents attached to the sleeves.[53] The mock Turkish army under the yoke of his temporary military leadership was dressed in matching costumes also adorned with crescents, the unequivocal symbol of the Ottoman Empire.[54]

Masquerades were the other obvious ideal occasion for the adoption of exotic fashions. For instance the masked ball of 1745 held in Versailles to celebrate the marriage of the dauphin saw the deployment of a number of exotic costumes. The engraver Cochin’s well-known visual record clearly shows two Chinese characters standing by the yew trees and a number of turbaned men on the right-hand side of the Galerie des Glaces.

The popularity of exotic fancy dress was fully reflected in contemporary portraiture. Rosalba Carriera’s pastel portrait of a lady identified as Felicita Sartori wearing a bejeweled turban and what appears to be a silk kurdi over an entari, a type of waistcoat, is, fittingly, also holding a mask, thereby conveying in no uncertain terms the outfit’s fancy and ephemeral nature. Jean-Étienne Liotard employed a similar trope for his portrait of Empress Maria-Theresa: dressed in a red caftan and ermine kurdi (no doubt also intended to emphasize her imperial status), she is delicately holding a carnival mask in her right hand. Although the costume was inspired by a pastel that Liotard had executed earlier in Constantinople, it was, however, only an approximation of real Turkish dress, as its tight bodice gave its tailoring a distinctively European character.[55] Liotard’s portrait should not just be read as a record of courtly entertainments. As Michel Yonan has argued, the painting articulated Maria-Theresa’s imperial power and effectively deconstructed and decomplexified the Islamic East into “something simple, superficial and unthreatening.”[56]

Although the fashion for painted Turkish masquerades was sustained throughout the eighteenth century (as can be seen in Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s portrait of 1790 depicting a lady in an elaborate approximation of ottoman costume, complete with pearl-clad turban, fur-trimmed kurdi and silk sash), it would be wrong to assume that all turqueries portraits were necessarily envisaged as ostensible evocations of festive masquerades (Figure 7.8).

A number of portraits also encompassed real sitters in real Ottoman dress as a number of Western travelers commissioned such likenesses as souvenirs of their passage in the Levant. Usually painted by European artists or by native painters trained in the execution of studio copies, these portraits fully embodied the formal compositional characteristics found in western painting. The painters Jean-Baptiste Vanmour and Jean-Étienne Liotard counted as the most respected of these European artists. The former stayed in Constantinople until his death in 1737 and became known for his depictions of foreign envoys and his pictorial records of ambassadorial diplomatic receptions. His portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople, wearing an ermine-trimmed kurdi over a gold caftan, one corner of which is tucked in her girdle so as to reveal the smock underneath, shows her adoption of the type of dress favored by Turkish women.[57] Montagu’s influence should not be underestimated and both her portraits and letters describing Ottoman dress and customs were widely circulated in printed form, significantly bolstering the popularity of Turqueries fashions in Britain.[58]

The pictorial composition of Jean-Marc Nattier’s portrait of Marie-Anne de Bourbon as a Sultana and the pose of the sitter firmly positioned the Orientalist portrait within an established genealogy of formal portraiture. A reflection of contemporary fashions, the inclusion of an Ottoman setting evoked by the depiction of black servants and a richly colored Turkish carpet (albeit in a blatant Classicizing setting) is also here employed as a justification to Mademoiselle de Clermont’s state of undress. Evidently here, the admittedly scantily dressed “Sultane au Bain” was considered a suitable substitute for the traditional bathing Venus or Diana.

A few years later, in the declining years of the rococo, Carle Van Loo fictionalized otherness with more than just imaginary characters. His works encompassed the realm of portraiture, as exemplified by his depiction of Madame de Pompadour as a Sultana for her Château de Bellevue (1752). Seated on luxurious floor cushions and framed by heavy draperies, she is shown consuming exotic eastern substances: coffee and tobacco. Her dress is unapologetically non-European and the turban, salwar, kaftan, and kurdi all evoke a mysterious East. Although Pompadour was said to own a number of salwars that she wore at home, there are no records of her embracing fuller Ottoman fashions. What we see here is the portrait enabling the sitter to wear, albeit vicariously, a type of garb that would not be acceptable outside of the transient realm of the masquerade. Commissioned as part of a series of over-doors for a “chambre à la turque,” the painting has been the subject of extensive scholarly scrutiny.[59] It was shown at the Salon of 1753 and enshrined the royal mistress’s exalted position while simultaneously asserting her obedience to the king and her superiority over other women at court. Van Loo’s geographical and cultural displacement was thus both a response to contemporary artistic fashions and a carefully crafted piece of personal propaganda.

Figure 7.8. Lady in Turkish Costume, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1790. Image courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

As evidenced by Louise Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun’s elegant society paintings, the inclusion of exotic garments in portraiture was sustained throughout the eighteenth century. Her portrait of Madame d’Aguesseau de Fresnes embodies no fewer than three foreign influences (Figure 7.9).

Figure 7.9. Madame D’Aguesseau de Fresnes, Louise-Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1789. Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Her turban recalls Turkish fashions, her flowing white and gold gown alludes to the costumes of Ancient Greece and Rome, and her red velvet robe, or redingote, and the prominent Wedgwood cameo at her sash is a clear reference to contemporary English taste.[60] The boundaries between masquerade and fashionable dress had by then become more permeable, and, while Van Loo and Nattier had used stage costumes as props for their artistic creations, the costume depicted by Vigée Le Brun and her peers reflected contemporary fashions. Indeed, the last three decades of the eighteenth century witnessed a surge in the creation and consumption of a range exotic garments intended for everyday wear, prompting the Cabinet des Modes to write in 1786 that “French women, particularly those in the capital which is the centre of taste, know how to imitate and to appropriate the costumes of all nations. After the dresses à la Française and à la Polonaise, we have seen a succession of Levites, dresses à l’Anglaise and à la Turque. A pretty woman wearing the latter at the theatre or in a salon would win triumphs more certain and more agreeable than a Georgian or Circassian woman in a harem of Constantinople. Even a Sultana would be jealous of her elegance, her grace and of the hommages which she receives.”[61]

As discussed by Kimberly Chrisman-Cambell, up until the 1770s, female fashions had been largely dominated by two types of dresses: the robe à la française with a loose pleated piece of fabric falling from the shoulders in the back (also called plis à la Watteau), and the robe à l’anglaise with a fitted bodice. So as to respond to fashion’s imperatives, those two types of dresses were updated with appropriate trimmings, fabrics, and accessories. However, the 1770s saw the proliferation of dresses boasting different types of construction such as the Polonaise, the Lévite, the Circassienne, the robe à la Turque and à la Sultane. The Polonaise had a close-fitting bodice structured with boning. The skirts were pulled up by drawstrings at the back, usually in three poufs. It was worn over a circular petticoat with a flounce round the hem which reached just above the ankles. The robe à la Turque and the Circassienne were variations of the Polonaise: the former had a trailing skirt behind whereas the latter was circular. Both, however, had an over-gown with short sleeves that revealed the longer sleeves of the under-dress. The Lévite was more informal and consisted of a large shawl collar and a long scarf loosely knotted around the waist (Figure 7.10).[62]

In short, female consumers were now faced with a wider new range of sartorial options, and a large number of them were associated with the exotic and the foreign.[63] Importantly, once again, none of these interpretations of exotic garments were faithful copies: they often incorporated approximate “foreign” details, such as sashes, stripes, or turbaned head-dresses that were sufficient to convey their otherness.

Figure 7.10. Woman wearing a Levite, from the Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, Charles Emmanuel Patas, Esnauts and Rapilly, 1780. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Crucially, this commodification of the exotic was heavily underpinned by the judicious and creative use of semantic appellations. A significant feature of these sartorial trends was indeed their propensity to fuse and confuse geographical origins and adopt different, sometimes interchangeable names. For instance, in 1787, the Magasin des Modes Nouvelles noted that a hat “à la Chinoise” was not altogether different from a “bonnet à la Turque” that had been shown in a previous issue.[64] While some garments did not differ dramatically from each other with respect to their construction, trimmings, or accessories, their denomination and the way in which they were referred to, marked them out as new and different. The vagaries of fashion were thus underpinned by a non-negligible degree of semantic fluidity. Fashion illustrations fully articulated this interchangeability: the caption of a plate published in the Galerie des modes et des costumes Français in 1779 described it as a “Robe à la Turque or type of Circassienne, but different from the others; it has a collar like a Lévite [. . .] this dress attracted all the eyes of the public when it was shown for the first time at the Palais Royal last July.”[65] Mixing no less than three types of garments—all equally fashionable—the dress’s final sartorial coup de grâce was given by the mention of its success at the theater, crudely implying that the wearer outshone the actresses on stage, but also perhaps referring to the fact that such fashions had once been almost exclusively confined to plays and masquerades.

Fashion magazines like the Magasin des Modes Nouvelles were behind the creation of these nomenclatures. Aware of fashion’s inherently transient quality and mindful that urban consumers longed for novelty, a fact which prompted Montesquieu to remark as early as 1721 in his Lettres Persanes that “a woman who leaves Paris to go and spend six months in the country returns as antiquated as if she had been gone thirty years,” periodicals tracked those changes while simultaneously encouraging their consumption. Late eighteenth-century French fashion periodicals catered for a pan-European diverse audience, ranging from the aristocrat to the more modest housemaid. Keen to be relevant and inspirational to a wide part of its readership, the Galerie des Modes was careful not just to include luxury garments but also more affordable examples. The depiction of a governess employed by “gens de qualité” wearing a simple striped robe à la Polonaise shows how exotic fashions had filtered down the social ranks. No longer exclusively the preserve of a wealthy elite, sartorial travel was experienced by the many.

The arrival of Sultan Tippoo-Sahib’s ambassadors in July 1788 offered Parisian society at once a glimpse of real and imagined Asian dress. As Martin explained, immediately after their arrival, the printing firm of Chéreau and Joubert published a print depicting the ambassadors in fictional costumes recalling those represented in Vanmour’s Recueil de cent estampes représentant différentes nations du Levant. Yet the ambassadors’ eagerness to experience the cultural delights of the capital also ensured their visibility to a wider public and their appearances and whereabouts were recurrently commented upon in the contemporary press. Their arrival generated an “Indomania” that found full expression in contemporary dress.[66] Warmly welcomed by the Magasin des Modes Nouvelles, the periodical issued a few days later two new dresses “à la Tipu Saib” and a “redingote à l’indienne”, openly admitting that they differed little from Turkish, English, or even French dresses, all of which were really just English dresses.[67]

Exotic nomenclatures were not just applied to the clothes; the very shops where such garments could be acquired bore similarly exotic names. Madame Gely’s premises were called Aux Trois Sultanes, and the silk merchants Jubin and Le Normand called their Parisian shops Aux Trois Mandarins and Au Grand Turc respectively. As for Rose Bertin, arguably the most prestigious of all late-eighteenth-century dressmakers due to her links with the court and Marie-Antoinette’s extensive patronage, the shop she opened in the very heart of the capital near the Palais Royal was called Au Grand Mogol. This practice recalled the commercial strategies of other luxury goods merchants in adjacent trades, highlighting once more the interplay between fashion and furnishings: the dealer Grancher owned the shop La Perle d’Orien in his native Dunkerque, and in 1739 the dealer Gersaint changed the name of his shop from Au Grand Monarque to A la Pagode to reflect his increased specialization in luxury goods and imported Asian wares, such as Oriental lacquer and ceramics.[68] The description of the goods on sale in those shops was, however, often minimal: widely defined by generic terms such as “Indiennes” or “Perses,” they could equally refer to foreign imports or home-made French products. Carefully blurring the boundaries between real imports as well as manufactured, Westernized exoticism, such shops stimulated the appeal of both categories. At once liminal sites and exotic heterotopias, they offered a momentary displacement where consumers’ desires and displacement fantasies could be projected and performed.

Nomenclatures in fact further articulated the interplay between fashionable dress and furnishings: the names “à la Turque” and “à la Polonaise” were not only restricted to the sartorial realm and were widely employed to refer to specific types of luxurious and fashionable canopied beds. The Magasin de Modes Nouvelles cemented the link between both types of commodities, illustrating in the same issue a bed “à la Polonaise,” “the only form of bed that cultured and opulent people would choose,” and “caracos à la Turque.”[69]

It would be wrong to assume that the appeal of exotic fashions resided solely in their ability to satisfy consumers’ thirst for novelty. As Aileen Ribeiro and Chrisman-Campbell have shown, the appeal of robes de fantaisie like the Lévite or the Circassienne resided in their perceived freer, less formal cuts. Lighter and looser, they were considered easier to wear, although their small bodices belied the idea that they would have released women’s bodies from the grip of corsets. In reality, such dresses very much retained the silhouettes of western dress and there was in fact little structural difference between a robe à la Française and a robe à la Polonaise. Rather, the association of such garments with eastern lands inhabited by mysterious sultanas in luxurious seraglios invested them with a sensuality and eroticism that greatly contributed to their attractiveness. Fashion plates were quick to play on these associations and sometimes represented women in suggestive poses. In addition, the physical and geographical displacement suggested by such garments could be further emphasized by the use of suitable props such as exotic parrots or playful monkeys.

The adoption of ethnic fashions should also be envisaged as a strategy for deflecting ongoing criticism of women’s perceived frivolity and excessive concern with trivial sartorial matters such as that expressed by Boudier de Villemert, the editor of the Courier de la Mode. In l’Ami des Femmes, he lamented, for instance, that “the imagination of women continually nourishes itself on the details of jewels and clothing. These fill up their heads with so many colors that there is no room for objects which might better merit their attention. Women’s minds scarcely graze the surface of essential qualities and only attach themselves to the drapery.”[70] His views were echoed by a number of his contemporaries, most notably by Jean-Jacques Rousseau who openly criticized and condemned the corrupting influence of fashion’s commercial culture upon society.[71] For Rousseau, women and, by extension, society were debased by the former’s obsession with luxurious novelty. The philosopher advocated instead the cultivation of a graceful deportment combined with the adoption of unostentatious, pastoral fashions and plain fabrics.

It would be of course a fallacy to envisage the Lévite and Circassiennes depicted in the Galerie des Modes as adhering to Rousseau’s precepts. Strict Rousseauist dress would have likely consisted of simple white muslin and a straw hat, such as that worn by Vigée-Le Brun’s infamous 1783 portrait of Marie-Antoinette. It is well known that the queen’s simple, pastoral attire, and the influence it exerted at court led to widespread accusations of her intent to ruin the French fashion industry. Ethnic fashions were similarly scrutinized and the writer Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Nougaret recalled in 1781 how a cloth merchant had printed a pamphlet condemning the fashion for “the childlike shapes of the robes à la Polonaise and à la Levite which contributed to the downfall of the manufactures which produced the rich, elegant, and perfectly crafted textiles for which our workshops were known all over the world.”[72] The Cabinet des Modes was in fact keen to support the country’s fashion industry, and made regular mentions of the French origins of the goods depicted across its pages: “we do not want to mislead our subscribers. Nearly all these waistcoats come from the manufactures of Lyon. We must admit that we find them singularly flattering.”[73] The Magasin des Modes Nouvelles openly professed a similar patriotic agenda, stating in 1787 that “after having travelled across foreign courts, Spain, Poland, Turkey, England, Sweden, Italy, Germany etc to bring us new clothes, fashion has become more patriotic and a good citizen and stayed in the kingdom to visit its various Provinces.”[74]

Although evidently perceived as a threat to the country’s financial well-being, the foreign-named garments depicted in the Galerie des Modes were, however, far from simple. Extravagant, precious and ephemeral, embellished with a plethora of trimmings and ribbons, they epitomized the capriciousness of Parisian taste and, as Chrisman-Campbell argued, some dresses “à l’asiatique” required in fact more fabric than their French and English counterparts because of their exposed linings.[75]

Their appellations and ethnic associations were, however, useful in evoking simpler and more rural and elementary lifestyles that were fully reflected in contemporary fashion plates. It is indeed significant that the Galerie des Modes published the plate of a young woman fashionably dressed in an elaborate lévite ostentatiously breastfeeding her child under the gaze of her governess. To counter any ambiguity, the caption made it explicit who the characters were and that the infant was brought to his mother in a barcelonette [sic] to facilitate its feeding during the promenade. Here the message was clear: fashion and maternal instinct were not mutually exclusive and could both be facilitated by auspicious French-made commodities, namely a portable cradle and a dress cut in such a way so as not to hinder breastfeeding. At a time when maternal breastfeeding was widely encouraged by Rousseau as a source of virtuous interaction benefiting society at large, the maternal spectacle offered by this fashion plate underpinned the garment’s sartorial compatibility with simpler lifestyles which nevertheless offered continued support to the marchandes de modes, merciers and cloth merchants who were considered vital agents for France’s economic prosperity.[76]

The movement towards a more natural line was accompanied by an increasing condemnation of tight lacing as articulated by Rousseau’s followers, who perceived a moral virtue in the expression of the natural body shape.[77] While “exotic” fashions were clearly in vogue throughout the 1770s and 1780s, the real success of the pre-revolutionary decade was undoubtedly the chemise dress of the type worn by Marie-Antoinette in Vigée Le Brun’s infamous portrait of 1783. As Ribeiro argued, this type of dress was to have a profound influence on later fashions.[78] Probably derived from the simple cotton creole dresses worn in the French West Indies and brought to Europe in the 1770s, it anticipated the neo-classical dresses worn during the Napoleonic period. The Lévites, Polonaises, and Circassiennes became relics of the Old Regime and were soon to be replaced by unstructured and high-waisted white muslin gowns, all openly seen as references to the ancient Classical world and perceived as appropriate sartorial accompaniments to current political developments. In line with contemporary preoccupations with motherhood, simple neo-classical garments were also widely praised for their ability to liberate the maternal body and the maternal breast, perhaps best visually exemplified by Marguerite Gerard’s painting Mère Nourrice of 1804.

Yet it would be wrong to assume that such fashions were only perceived as reminders of ancient times. The wide use of the term “à la Grecque” is in the tradition of pre-revolutionary sartorial appellations which emphasized geographical over temporal displacement. In addition, gowns were usually made of imported Indian (or sometimes English) muslin and were almost systematically combined with draped cashmere shawls, similarly imported. Unsurprisingly, the use of foreign fabrics once again was perceived as a threat by a number of French manufacturers, prompting the French fashion periodical L’Arlequin to justify such imports by citing classical precedents: ‘the rich women of Athens preferred the fabrics of Persia’.[79] Keen to promote French manufactures, Napoleon nevertheless took an interventionist approach and insisted that only French fabrics be worn at court, a patriotic stance, which judging from surviving bills, was never quite adopted by Joséphine and her daughter Hortense.[80] The adoption of classicizing dress at the close of the eighteenth century can therefore be seen not as a complete departure from the exotic fashions of the earlier, “long eighteenth century,” but rather as a continuation of this fascination with the other.

[1] Le Mercure Galant (1680): 350; Magasin des modes nouvelles, françaises et anglaises (January 10, 1787): 41.

[2] Maxine Berg, Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 331.

[4] Rosemary Crill, Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West (London: V&A Publications, 2008), 14–15.

[5] Giorgio Riello, “The Indian Apprenticeship: The Trade of Indian Textiles and the Making of European Cottons,” in How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500–1850, (eds) Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy (The Hague: Brill, 2008), 320.

[6] Beverly Lemire and Giorgio Riello, “East and West: Textiles and Fashion in Early Modern Europe,” Journal of Social History, 41, 4 Summer (2008): 887.

[7] Crill, Chintz, 16. Imported textiles used for room furnishings tended to be relegated to smaller, less public room such as cabinets. Formal reception rooms would have been hung with European-made tapestries.

[8] Le Mercure Galant (April 1681): 375.

[9] Beverly Lemire, Fashion’s Favourite: The Cotton Trade and the Consumer in Britain, 1660–1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

[10] Beverly Lemire, “Fashioning Global Trade: Indian Textiles, Gender Meanings and European Consumers, 1500–1800,” in How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500–1850, (eds) Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy (The Hague: Brill, 2008), 366–7.

[11] Olivier Raveux, “Fashion and consumption of painted and printed calicoes in the Mediterranean during the later seventeenth century: the case of chintz quilts and banyans in Marseilles,” Textile History, 45 (1), May (2014): 60.

[13] IS.4-1968, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

[14] Lesley Ellis Miller, “Material marketing: how lyonnais silk manufacturers sold silks, 1660–1789,” in Selling Textiles in the Long Eighteenth Century: Comparative Perspectives from Western Europe, (eds) J. Stobart and B. Blondé (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 85–98.

[15] Aileen Ribeiro, The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France, 1750–1820 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995), 59.

[16] Amelia Peck, Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press), 297.

[18] Arret du conseil d’etat du roy concernant les toiles de coton peintes aux Indes ou contrefaites dans le Royaume et autres etoffes de soie a fleurs d’or et d’argent de la Chine et des dites Indes; October 16, 1686.

[19] Lemire and Riello, “East and West”: 898.

[21] Lemire and Riello, “East and West”: 898.

[22] Reflections sur les avantages de la libre fabrication et de l’usage des toiles peintes en France pour servir de réponse aux divers Mémoires des Fabriquans de Paris, Lyon, Tours, Rouen etc sur cette matière (Genève, 1758), 38–9.

[23] Friedrich Melchior von Grimm and Denis Diderot, Correspondance inédite de Grimm et de Diderot (Paris: H. Fournier: 1829), 16.

[24] Kathleen Dejardin and Mary Schoeser, French Textiles from 1760 to the Present (London: Laurence King, 1991), 17.

[25] Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, A History of Global Consumption: 1500–1800 (London: Routledge, 2014), 170; Femme de qualité en habit d’esté, d’etoffe Siamois, Nicolas Arnoult, 1687; LACMA M.2002.57.66.

[26] Victor Hugo, Les Orientales (Paris: Chamerot, 1882), vi.

[27] Nicholas Dew, Orientalism in France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 22–3.

[28] Ibid., 41–80, 168–204.

[29] Ibid., 177–9; Marie-Louis Dufrenoy, L’Orient Romanesque en France, 1704–1789, vol. 1 (Montreal: Beauchemin, 1946), 20–1.

[30] Arianne Fennetaux, “Men in gowns: Nightgowns and the construction of masculinity in eighteenth-century England,” Immediations: The Research Journal of the Courtauld Institute of Art, no.1 (Spring, 2004): 77–89.

[31] Aileen Ribeiro, A Visual History of Costume. The Eighteenth Century (London: Batsford, 1983), 142; Oxford English Dictionary,, [accessed April 15, 2015].

[32] J.B. Molière, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (Paris: C. Barbin, 1673), 7.

[33] Calankars are high quality Indian cottons. Olivier Raveux, “Fashion and consumption of painted and printed calicoes in the Mediterranean during the later seventeenth century: the case of chintz quilts and banyans in Marseilles,” Textile History, 45 (1), May (2014): 55.

[34] Beverly Lemire, Cotton (Oxford: Berg: 2011), 44–5.

[35] This simultaneously contradicts Diderot’s own description of his beloved dressing-gown described in his famous text Regrets sur ma Vieille Robe de Chambre published in 1772.

[37] Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Galerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 44.1476.

[38] Richard Martin and Harold Koda, Orientalism: Vision of the East in Western Dress (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art), 17; The Mercure de France of January 1726 refers to small flat sleeves as being “en pagoda”: 10.

[39] J.J. Rousseau, Les Confessions (Paris: Gennequin, 1869), 68; R.A. Leigh (ed), Correspondance complète de J.J. Rousseau, vol. 13 (Madison: 1971), letter no. 2.158, 57. A Mme de Luze, Môtiers September 13, 1762.

[40] Correspondance, vol. 13, letter no. 2.189, 111. A Mme de Luze à Neuchâtel, Môtiers September 25, 1762.

[41] Correspondance, vol. 14, letter no. 2.325, 79. A Mme Boy de la Tour, Môtiers November 23, 1762.

[42] Ribeiro, The Art of Dress, 3–4.

[43] Madeleine Delpierre, Dress in France in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 67.

[44] K. Scott, “Playing Games with Otherness: Watteau’s Chinese Cabinet at the Château de la Muette,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 66, (2003): 189–248.

[45] Monique Riccardi-Cubitt, “Grotesque,” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press,, [accessed May 2015].

[46] See Perrin Stein, “Amédée Van Loo’s Costume turc: The French Sultana,” The Art Bulletin, vol. 78, no. 3 (1996): 429 and Emma Barker, “Mme Geoffrin, Painting and Galanterie: Carle Van Loo’s Conversation espagnole and Lecture espagnole,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 40, no. 4 (2007): 596.

[47] Jean Leclant, “Le café et les cafés à Paris (1644–1693),” Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations. 6e année, N. 1 (1951): 8; Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, Orientalism in Early Modern France: Eurasian Trade, Exoticism, and the Ancien Régime (Oxford: Berg, 2008), 189–90.

[48] John S. Powell, “The Bourgeois Gentilhomme: Molière and Music,” in The Cambridge Companion to Molière (eds) David Bradby and Andrew Calder (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 121–5; Haydn Williams, Turquerie, An Eighteenth-Century European Fantasy (London: Thames and Hudson, 2014), 78–9.

[49] Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Souvenirs de Madame Louise-Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, vol. 1 (Paris: H. Fournier, 1835), 116.

[50] William Driver Howarth, French Theatre in the Neo-classical Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 522–3.

[51] Charles Simon Favart, Mémoires et correspondance littéraires, dramatiques et anecdotiques, vol. 1 (Paris, 1808), 77–78.

[52] Joanne Olian, “Sixteenth-Century Costume Books,” Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America, 3 (1977): 20–48; Gabriele Mentges, “Pour une approche renouvelée des recueils de costumes de la Renaissance. Une cartographie vestimentaire de l’espace et du temps,” Apparence(s) [Online], 1|2007, online since June 1, 2007,, [accessed May 10, 2015]; McCabe, Orientalism in Early Modern France, 235.

[53] This was not the first instance of a public royal or aristocratic Turkish impersonation. In a carrousel held in 1559, Henri II had worn such a costume and had also lead an army of French princes wearing Turkish clothes.

[54] Laurent Lacroix, “Quand les Français jouaient aux sauvages . . . ou le carrousel de 1662,” Journal of Canadian Art History, no. 1–2 (1976): 44–54.

[55] Williams, Turquerie, 93.

[56] Michael Elia Yonan, Empress Maria Theresa and the Politics of Habsburg Imperial Art (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011), 148.

[57] Williams, Turquerie, 51.

[58] Aileen Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1984), 178.

[59] Perrin Stein, “Madame de Pompadour and the Harem Imagery at Bellevue,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 123 (January 1994): 29–45.

[60] Aileen Ribeiro, Fashion in the French Revolution (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988), 39.

[61] Cabinet des modes, ou les Modes nouvelles, décrites d’une manière claire & précise, & représentées par des planches en taille-douce, enluminées, 1785, 34.

[63] Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015), 77.

[64] Magasin des modes nouvelles, françaises et anglaises, décrites d’une manière claire & précise, & représentées par des planches en taille-douce, enluminées, November 20, 178: 5.

[65] Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, accession number 44.1436.

[66] Meredith Martin, “Tipu Sultan’s Ambassadors at Saint-Cloud: Indomania and Anglophobia in Pre-Revolutionary Paris,” West 86th, vol. 21, no. 1 (Spring–Summer 2014): 37–68.

[68] See Natacha Coquery, “Les boutiquiers parisiens et la diffusion des indienneries au dix-hutième siècle,” in Le goût de l’Inde, (eds) G. Le Bouedec and B. Nicolas (Rennes: PUR, 2008), 74–81. See also Pierre Verlet, “Le commerce des objets d’art et les marchands merciers à Paris au XVIIIe siècle,” Annales, Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations. 13e année, no. 1 (1958): 10–29. Gersaint’s new name is mentioned in Le Mercure de France, Octobre 1739: 2442.

[69] Magasin de Modes Nouvelles, January 30, 1787: 61–3.

[70] Quoted in Jennifer M. Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau: Femininity and Fashion in Old Regime France, French,” Historical Studies, vol. 18, no. 4 (Autumn, 1994): 943–4.

[71] Jennifer M. Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau: Femininity and Fashion in Old Regime France,” French Historical Studies, vol. 18, no. 4 (Autumn, 1994): 943–4.

[72] Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Nougaret, Les sottises et les folies parisiennes. Partie 1 /; aventures diverses, &c. avec quelques pièces curieuses & fort rares: le tout fidèlement recueilli par M. Nougaret (Paris: Duchesne, 1781), 65.

[73] Cabinet des Modes, June 1, 1786: 110.

[74] Magasin des Modes Nouvelles, May 20, 1787: 149.

[75] Chrisman-Campbell, Fashion Victims, 246.

[76] Laura Brace, “Rousseau, Maternity and the Politics of Emptiness,” Polity, vol. 39, no. 3 (July, 2007): 364; Jones, “Repackaging Rousseau”: 946–7; see also Carol Duncan, “Happy Mothers and Other New Ideas in French Art,” The Art Bulletin, vol. 55, no. 4 (December 1973): 570–83.

[77] Aileen Ribeiro, Dress and Morality (London, Batsford, 1986), 115.

[79] E. Claire Cage, “The Sartorial Self: Neoclassical Fashion and Gender Identity in France, 1797–1804,” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 42, 2: 208.

[80] Sonia Ashmore, Muslin (London: V&A Publications, 2012), 64.