We left off with the bonnet rouge, or the red cap of liberty, being adopted as an accessory of the French Revolution that represented the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
Caricature of Louis XVI wearing the red cap of liberty
But what happens when you assign so much political significance to an article of clothing? The meaning shifts, and soon the bonnet rouge came to represent something else altogether. What began as a symbol of resistance to oppression, a sartorial call to arms, soon became a form of protection: moderates took to wearing the bonnet rouge during the Reign of Terror to mask their true political leanings, lest they be denounced as aristocrats and sentenced to the guillotine. Even Louis XVI donned the Pyrigian cap during the invasion of the Tuilleries Palace by Parisian sans-culottes in 1792, as illustrated in this reworked engraving (right).
Happy Bastille Day, one and all! On this day in 1789, a group of Parisians stormed the Bastille – a prison that symbolizing the arbitrary, but absolute, power of Louis XVI – and started a revolution in which fashion played a major role. Due to its inextricable link with political ardor, dress became a significant factor in the provoking and propagating the cycles of Revolutionary and counter-Revolutionary violence.