French Revolutionary Fashion: Accessories of War, Part 2

Costume History, Fashion History

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.

Louis XVI in bonnet rouge

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).

French Revolutionary Fashion: Accessories of War – Part 1

Costume History, Fashion History

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.

Playing Teacher

Costume Construction, Costume History, Eureka! The National Children's Museum

Greetings! Apologies for the long hiatus, but I was waiting until I had something really good to write about. So, without further ado…

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a primary school and talk to a group of 5-to-7-year-olds all about costumes! After a few months in the closet, my bustle dress got taken on an outing and introduced to the Year 1 and Year 2 classes at Hebden Royd C.E. Primary. This came about thanks to my part-time job as an Enabler at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum. One of my co-workers left Eureka! to become a teacher and is currently doing her placement at Hebden Royd. As her class topic was clothes, she asked me if I’d like to come along and help give a lesson. And so I did!

The History Wardrobe


Today a lovely woman called Lucy Adlington came in to talk to us about 1940s fashion. She runs a company called The History Wardrobe, which puts on presentations that teach history through costume. It was only an informal talk she gave us today, but it offered some brilliant insight into the period. For example, we learned that on average women only had about 44 clothing ration coupons per year, which didn’t go very far seeing as a dress cost about 11 coupons. I was surprised that pyjamas cost 8 coupons and corsets cost only 3, until Lucy pointed out that you couldn’t just wear an old tee shirt to bed because you wouldn’t have had any central heating to keep you warm at night, or a tee shirt for that matter, and you’d want to be adequately dressed in case the air-raid sirens went off in the middle of the night. So there you go – the realities of rationing made evident through clothes.

After the presentation we had time to do research for our dresses, and as I had more or less decided what I wanted to make I had the rest of the afternoon to work on…

the TUTU.

I know the bodice is more important, but I was determined to sew the rest of those net layers on come hell or high water. And I DID!!

But it wasn’t easy.

By layer ten, you really do have to wrangle the net and force it under the machine, because it just does not want to go anywhere.

I’m sure the lat muscles on my left side are going to be sore tomorrow. But it was totally worth it.


There’s still a fair bit to do on it (french seam the knickers, sew on the basque, stitch up the center backs of the layers, stab stitch the waistband, let it settle, string it), but now I’m caught up with everyone else and can sleep easy knowing it at least looks like a tutu.

Bodice update from last week coming soon. Tomorrow it’s drafting patterns and making toiles of our 40s dress, which will hopefully all be done on time to go fabric shopping on Wednesday (meaning we’d be a day ahead!). Here’s hoping!