The French Pouf

"Rose" Bertin, Courtesy of Wikipedia
“Rose” Bertin, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Mademoiselle Marie-Jeanne Bertin, or as she was called at court, “Rose,” gained fame as dressmaker and became known for creating complicated headdresses. These headdresses, also known as “poufs,” were called such because the hair was raised with pads, wool, false hairpieces, and pomade. Bertin’s rise to fame began in a millinery shop where through a stroke of fate she met the Princess of Conti and became responsible to create the trousseau for the richest heiress in France, the Duchess of Chartres. The Duchess then introduced her to Marie Antoinette, and Bertin became the Queen’s stylist and dressmaker.

Working with Léonard Autié, the Queen’s hairdresser, Bertin created some memorable teetering and towering poufs. Among the poufs she designed were the pouf aux sentiments, pouf à la circonstance, pouf à l’inoculation, à loge d’opéra, and pouf à la Belle-Poule. Continue reading

Patching or Mouchets

Women with Patches or Mouchets, Author's Collection
Women with Patches, Author’s Collection

Patching was a strange fashion, and one of the earliest written mentions of the practice in England, “occurs in Bulwer’s Artificial Changeling (1653). ‘Our ladies,’ he complains, ‘have lately entertained a vain custom of spotting their faces, out of an affectation of a mole, to set off their beauty, such as Venus had; and it is well if one black patch will serve to make their faces remarkable, for some fill their visages full of them, varied into all manner of shapes.'” These patches were tiny pieces of fabric — satin, taffeta, or velvet attached with glue — known in English as mouchets and called mouches by the French. The mouchets contrasted with alabaster skin and hid facial imperfections, such as pimples or pox scars. Over time, these patches, developed coded meanings. For instance, a patch on the right cheek denoted marriage, on the left cheek it signified an engagement, and near the mouth indicate a woman was flirtatious. Continue reading