Object in Focus

Cloth, Fashion and Revolution


Mrs Teillard, Au Pavillon d’or, Palais-Royal, Journal de Paris, mars 1791. Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, BHVP 102448








Prepared by: Natacha Coquery, University of Lyon 2

Read the full paper here.

Revolutionary upheavals have substantial repercussions on the luxury goods sector. This is because the luxury goods market is ever-changing, highly competitive, and a source of considerable profits. Yet it is also fragile, given its close ties to fashion, to the imperative for novelty and the short-lived, and to objects or materials that act as social markers, intended for consumers from elite circles. However, this very fragility, related to fashion’s fleeting nature, can also be a strength. When we speak of fashion, we speak of inventiveness and constant innovation in materials, shapes, and colours. Thus, fashion merchants become experts in the fleeting and the novel. In his Dictionnaire universel de commerce [Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce], Savary des Bruslons assimilates ‘novelty’ and ‘fabrics’ with ‘fashion’:

[Fashion] […] It is commonly said of new fabrics that delight with their colour, design or fabrication, [that they] are eagerly sought after at first, but soon give way in turn to other fabrics that have the charm of novelty.[1]

In the clothing trade, which best embodies fashion, talented merchants are those that successfully start new fashions and react most rapidly to new trends, which are sometimes triggered by political events. In 1763, the year in which the Treaty of Paris was signed to end the Seven Years’ War, the haberdasher Déton of Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris, ‘in whose shop one finds all fashionable merchandise, invented preliminary hats, decorated on the front in the French style, and on the back in the English manner.’[2] The haberdasher made a clear and clever allusion to the preliminary treaty, signed a year earlier. He transformed a political event into a sales argument; how could anyone be any more fashionable? During the American War of Independence (1775-1782), hats ‘in the Boston manner’ and parures ‘in the style of Philadelphia’ were abundant. The relationship between fashion, politics, and clothing reached new heights during the French Revolution.

[1]Jacques Savary des Bruslons, Dictionnaire universel de commerce…, Paris, Veuve Estienne, 1741, entry ‘Mode [Fashion]’.

[2]Gazette du commerce, Paris, Prault, 1763, No. 1.



Related material

Visual sources

All images courtesy of Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

Fig.2. Mrs Teillard, Au Pavillon d’or, Egality House, Journal de Paris, 16 mars1794, BHVP 102454

Fig.3. Mrs Teillard, Au Pavillon d’or, Egality House, Journal de Paris, 16 mars1794, BHVP 102454




Anne Anninger: ‘Costumes of the Convention: Art as Agent of Social Change in Revolutionary France’, Harvard Library Bulletin, 30/2, 1982, pp. 179-203.
Natacha Coquery, Tenir boutique à Paris au XVIIIe siècle. Luxe et demi-luxe, Paris, éditions du Comité historique et scientifique, 2011
Cissie Fairchilds, ‘Fashion and Freedom in the French Revolution’, Continuity and Change, 15/3, December 2000, pp. 419-433.
Kate Hauman, The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
Jacqueline Hellegouarc’h, Vocabulaire de la mode féminine pendant la Révolution française: inventaire des termes employés du 21 juillet 1789 au 20 février 1793 dans le “Magasin des modes nouvelles françaises et anglaises” et dans le “Journal de la mode et du goût”: catalogue de madame Teillard (mars 1790 – septembre 1794), Nancy, CNRS Institut de la Langue Française, 1980, 4 microfiches.
Modes et Révolutions 1780-1804. Exposition, musée de la mode et du costume, Exhibit at Palais Galliéra, 8 February – 7 May 1989, Paris, Editions Paris-Musées, 1989.
Aileen Ribeiro, Fashion in the French Revolution, London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1988.
Richard Wrigley, The Politics of Appearances. Representations of Dress in Revolutionary France, Oxford-New York, Berg, 2002.
Jacques Savary des Bruslons, Dictionnaire universel de commerce, contenant tout ce qui concerne le commerce qui se fait dans les quatre parties du monde…, Paris, Veuve Estienne, 1741.
Journal de Paris, Paris, Quillau Press, 1790-1794
Gazette du commerce, Paris, Prault, 1763, No. 1.


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