Incroyables and Merveilleuses

Fashion Victim

The Incroyables (Incredibles) and their female counterparts, the Merveilleuses (Marvelous), were a name for the fashionable subcultures living in France in the Directoire era (late 18th century). The exhibition of products of national industry, organized in 1798, testified to their infatuation with luxury.

The names are sometimes spelled and were pronounced ‘incoyables’ and ‘meveilleuses’ without the letter R, in reaction against the Revolution, which begins with an R, in which so many had suffered and lost relatives, the letter R was banished. Divorce became legal under the Directoire and morals tended to be looser than in the past. Many Incroyables were ‘nouveaux riches,’ gaining their wealth from selling arms and lending money (usury). When the Directoire period ended, society took a more sober and modest turn.

After the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror ended, there was a furor for entertainment and pleasure. Stylish women, the Merveilleuses, modeled their dress after that of ancient Greece and Rome, wearing semi-transparent tunics in gauze or linen and often displaying cleavage. They were also fond of wigs, often blonde, but also in such colors as black, blue, and green.

Their gentleman companions, the Incroyables, wore eccentric outfits: green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties, thick glasses, and hats topped by ‘dog ears,’ their hair falling on the ears. Their musk-based fragrances gave them the nickname Muscadin. They wore bicorne hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their ‘executive power.’

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