Madame Bertin wasn’t the only popular dressmaker in France. Monsier Beaular was a talented designer with a lively imagination too. He was often criticised for it, but his clients loved his artistic and unusal creations:
The following lines written by Meister in his’Correspond ance Litteraire” for November, 1774, are a proof: “If ever a book of morals is written for our young Parisian ladies, I beg the author to attack fiercely the extravagant head-dresses, and above all the bad taste of Beaulard, inventor of all these absurdities. This man racks his brains to represent on the heads of young women all the most important events recorded in the newspapers.
One may see a bonnet portraying the opening of Parliament, another the Battle of Ivry and Henry IV., another an English garden — in fact, all historical events, ancient and modern. It so happens that head-dresses are no longer in keeping with the costumes of the day, and so more picturesque ones are being invented, and presently women will unconsciously find themselves dressing so theatrically that for ball dresses, which must differ from ordinary dress, there will be nothing left but nightcaps and bed-gowns.”
These censures, however, did not interfere with Beaulard, nor with Mile. Bertin, to whom they could be well applied, as she was capable of just such extravagant inventions. Mile. Bertin did not look with pleasure upon the fame of her rival Beaulard. She came to the Queen one day, and complained, with tears in her eyes, of the favour shown him by certain great ladies. She had cause to be alarmed at his success ; he was a man of great imagination, and during the days of the poufs aux sentiments invented some very original ones, capable of rivalling the confections of the Rue Saint-Honoré. His fame was considerably increased by his invention of a curious bonnet called à la bonne maman — granny bonnets.
The Comtesse d’Adhemar, in her ‘Souvenirs sur Marie-Antoinette’, relates the following anecdote of Beaulard: “A foreigner came to him. ‘Monsieur,’ she said, ‘I wish you to invent a stylish hat for me. I am English, the widow of an Admiral; I need say no more, your taste will do the rest.’ The skilful milliner set to work after some meditation, and two days later he brought the haughty islander a bonnet that was truly divine.
Billowy gauze represented a rough sea, and by means of ribbon and ornaments he had managed to portray a fleet carrying a mourning flag in sign of the widowhood of the lady. When she appeared with this marvellous work of art, just cries of admiration were heard on all sides; but Beaulard’s vogue was brought to its zenith by his creation of the bonnet a la bonne maman. To appreciate it, one must know that grandmothers, in fact all the old Court, disapproved of the height of the modern head-dress.
Consequently bonnets a la bonne maman were raised to a fashionable height by means of a spring, and lowered when a bad-tempered grandmamma appeared on the scene. All young women wished for one, and Mile. Bertin never pardoned any of her clients for their temporary infidelity to her, caused by the rage for Beaulard’s confections.”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any pictures of his creations, but they must have really been something to behold!