Men have always criticized the amount of time (and money) women dedicate to their toilet, deeming makeup unnecessary, fashion shallow and many trends over-the-top and absurd (only to consider us lazy and unattractive when we’re not well-put together…). However, sometimes they have a point. Some of the fashion styles worn by women were (and still are) not only ridiculous but also in bad taste, as the author of this piece, which appeared in the March 1807 issue of the Belle Assemblee, emphatically points out:
I must not conclude this chapter without showing how obscure, vile, disgusting or atrocious, the origin of many of our fashions has been. Circumstances of every kind have furnished some fashion or other, and things which only tended to perpetuate the remembrance of fatal accidents have been adapted for dress. Thus, the opera-house having been formerly consumed by a fire, in which a great number of unfortunate people lost their lives, a few days afterwards no other colour was to be seen but that called feu d’opera. They dressed themselves out with the recollection of human creatures burned alive! But the feu d’opera was a handsome colour! Have we not seen women wear rings in which were set stones of the Bastille? These they called bijoux a la constitution. But what is all this in comparison with what follows! My pen almost refuses to record the atrocious fashion—women have worn in their ears golden guillotines!’ What then is fashion!
But enough of these horrid subjects! Fashion has seldom exhibited this degree of atrocity; but how often has she not appeared abject and debased! Have we not seen her raking even in filth to pick up the brilliant chimeras which governed opinion and seduced the sex! The soft colour of the heavens, the carnation of the rose, or the verdant carpet of our meads had grown too common and were left for the lower classes. The mud of Paris, the soot of our chimneys, and the rags of Savoyards became the fashionable colours. Finally, have we not seen, and this undoubtedly is the height of ignominy, have we not seen the fair sex seeking the colour of their ribbons in the very excrement of the royal infant! The colour caca dauphin adorned every dress, and this word, which I cannot now write without repugnance, was then in the mouths of all the best bred women! What a ridiculous taste, that would attempt to dress beauty in disgusting images!
La Belle Assemble, March 1807