Suiting Clothes to the Colour of the Furniture - The Nymph-like Frocks of the Period - Thei Effect of Josephine's Downfall upon Fashions - Corsets, always a Bone of Contention

In the Empire period there was also a vogue for a bracelet formed of gold ribbon or knitting imitated by the goldsmith's art, and on the head rose wreaths and jewelled diadems and bandeaux were worn. When the vogue for Empire fashions returns amongst us the modern jeweller reinstates these designs, giving prominence to the laurel leaf and the violets of Napoleon.

Blending Clothes with Furniture

The luxurious plan was adopted by the Empress and her Court of suiting the clothes worn to the colour of the furniture in the various palaces. Myrtle green velvet robes contrasted with poppy red damask furniture coverings, and bleu mourant, or dead blue, was held to agree well with yellow broca-telle. The bee was a favourite emblem in embroidery schemes, and is inseparably connected with Napoleon's reign.

Josephine's favourite residence was La Malmaison, to which palace she eventually withdrew when Napoleon married Marie Louise of Austria, and where at last she died. There she liked to walk with her companions in the pretty gardens and round the little lakes, watching the black and white swans sailing majestically over the unruffled surface of the water.

Gossamer-like Garments

The curious fashion prevailed at that time of wearing clothes as gossamer-like as possible. It was considered fashionable to dress like nymphs and goddesses, and to imitate the classical garb of old Greece as closely as possible.

The consequence was that the doctors were up in arms about the foolishness of women, and it was recorded by one authority that he witnessed more deaths among young women at the end of one year, when, despite the severity of the weather, the absurd fashion for nymph frocks still prevailed, than he had during the previous forty years.

The Influence of Madame de Stael

The publication of Mdme. de Stael's "Corinne" in 1807 excited the furore for flimsy attire, a rapt expression of countenance, and for playing on the harp! Women went out of doors in low-cut frocks with short sleeves; indeed, it is actually recorded of one that she dared to appear with no clothes on at all beneath a gown of semitransparent gauze, forgetting altogether that she was not a marble statue!

It was in December, 1809, that the divorce to which Josephine had consented, since she had given the Emperor no children, was pronounced, and in April, 1810, Napoleon married the Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. Though certain fresh introductions in the fal-lals of dress were noticeable then, the main lines of fashion continued. No untoward circumstance assailed the high-waisted, short-skirted, and short-sleeved toilette, with which the daintiest of heel-less slippers were worn, and the longest of ruckled gloves, in some instances fastened at the top of the arm by means of a ribbon bracelet.

Women still clung to the long, broad scarf made of gauze or crepe which the classical furore had taught them to consider as important an accessory of dress and means of elegant trifling as the fan.

Corsets and the Empire

A very general disposition became apparent at this time to wear stays, and there was inaugurated a battle royal which rages to this day, between the advocates and condemners of that garment.

And perhaps in order to demonstrate the additional symmetry of their forms, or to mark a return towards good commonsense in another direction, a number of little extra bodices, pelisses, and fur-edged mantles were introduced. One in particular was specially piquant, and consisted of a long-sleeved silken yoke which covered the high-waisted bodice or took its place, and was finished with a capuchin at the back and a closely pleated muslin ruffle round the neck.

The End of the Period

So Fashion proceeded on her way until was fought the battle of Waterloo. Then began a new era; a page was turned over and a new chapter opened in the book of history. Fashion, therefore, deemed it necessary for herself to be fashionable, and accordingly a new era in the history of modes also was inaugurated.

By that time poor Josephine was dead. She who had so adoringly watched the career of her soldier of fortune expired under the load of his adversities in 1814, a year before he sank beneath the cataclysm of Waterloo.