Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Domino

The domino - not the effect, mind you - was connected to the mysterious masquerades of the 18th century. Incidentally, it refers to both a mask and a cloak. 

The mask covers half the face and has rounded edges. The cloak originated in Venice; the early masquerades became fashionable all over Europe which further spread the use of the domino cloak. Both pieces were usually black but could be seen in white or blue - silk was the preferred fabric. The domino cloak was voluminous - this added both a touch of the dramatic as well as being practically large enough to accommodate the lavish costumes.

Both men and women wore dominos. The sleeves were wide and usually the cloak was outfitted with a removable hood (this hood was referred to as a bahoo). Actually, the word "domino" was derived from the hoods worn by French priests in the Middle Ages. 

Billedresultat for 17th century domino cloak
Example of a domino cloak

Masked balls at Versailles were numerous and the domino was the go-to costume. These pieces of clothing had another function. By concealing the identity of the wearer it allowed people to move far more freely and converse with whoever they pleased. For the sake of diversity the upper part of the bourgeoisie were often invited; these would otherwise never have been permitted to mingle with princes and ducs but everything was possible in disguise.

Edmond-Jean-Francois Barbier gives us a description of a domino worn by Louis XV in 1737. On 4th March the king had dined at Versailles where one of his gentlemen had brought nine domino masks. Louis XV's blue cloak was then accented by a pink domino mask.


A lady with both a domino cloak and
mask in hand

Marie Antoinette also used a feminine version of the domino cloak to attend masquerades without being immediately recognized. However, she was not always so lucky. One woman managed to recognize her and began chastising Marie Antoinette for not acting like a "proper wife" who ought to stay at home with her husband - Louis XVI did not attend that ball.
This particular queen is also said to have donned the cloak on the evenings of some court balls. The public was permitted to invade the garden during these festivities which only added to the number of people gawking at her.


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