Saturday, 20 January 2018

Puce - the Flea Colour

Louis XVI never did quite grasp some of the trends of his age; one in particular was fashion. Marie Antoinette introduced a new colour to the fashion stage in 1775. The colour varied from a reddish tan-brown to greyish purple. However, when Louis XVI saw it he jokingly remarked that it looked like the colour of a flea. Thus, the name was born since "puce" is flea in French. 

Despite the unflattering connection to the pest the colour quickly caught on. Entirely new shades of "puce" was introduced and they all played on the king's witty remark. "Flea's belly", "flea's thigh" or "old flea" all became options when choosing a shade for a new gown. Marie Antoinette seemed to have preferred a shade leaning more towards ash-grey. 
Men, too, jumped on the wagon. A newly arrived young man was advised to immediately purchase a puce-coloured jacket and he was sure to become an instant favourite.  

"Jolie Femme en Circassienne de gaze d'Italie puce, avec la jupe de la meme gaze couvrant une autre jupe rose garnie en gaze broché avec un ruban bleu ataché par des Fleurs et glands et gaze Bouilloné par en bas, et des manchette de filet, coiffé d'un Chapeau en Coquille orné de Fleurs et de Plumes", Gallerie des Modes, 1778; MFA 44.1319
The gauze used for this lady's dress is puce, 1778

The Baronne d'Oberkirch remembered how Versailles was soon flooded with gowns in every shade of "flea" imaginable. It quickly spread to the bourgeoisie and for a good reason. According to the Baronne, the colour "did not soil easily" so it was cheaper to both produce and easier to wash. The demand soon became so great that dyers struggled to keep up.

Lady Spencer visited the French court that summer of 1775 and exclaimed that nothing but puce could be worn. Marie Antoinette even advised her English guest to acquire a puce-coloured garment for herself. Naturally, the Lady Spencer quickly obeyed and purchased a coat.

Relateret billede
The innocent flea whose species caused a fashion trend

No comments:

Post a comment