Saturday, 22 September 2018

"Caca du Dauphin"

The 1770's and 1780's saw the emergence of ever more shades of colours and each had to have a fetching name. One of the more bizarre colours was "caca dauphin" - to put it politely, the shade took its inspiration from the colour of the newly born dauphin's soiled diapers. Believe it or not it did become quite the rage for a while.

The magazine on fashion, Toilette des Dames, attested to the colour's popularity despite its vulgar name: "the colour adorned all the ornaments and this word - that I recall today with repugnance - was on the lips of all the fashionable ladies."

Some attribute the original spreading of the colour as a fashion statement to the Marquise de Senteur who had allegedly been present at the changing of the little prince's linen when she spotted the "distinct" tone. Apparently, in an effort to spark a trend, she appeared in a satin gown of the same  yellowish-brown shade! Others claim that the term was coined by Rose Bertin, the haute couture provider to many a fashionable lady.
For a while the shade became the colour to dress new-born boys in - one can only wonder how long that lasted.

A floral print on top of
"caca du Dauphin"

It was not just ladies and infants who became attracted to the rather grotesque colour; gentlemen joined in as well. The 1874 "Musée Historique du Costume" refers to a man's silk suit in the colour of "caca dauphin" from the age of Louis XVI. According to the book by Gustave Desnoiresterres on Louis-Sébastien Mercier, the dramatist, Mercier, ordered a silk suit of the same hue from his tailor although he appears to have had some reservations as to whether he actually liked it. But, as he said,: "I do not want to depart from the slightest nuance of the prevailing fashions in either Paris or Versailles...". Apparently, he planned to wear it at the opera and expected a good reaction from his fellow on-lookers.

When a baroness was introduced at court she had ordered a new gown for the vital occasion; the soon-to-be courtier had ordered silk from Lyon in the caca-shade which was combined with a moss green. Some went even further and ordered new curtains in celebration of the newborn.

Once the revolution began such colours - and all others referring to the ancien regime - were very much out of fashion. Instead, those elderly ladies who still dared to show up in their dresses of that shade found themselves likened to "dead leaves".

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