By Chantal Roberts
Three hundred six years ago on September 1, le Roi Soleil died, but as with everything Louis XIV touched, his influence endures.
In 1665, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, France’s finance minister quipped, “Fashion is to France what the gold mines of Peru are to Spain.” Colbert, as Louis’ comptroller, established the French fashion industry by organizing a systems of trade guilds and unions. Louis stated that no woman should be admitted to les Maîtresses marchandes lingères unless she professed to be an Apostolic, Roman, Catholic. This guild was one of three open to women during this time. The guild was for female linen seamstresses and hemp merchants; the maîtresses couturières were also seamstresses who had permission to make clothes for women and children—except for noble women, whose expensive dresses were made by male tailors.
Louis, with his business-like mind, forbade nobles from importing anything that could be made in France. It is rumored he made the Dauphin burn his coat because it was made of foreign cloth.
One of the most successful improvements established by the Versailles Court was to dictate that new fabrics be released twice a year. The obsolescence of textiles encouraged the nobles, who were eager to show off their wealth, to buy more. The summer, or été, fashion season began on Pentecost (usually mid- to late-May); the winter, or hiver, season began on All Saints Day, November 1.
Jean de La Bruyère, a writer during the time, noted, “Scarcely had one fashion usurped the place of another when it was succeeded by a third, which in its turn was replaced by some still newer fashion, not by any means the last.”
Dressing was an arduous task requiring several servants or ladies-in-waiting. The public dressing of the nobles began with Louis and his mother, Anne of Austria. Most women had a pre-dressing event before the actual levée, which was more theatre with props of gold or silver toilette sets, perfumes, and cosmetics.
The dressing consisted of the chemise, white, which was changed several times a day in order to keep fresh and by decree of Louis in another attempt to keep the nobles in debt by having to wear several different clothes in one day. On top of the chemise were the stays, laced up, and then the bum roll to help with the petticoats (skirt) then the bodice.
Women’s dress was off the shoulder with a bit of the chemise peeking out in order to show how rich the woman was due to how white the chemise was.
Hair was flat against the crown, pulled back into a low bun with cascading curls encircling the face. Of course, Louis was not able to control everything. Women soon began using cages to wrap around their hair so that it was larger and larger along their sides called hurluberlus and paresseuses which were false wigs or long ringlets, called mustaches.
Period costumes are encouraged at Molière’s 400th birthday party, Saturday, January 15, 2022. It is 2pm- 4:30pm at Kirkwood Hall in the Nelson-Atkins Museum.
By Chantal Roberts
There are a few questions that will win you free drinks in bars:
1. How many states border Texas?
Answer? There are 8 states which border Texas. Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.
2. How many states are in the United States?
Answer? There are 46 states in the United States. Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania are all “commonwealths.”
3. How many countries does Canada share a border with?
Answer? Two: The United States and France.
While that doesn’t seem possible, I assure you it is. There are two small islands approximately 15 miles off the coast of Newfoundland which are the last remaining vestiges of La Nouvelle France from the 16th century which stretched from Canada all the way south to New Orleans.
Today, Americans know the Louisiana Purchase doubled our fledgling nation’s footprint, and readers of this blog know the French heritage of Missouri and Kansas because the French settled here as part of New France. The Canadian province Québec is well-known to be French speaking, but despite calls for succession, it remains part of Canada as are the provinces to the east, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador.
But in Fortune, Newfoundland, a 45-minute ferry ride will take you to France after a quick passport check and going through customs—or at least a self-governing territory and the only remaining trace of France sovereignty in North America thanks to the cession of French colonies to England and Spain in the 1763 Treaty of Paris.
This territory is the islands Saint Pierre and Miquelon. The islands aren’t like France—it is France—complete with a different electrical grid than Canada (and the US), cell phones incur international charges, and the best place to get French wines that aren’t available anywhere else in North America. Residents are considered French citizens, use Euros instead of Canadian dollars, and are part of the European Union. The islands even fly the tri-colored flag of France. Plus, it has a different time zone from Canada, this makes Saint-Pierre and Miquelon the first place in North America to celebrate the New Year.
Keeping on our liquor theme…while Al Capone might have been a notorious gangster, he was a shrewd businessman. When the US went through Prohibition, Canada supported its southern neighbor and forbade its provinces to ship liquor to the US. But Saint Pierre and Miquelon weren’t Canadian. They were French; so, Capone set up a distribution center of liquor on the island and stayed at Hotel Robert, which is still in operation today.
So, the last question to win you a free drink is: can you get to Europe in a car? Technically, yes, because the ferries to and from the islands can also shuttle your car back and forth. So, yes, you can drive to France.
Ha. Here's a hotel that has a Molière room. http://nuitssaintpierre.com/en/rooms-chambres/
 If you want another fun bar-bet question, ask what the official language of the United States is. Answer: There isn’t one. Nope. Not even English.
By Chantel Roberts
Today it seems odd to see a man wearing high heels, but it used to be quite a normal sight. When you think of a man in heels you likely immediately think of Louis XIV’s portrait by Hyacinth Rigaud, with the original Louboutin red heels. Contrary to popular belief, The Sun King did not invent heels to show off his magnificent calves.
A Persian dish in a Berlin museum shows a rider in the 9th or 10th century with heels. High-heeled shoes were worn by the Persian calvary to keep their shoes in the stirrups since it gave them the stability that they needed to shoot arrows from horseback.
Heels became the signature power move for men who wanted to display their virility and be a head above the rest (pun intended). The footwear found its way to Europe by the 16th century. European men used heels as an outer layer to prevent mud on their real shoes. Like today, the higher the heel the richer and more commanding the wearer appeared.
Italian courtesans allegedly began wearing heels for their sexy, androgenous look, which is humorous since, while we find them sexy today, we don’t necessarily think of them as “androgenous.” Catherine de Medici is the first recorded instance of high heels being worn by a woman. She wore them on her wedding to Henri II of France because, at 4’ 9”, she wanted to appear taller. Women had been wearing platform heels at that time—oh, how fashion goes around!
Louis XIV adored heels and gave his name to the signature heel of his era. His famous red heels were a sought-after sign of royal approval as Louis decreed only those in his favor were allowed to wear red heels on their shoes.
In this painting, Nicolas de Largillière, the painter, is showing that Louis, Duke of Burgundy, does not have his grandfather’s approval because he does not have the red-heeled shoes.
Louboutin is so synonymous with the red heel that it once filed suit against Yves Saint Laurent for trademark infringement because YSL produced shoes with a similar red sole. Yves Saint Laurent argued that Louboutin could not claim a trademark because their shared French history had red heels back to Le Roi Soleil.
The red color has an interesting history as well. It showed that the nobles never dirtied their shoes and it represented the blood of their enemies. What a way to show whether you were in the King’s favor!
This had to be strictly governed. In 1670, Louis passed a law stating only nobles could wear heels and theirs must be lower than his five-inch heels. Wearing heels without permission could literally be a death sentence—although some women would argue wearing heels today could be construed as one.
Cosgrove, E. (2019, August 16). The History of High Heels. London Runway. https://londonrunway.co.uk/2019/09/11/the-history-of-high-heels/.
Galiastro, K. (2016, December 5). The Surprising Origin of the Red High Heel. Solemates. https://thesolemates.com/blogs/be-inspired/the-surprising-origin-of-the-red-high-heel.
Google. (n.d.). The High-Life: A History of Men in Heels - Google Arts & Culture. Google. https://artsandculture.google.com/story/the-high-life-a-history-of-men-in-heels/iQJCgMgwSKV5Kw.
Werlin, K. (2010, November 9). Red Heels. The Fashion Historian. http://www.thefashionhistorian.com/2010/11/red-heels.html.
Wynne, E. (2017, November 10). A short history of the high heel. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-13/why-do-we-wear-high-heeled-shoes/9135936.
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