Valentino Couture 2016… glided down the cat walk. Inspired by Mario Fortuny and the fluid freedom of early 20th century dancers, it also contained what has become a Valentino signature Grecian style dresses …with snaking diadems. They caught my eye, because I am turning the pages on the epic love affair that is Napoleon and Josephine (An improbable Marriage) and breathing in the heady days of revolution, les Merveilleuses and Brumaire.
Delicious Madame Juliette Récamier
Society and Salon leader Thérésa Tallien
The beauties of that Parisian era scandalised foreign visitors, when they dared to return after the 1794 Terror: Rose de Beauharnais – immortalised by Napoleon as Josephine, Madame Tallien in her violet coach with crowds permanently cheering and Madame Reclaimer always stylish and always in white. Comte Espinchal wrote to London of these women that: pursuing the current fantasies of Greco-Roman dress and decoration (they) …are of more consequence than all five armies on the five fronts.
Josephine (a little more demure in 1801)
And what fashion: Women’s grecian tunics were split to the thigh and down to the naval, and sometimes made to hold the body being being dipped first in scented oil and so transparent they …are seen to palpitate through the gauze.
and often worn with toe rings and grecian sandals in 1795.
Thérésa appeared clad as Diana the huntress: her bosom half naked, sandals on her feet and dressed, if one can use the expression, in a tunic above her knees.
Giddy with life after the horrors of Madame Guillotine and revolution, they partied every night, Josephine plotting with her friend Thérésa: Be sure to wear your peach-blossom dress to the ball tomorrow and I will wear mine with creole turban…and three curls on my forehead. Our identical costumes will be devastating to our English rivals.
a detail from one of Josephine’s later dresses now at Malmaison
Josephine was Napoleon’s lodestar and lucky charm, always shining bright, her wardrobe and jewels became legendary. Once she famously commissioned a dress embroidered entirely in fresh rose petals, made for one evening’s gossamer beauty, rose-scented as she danced.
Valentino 2016, the Paris runway scattered with… rose petals.
the ghosts of former dresses?
Vogue.co.uk all images of Valentino catwalk
All quotes and information from Evangeline Bruce, Napoleon and Josephine, An improbable Marriage.
Madame Récamier Portrait by François Pascal Simon, Baron Gérard, 1802
Thérèse Tallien portrait by Marie-Guillemine Benoist, 1799.
Josephine/Rose portrait by Francois Gerard, 1801