Sunday, May 20, 2012

French FOP Buttons

French FOP Buttons
The French revolution and subsequent Reign of Terror that followed led to renunciation of all forms of elaborate and luxurious dressing, for fear of being executed as a sympathizer of aristocracy.  The men of the period clothed themselves in long jackets and leather boots (a style borrowed from Britain).  And the women in simple robes, long flowing tunics and gowns similar to ones worn by the ancient Greeks.

Following the Reign of Terror, after the execution of Maximillien de Robespierre, the Directory period began.  The ostentatious dress and life style of the aristocracy returned.  Ornate carriages began to reappear on the streets of Paris and the city erupted in a furor of pleasure-seeking and entertainment.  Theaters thrived, and popular music satirized the excesses of the Revolution.

"Les Incroyables”(the Incredibles) and “et les Merveilleuses” (the Marvelous Women)" were a collective group of young people known for their outlandish ways of dressing, who rose to prominence during this period.  Their exaggerated and luxurious styles were in response to the sober sadness that the reign of terror had spread.
The Merveilleuses scandalized Paris with dresses and tunics modeled after the ancient Greeks and Romans, but cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze.  These garments were so revealing they were termed "woven air", The garments also displayed vast amounts of cleavage and were too tight to allow pockets.  To carry even a handkerchief, these ladies had to carry small bags known as reticules.  Enormous hats, short curls like those on Roman busts, and Greek-style sandals were all the rage.
The Incroyables, wore eccentric outfits: large earrings, green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties and thick glasses.  Their musk-based fragrances earned them the nickname muscadins among the lower classes.  They wore bicorne hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their "executive power."  They wore their hair at shoulder-length, sometimes pulled up in the back with a comb to imitate the hairstyles of the condemned.  Some Incroyables sported large monocles, an affected a lisp and a stooped hunchbacked posture to exaggerate their absurdity.

The Incroyables & Merveilleuses were called French Fops by the English.  It was a pejorative term for a foolish man overly concerned with his appearance and clothing in 17th century England.  Some of the alternative terms are: "coxcomb", fribble, "popinjay" (meaning "parrot"), fashion-monger, and "ninny".  "Macaroni" was another term, of 18th century men so concerned with fashion.  The English took the original French fashion drawings and satirized their hairstyles, dress and poses.  The true French FOP Buttons were copied from these caricatures.
The exaggerated poses of both men and women found in the original fashion drawings appear in the poses of the figures on the buttons.  Other buttons show figures wearing the more normal dress of the period and without the exaggerated poses and costume of true FOPS.  Although they are often included in the category of FOPs, they are not considered Merveilleuses and Incroyables
French FOP buttons were primarily produced between 1880 – 1910.  French FOP buttons are highly collectible.  Today, most FOP buttons are valued at between $30 – $75.   With a few having a value of up to $300.

Les Incroyables

“Rained a good deal last night and until after 10 o’clock this morning.  Lettie and I went to church this morning and evening rained quite a good deal this afternoon.”

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