When I think of late 18th century caraco and petticoat ensembles, what comes to mind is silk brocade with embroidery or colorful prints that make for a substantial, eye-catching presence.
This one, however, is so unusual I wanted to share it the moment I saw it. It’s more like a wisp of a cotton cloud that a bold statement.
And no wonder, since it belonged to Madame Élisabeth (1764-1794), also known as Princess Élisabeth, the youngest sister of King Louis XVI of France. She did not survive the Revolution, but her ensemble did and was exhibited at Versailles in 2013 as part of a larger exhibition about the princess.
This is a photograph from the exhibition, which shows the pierrot-style caraco and petticoat along with its matching fichu. The ensemble is dated to 1789.
Then there is this set of photographs, from the Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. Although the dates are slightly different, and the fichu is gone, there seems little doubt it is the same garment. The fineness of the cotton is amazing…it must have worn like a whisper.
Caraco and petticoat, 1790-1800. Very fine white cotton, embroidered with garlands of vine and grape clusters.