Incroyable et Merveilleuse was a set of 33 engravings, published in 1814, depicting extremely fashionable French men and women. They were engraved by George-Jacques Gatine after drawings by Horace Vernet and Louis-Marie Lanté. While most fashion plates were on a small scale designed to fit in women’s magazines such as the Journal des Dames (which Gatine contributed to), the Incroyable et Merveilleuse plates were on a grander scale designed for print collectors. Gatine’s fashion engravings, particularly the Incroyable et Merveilleuse series, are now considered some of the finest records of French fashion of this period.
The Incroyables (“incredibles”) were male, and their female counterparts were the Merveilleuses (“marvelous women”, roughly equivalent to “fabulous divas”). They were members of a fashionable aristocratic subculture in Paris during the French Directory (1795–1799). Whether as catharsis or in a need to reconnect with other survivors of the Reign of Terror, they greeted the new regime with an outbreak of luxury, decadence, and silliness. They held hundreds of balls and started fashion trends in clothing and mannerisms that today seem exaggerated, affected, or even effete (decadent, self-indulgent). When this period ended, society took a more sober and modest turn.
An 1813 ball gown and a cornflower blue, hooded pelisse edged with ermine. Notice the roses trimming the hat and dress. Image to the left is the aged original print. Below is the print as refined by me.
This engraving shows a woman in a white muslin dress and extravagant bonnet. The white dress trimmed with puffed muslin and pink embroidery and tassels is worn with elbow length gloves and sandal shoes tied with matching pink bows. A very fashionable ensemble. Focus your attention on the high-crowned bonnet trimmed with a bunch of enormous morning-glory flowers. Although the low neckline and short puffed sleeves usually indicate evening dress, the outdoor context and bonnet suggest this was designed for day wear.