They literally risked death to be ironic.


Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

During the French Revolution, life was dangerous, and the fabric of society was rapidly shifting.

During the French Revolution, life was dangerous, and the fabric of society was rapidly shifting.

Georg Heinrich Sieveking / Via Wikimedia Commons

As the aristocracy faced the guillotine, their fashions went out of favor. The clothes worn by the French king Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette, and the aristocracy were considered outmoded, and no longer viewed as something to aspire to.

As the aristocracy faced the guillotine, their fashions went out of favor. The clothes worn by the French king Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette, and the aristocracy were considered outmoded, and no longer viewed as something to aspire to.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

Instead, a modest style worn by people of France’s lower class — who were fighting against the upper classes who severely oppressed them — became more popular.

Instead, a modest style worn by people of France's lower class — who were fighting against the upper classes who severely oppressed them — became more popular.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

But despite this divide, a group of young aristocrats who had grown up amongst the instability of the Revolution were rebelling in their own way: with outrageous, flamboyant fashion.

But despite this divide, a group of young aristocrats who had grown up amongst the instability of the Revolution were rebelling in their own way: with outrageous, flamboyant fashion.

Claude-Louis Desrais / Via Wikimedia Commons

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Merveilleuses were the women of this movement. They wore very sheer dresses, often with nothing underneath, and poured water over the fabric so the material clung to their bare curves.

The Merveilleuses were the women of this movement. They wore very sheer dresses, often with nothing underneath, and poured water over the fabric so the material clung to their bare curves.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

The Merveilleuse style was inspired by Ancient Greece, and it often included loose, flowing fabrics, and even Grecian sandals.

The Merveilleuse style was inspired by Ancient Greece, and it often included loose, flowing fabrics, and even Grecian sandals.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

Some women exposed their bare legs and breasts, and some even walked naked in public — which was a huge change from previous buttoned-up styles.

Some women exposed their bare legs and breasts, and some even walked naked in public — which was a huge change from previous buttoned-up styles.

Wikimedia Commons

The Incroyables were the male counterparts to the Merveilleuses.

The Incroyables were the male counterparts to the Merveilleuses.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

They wore ill-fitting, exaggerated coats and cravats paired with tight pants, carried monocles or multiple pairs of eyeglasses, affected a lisp in their speech…

They wore ill-fitting, exaggerated coats and cravats paired with tight pants, carried monocles or multiple pairs of eyeglasses, affected a lisp in their speech...

Wikimedia Commons

…and walked with a hunched posture and carried wooden clubs.

...and walked with a hunched posture and carried wooden clubs.

Claude-Louis Desrais / Via Wikimedia Commons

Merveilleuse and Incroyable style was also influenced by the massive death toll of the Revolution.

Merveilleuse and Incroyable style was also influenced by the massive death toll of the Revolution.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

They attended balls called the bal de pendus or le bal des victimes, both a time to blow off steam and, in a way, mourn– because to be allowed into these events, you had to have a relative who’d been executed.
They’d wear red around their necks, mimicking those who had died by guillotine.

They attended balls called the bal de pendus or le bal des victimes, both a time to blow off steam and, in a way, mourn– because to be allowed into these events, you had to have a relative who'd been executed.
They'd wear red around their necks, mimicking those who had died by guillotine.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

And some women adopted the style a la victime or coiffure à la Titus, similar to the haircut one would receive before going under the blade.

And some women adopted the style a la victime or coiffure à la Titus, similar to the haircut one would receive before going under the blade.

Andrea Hickey / BuzzFeed

Pierre-Narcisse Guerin

So even though we think of “scandalous” or strange fashion as fairly modern, these trendsetters were disrupting society with their style over 200 years ago.

So even though we think of "scandalous" or strange fashion as fairly modern, these trendsetters were disrupting society with their style over 200 years ago.

Carle Vernet

Credits: fashionencyclopedia.com, Fall of Public Man by Richard Sennett, world4u.eu, cracked.com, tiffanyslittleblog.blogspot.com, Stephanie Buck / Timeline.com, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History by James H. Johnson, https://www.paperblog.fr/users/mademoiselle_titam/