The well-dressed Parisienne, paragon of chic and elegance, was frequently depicted by printmakers as a contemporary type.
She grew to be an icon of modernity and seduction —the personification of Paris, her metropolis.
A statue of a Parisienne measuring several metres and dressed in haute couture even towered over visitors at the 1900 World Exhibition.
The clothes make the Parisienne
What made a woman a true Parisienne? Even more important than her beauty, behaviour or character were the clothes she wore.
It was all about combining the latest fashion in eye-catching ways to create a visual ensemble that enriched the Parisian street scene.
The aristocratic and artistic Misia Natanson was particularly adept in this regard. Her striking, tasteful figure entranced many a passer-by and printmaker.
Anyone a Parisienne?
The appearance of cheaper clothes in the French capital’s department stores meant that the ideal of the Parisienne was also attainable by less well-off women.
Now everyone could stroll fashionably along the boulevards.
A successful prostitute might even buy her clothes from the same designer as a princess, making it harder to judge a woman’s class and virtue from her appearance.
Octave Uzanne, La femme à Paris, nos contemporaines. Notes successives sur les parisiennes de ce temps dans leurs divers milieux, états et conditions, Paris 1894
Ruth Iskin, ‘The chic Parisienne. A National Brand of French fashion and Femininity’, in Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting, Cambridge 2007, p. 184-224
Sabine Denuelle, La Parisienne dans l’art, Paris 2011