Friday, January 25, 2008

The Friday Fact

Muslin Disease

I mentioned muslin disease on my European historicals loop a little while back and was kind of shocked to find out how many of my fellow history fanatics didn't know about it. Well, maybe I should excuse them from it since they do focus on Regency England and Muslin Disease was rampant in Empire France... :D

Muslin was an extremely popular fabric choice for dresses in the Empire period. (1800-1814) It was lightweight, easily affordable, and best of all it was clingy. I'm pretty sure only the merveilluese took full advantage of the clingy properties though.

The merveilluse were the "loose women", and their male counterparts were the "incroyables" or dandys. Napoleon was all about classical Greece. He thought Alexander the Great was the best thing that ever happened to human kind. After Napoleon's first foray into Greece, he decided that members of his court were going to dress like that.

Back then, they didn't know that the ancient Greek statues had once been brightly painted. This is why plain muslin was so popular for a little while. Bright, garish colors and gaudy prints were also popular. These are the French we're talking about after all.

So the merveilluse decided they wanted to look exactly like the Greek statues. They wore white muslin dresses over pink body tights. Often they would splash water on their dresses to enhance the clinginess. They didn't care what the weather was like that day either.

Naturally they would get sick. Since it seemed to be happening the most to the ladies who wore muslin dresses, somebody started calling it Muslin Disease. In reality, it was just good old-fashioned viral pneumonia.

Muslin Disease eventually died out as muslin favoritism was replaced with cotton and silks. But not before claiming its most famous victim--The Empress Josephine. Muslin Disease on a death certificate seems more romantic than just plain ole pneumonia.

1 comment :

  1. How very interesting! You're right. Muslin disease does sound better than pneumonia. Easier to spell too. :-)