Incroyables and Merveilleuses, of the renewal of the Cane    

The Cane in the French revolution

The king is dead. Three cheers for the king! Everything is changing, way of life, ideas, fashion.

Dresses were ample with panniers, no longer panniers, the Merveilleuses wear long dresses with train, the Incroyable bears their many-coloured coat and the enormous jabot, a kind of puffy tie.

Incroyable wearing an evening suite

And the Cane?

The Cane changes, as well. The Cane was of a precious nature, it becomes rough. Twisted, nearly a bludgeon, in the revolutionary times, it will be will be given the name of "Executive power" or "Freedom tree".

From the revolution on and to stay on the opposite of the old regime, young eccentrics launch the fashion said of the "Incroyables".


Incroyable wearing an evening suite 1788, leaning on a rough and twisted cane.

In 1788, while here and there, the sedition degenerates into riots and that Louis XVI convenes the "Etats généraux" [1] for 1789, the table 101 of the "Paris through centuries" by H. Gourdon de Grenouillac (F. Roy Editeur, Paris, 1882) brings back two figures of the costume at this troubled time: Incroyable wearing an evening suite 1788, above, and a bourgeois of Paris, below.

[1] The name "Etats Généraux" was given to the Assembly where the three orders, clergy, nobility and third state (the majority of French citizens) were represented.

The Historical Dictionary of Arts, Occupations and Professions carried in Paris from the thirteenth century on (Alfred Franklin, Paris 1906) depict caustically the renewal of the Cane in the French revolution:

Bourgeois 1788

"The Revolution found the path to innovation even for canes; but we must recognize that for canes, as for all parts of the costume, its conceptions were pretty awkward."

"1790's elegants made a glory to hold in hand a thick Cane rigged up with a catgut concealing a sword blade. "

Later on, the Jacobins adopted a gnarled stick, a kind of cudgel sometimes sinuous."


Bourgeois 1788, leaning on his umbrella.


The Cane played an important role in the history of fashion during the old monarchy but it was reserved then to the noblity and the high bourgeoisie. High Canes were in fashion. The Cane was precious. Most of the time the handle was made of gold, silver or porcelain.

Let me tell the story of one of the most fascinating period, the times of the democratic renewal of the Cane, in the storm of the French revolution and Directoire.


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