from Dolce & Gabbana to Galliano, the Empire that inspired fashion

Napoleon was not demanding, no radicalism, no coquetry in dress. Spartan tastes and customs, a thrifty man. A dressing gown and slippers at home, in battle and on official occasions only and only the uniform of colonel of the guard grenadiers or that of the hunters of the guard. For the harsh winter just a gray overcoat, very warm. Strange fate that of Napoleon. His empire was loved by fashion. A style, especially the feminine one, which broke the canons of the ancien regime.

Goodbye wigs and powdered men, corsets and rococo panniers, women ‘undress’ and discover themselves. Many wrote, “in an indecent way”, synonymous with elegance, but also with independence and a libertarian and libertine spirit. Transparencies, lace and décolleté, ballet flats in satin and embroidered silks, ankle boots without heels, tunics à la grecque, à la juive, à la russe with plumetis work, Greek and floral decorations, gold and silver thread embroidery, with precious stones.

For the Spencer day, the ladies favored hooded furs, wide-brimmed hats and shawls especially in cashmere. It seems that Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s wife, had collected about 300 at Malmaison.

“With Napoleon, women finally began to breathe again, in the true sense of the word – the scholar and collector Renato d’Aquino explained to Adnkronos – The Emperor freed them from the trappings and superstructures of fashion. ‘900 and Coco Chanel “. A neoclassical revival, that of the Empire, launched by the very charming Joséphine, widow Beauharnais, not yet empress of the French, after the Revolution and by the Merveilleuse, daring lords of the Directory who escaped the guillotine. A fashion, a lifestyle that lasted for about 20 years and that the haute couture of the twentieth century awakened from a long sleep.

From Dolce & Gabbana who in 2006 let themselves be inspired by ‘Napoleonic’ tunics to the English designer Alexander McQueen, to the Spanish Manolo Blahnik with his shoes inspired by the Empire and before that, back in 1992 the irreverent John Galliano dedicated his fashion show to ‘Napoléon & Joséphine’, while recently Michael Kors allowed himself (2020) to be seduced by the military coat worn by Napoleon in a famous portrait of Jacques-Louis David. The forerunner of the stylists was the maison Hermès with Philippe Ledoux who in 1963 designed wonderful silk scarves with the prints of the leader on horseback.

High waist just below the bust, satin ribbons and belts, straight and long skirts, balloon sleeves (remember Natasha-Audrey Hepburn in ‘War and Peace’ directed by King Vidor with costumes made by Fernanda Gattinoni?). Dior, Balenciaga, Romeo Gigli did not remain indifferent to the sophisticated elegance of the Empire style, seduced by Napoleone even famous creatives such as Chanel, Valentino, Armani, Luisa Beccaria, Versace who in 2006 designed ultra-modern dresses cut under the bust and fluffy on the hips, while Roberto Cavalli designed precious puff-sleeved shirts, while the eccentric and disenchanted Moschino paraded tailored coats and frock coats worthy of Paolina Bonaparte, beloved sister of the Emperor and princess Borghese, immortalized by Canova. L


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