Fashionista – Count Alfred d’Orsay (1801-1852)

1834 lithograph by Irish portrait artist Daniel Maclise of Count D’Orsay

There have been many fashion leaders who never designed: Kim Kardashian, Twiggy, Madame de Pompadour, Jenny Lind, Lily Langtry, Beau Brummel, and Alfred Guillaume Gabriel – the Count d’Orsay.

D’Orsay (1801 – 1852) was a French gentleman who married into British aristocracy. He was Beau Brummel’s successor as a dandy in all manners of taste, vanity, dress, style and wit – In early Victorian England, the term ‘dossy’ (someone who is elegant) was probably derived from his name.

D’Orsay’s portrait became the model for the New Yorker magazine’s mascot renamed in 1925 by humourist Corey Ford as ‘Eustace Tilley’

D’Orsay was a painter, and a diarist, and a professional society party-goer but he was not a designer and did not invent any styles of clothing. However, as a leader of fashion his name became attached to three trends that became fashions in the 1830s:

D’Orsay pump: Shoe with cutaway sides. Some references to the style being first used as military footwear in 1838 are wrong, it was originally an indoor slipper aka: opera slipper.

D’Orsay coat: Man’s overcoat fitted through the waist with a dart (princess line), with knee length skirts without pleats and minimal decoration to best show off the figure. Illustration at right shows an 1870s version of the tightly fitted D’Orsay coat.

D’Orsay roll: A British term for high hat with full rolling brim, like the one that appears in his 1834 portrait.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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2 Responses to Fashionista – Count Alfred d’Orsay (1801-1852)

  1. One tiny belated pointer – Twiggy did start out making her own clothes, and had always wanted to be a designer. She collaborated with Paul Babb and Pamela Proctor on their designs for Twiggy Dresses, making sure that the garments were all things she would have worn herself. In fact, she could have gone with a bigger company, but they wouldn’t have allowed her any input, so she and her manager deliberately went with Taormina Textiles precisely because they were prepared to let her have a say in the designs and actively participate in the process. So while Twiggy wasn’t really a fully fledged designer, she did have design experience and aspirations that she had the opportunity to explore and influence.

    • Jonathan says:

      A lot of celebrity designers have some input into their eponymous lines, but ultimately, saying you like this or that pattern and asking if a sleeve could be a bit bigger is not really designing anymore than a client can request a couturier to adjust a dress design to their liking.

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