Catching Flies

I just read an interesting article about beauty marks or patches (called ‘flies’ in French). This is a rough English translation of that article by Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset, international relations historian and project manager at the Cultural Development Department of the Palace of Versailles and president of the ICOM Costume international committee. The full article appears in issue #34 of the journal Château de Versailles (July-Sept. 2019):

Intended to camouflage a facial defect or to accentuate, by contrast, the whiteness of the skin, “flies” were part of the arsenal of seduction in the Great Century, (note: The Great Century refers to the period in France under the reigns of Louis XIV to Louis XVI, c. 1660 – 1790)

At all costs and for all kinds of people, there are ways: “to soften the eyes, to trim the face, to put on the forehead, to place on the breast and, provided that a skillful hand know how to put them to good use, you never put them in vain.” A 1661 poem spoke of the ‘good fly maker’ – The fly was compared to the bee and the face of a woman to a flower on which, like bees, the fly lands. The ‘good fly maker’ makes a point of making the lady irresistible, and the man is bitten.

Flies varied in size or shape and had specific names. “Those cut in length are called assassins”, explained Furetière in his Dictionary of the French language (1690)… Placed near the eye, it is the “passionate”; at the corner of the mouth, the “kisser”; on the lip, the “coquette”; on the nose, the “cheeky”; on the forehead, the “Majestic”; in the middle of the cheek, the “gallant”; in the fold of the cheek when one laughs is called “the playful”; there are also the “discreet”, the “virtuous”, etc.

Their dimensions vary. Long ones are called “ball flies” or “court flies”, because their large size could be seen from a distance and had a better effect in a room lit by candles. Small and “wonderfully flirtatious” flies were worn during the day for parties and were called “alley flies”.

The best flies were cut with sharp dies from a very black taffeta that was well gummed, so that it did not fray and get caught in wrinkles…

A patchy history and the Politics of Fashion

For some reason a small selection of comic books came in the same box as a donation of books for the museum library. Unfortunately none of them were issue #1 of Superman – just some well thumbed (mostly Archie) comics from the early-mid 1970s. I went looking for the sea monkey and X-ray specs ads that I remembered from when I read comic books in the late 60s, but instead found a lot of offers for T-shirts and jean patches, including many that are surprisingly political for the pre-teen market of the comic books.

Speaking of political fashions, the Fashion History Museum wll be collaborating with Toronto’s Design Exchange this fall on an exhibition entitled Politics of Fashion – Fashion of Politics. The exhibition will explore the ways fashion and politics have collided and cooperated from 1960 to the present.

I don’t know the entire artifact list but a lot of my Hippy and Punk collection will be on show… and I imagine a lot of patched jeans and T-shirts with political messages will make the cut. The show will be on from September 18 to January 25, 2015.

Added July 8: An article came out today in Toronto Life promoting the show and even depicts three of our pieces that will be on display.

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Patches for jeans, from a September 1975 Chip ‘n’ Dale comic book