Talk:Polonaise (clothing)

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Regarding "Poofed"[edit]

What is meant by "poofed" in the context of the subject? Dr. Dan (talk) 06:04, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

It should read "pouf", meaning fullness looped or drawn up to make a pouf or puff. I will fixe it. - PKM (talk) 17:16, 2 February 2008 (UTC)

Visual references to clarify why main image is a polonaise, as this has been challenged.[edit]

This is the official museum page for the dress I chose as the main image:;id=30715;type=101

Other references from three of the most significant fashion collections in the world:
Metropolitan Museum, New York:,b_1970.87
Victoria & Albert Museum, London:
Kyoto Institute, Japan: (although I think the drapery here is a shade too exaggerated)

I think the term "polonaise" is too open-ended to say that it can only be used to define one specific design of 18th century dress - just look at the variety of polonaises in the Met database! This Italian example is probably closest to being a "true" polonaise by the strictest, most purist definition. Mabalu (talk) 20:43, 30 January 2012 (UTC) PKM (talk) 03:34, 31 January 2012 (UTC)

But what sources have the museums used to label those gowns? They did not come with the original owners' names for them embroidered inside the hem. The collections databases, as available online, don't cite where their definitions are from or how old they are. They aren't inherently infallible just because they're museum collections.
I think we're going to have to agree to disagree, which is fine, but I don't see why the picture is necessary. There is a gallery section with images that are identified as polonaises by their text - surely that is enough? Principessa (talk) 21:26, 30 January 2012 (UTC)
it's not a matter of editors "agreeing to disagree". We have guidelines as to what is appropriate to use as a source (see my comments below), and a picture is most certainly proper in an article on fashion. - PKM (talk) 03:34, 31 January 2012 (UTC)

Polonaise definition and picture[edit]

I do realize that many museums classify the polonaise as a close-bodied gown/anglaise worn with the skirts pulled up, but this is a misconception. The study of fashion is young, and many museum artifacts were catalogued and labeled before it became a scholarly interest; this is why you can find many garments with fifty or twenty-five year date ranges. The anglaise/close-bodied gown/night gown worn with the skirts pulled up was known in French as a "robe à l'anglaise retroussée" (as labeled here). The polonaise was cut in a completely different way, as noted in citations and as visible in the gowns and fashion plates in the external links section. As noted in citations in the main article, the skirt/train should at least be trimmed all the way around for a gown to be a polonaise.

Unfortunately, I don't have a personally-taken picture of a real polonaise, and I'm fairly certain that museum photos of garments are under copyright, so I can only take out the main photo or replace it with a fashion plate. Principessa (talk) 21:18, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

This is the first record to come up on the last link you put on the main page - which says "Formerly thought to be a robe a l'anglaise" - which only confuses the issue further! I do think it needs to be pointed out for the sake of accuracy and relevancy that many museums describe these skirts as "a la polonaise". For example, in Dangerous Liaisons, a book on 18th century fashion published in 2006, the curators of the Met Museum explicitly say "the polonaise was cut like the robe a I'anglaise" - (it's on a snippet view on Google Books). So I think it's going to have to be accepted and made clear that a lot of people use the term to describe a robe à l'anglaise retroussée. I think you'll need to find at least a few cast-iron sources to back that up because at the end of the day, there are SO many reputable/high profile sources and accredited experts giving information that you say is incorrect. I think, for what it's worth, you're probably correct, but the terminology has changed so much with time that what was a pretty specific definition in 1780 has become something a bit looser and more all-encompassing in 2012. To me personally, anything with an overskirt draped up with internal tapes and loops is "a la polonaise" because that's what everything I've ever read over the last 25-odd years on the subject has taught me. Mabalu (talk) 22:30, 30 January 2012 (UTC)
Haha, I've edited the link so that it only shows the Gallerie des Modes fashion plates, which were what I meant to link to (rather than everything labeled "polonaise" in the museum) in the first place.
Nearly everything that I've read in secondary and tertiary sources, which usually cite earlier secondary sources rather than primary ones, has indicated that skirts can be worn "à la polonaise" as well, but literally everything I've seen in primary sources - fashion plates or fashion text - has indicated that that is not the case and that the polonaise was a specific, loose cut of the dress. I think that my listed secondary sources are pretty solid and reputable, and if all of the fashion plates labeled "polonaise" are not "cast-iron", I don't know what is. (They usually were in my fashion history graduate program.) I've added on another paragraph to explain the modern usage, though - does it work for you? I understand what you're saying about the changed meaning, but I think it's important to distinguish between a changed meaning inside the period and a changed meaning outside of it. Principessa (talk) 23:05, 30 January 2012 (UTC)
Wikipedia guidelines are to use reputable secondary sources, not primary sources. If museums are wrong, you need to find a reputable print source that says so. Otherwise by our guidelines it is original research. Do we have a print source for that new last paragraph? And in any case, if reputable sources disagree, we are expected to report both theories giving preference to the generally accepted definitions.
I'm with you on the problems with a lot of costume reference works, but there are recent scholarly books that define a polonaise as a close-bodied gown. I've got some! And they are certainly better than some of the references I used for the first draft of this article many years ago. I clearly need to update this. -PKM (talk) 03:24, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
I would suggest we add both of these images,. I have a citation for the photo, but cannot add it right now.
Robe a la polonaise.jpg
. -PKM (talk) 03:53, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
I love that engraving (which would make a great main pic) but would like to track down the full version of the image so I know where it's from and how it's described. I am also intrigued by the references to "polonaise" - whatever it had become by then - that are dropped in 1790s, 1830s and 1840s sources on Google Books...! Mabalu (talk) 11:55, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
Wikipedia guidelines are that primary sources are usable if they are used "to make straightforward, descriptive statements of facts that any educated person, with access to the source but without specialist knowledge, will be able to verify", though. I did give reputable secondary sources in the main - Aileen Ribeiro and Caroline Weber are both very respected (and modern) historians - and my primary sources do not need any interpretation to show that the original polonaise was meant to be trimmed all the way around. The trouble is that many of the newer "secondary" sources are actually tertiary ones, as I understand it (textbooks), and cite secondary sources or nothing at all; tertiary sources are supposed to be used for "broad summaries of topics that involve many primary and secondary sources", but there aren't really that many other sources here. The last paragraph veered into OR, I apologize for that, but I'd be happy to come back later and address the disagreement between secondary sources properly. My issue with the original picture was more that, since that specific garment fits the definition under some reputable definitions and doesn't fit under others, it would probably be better to either use a primary source image there which is indisputably a polonaise, or not use any photo at all. Principessa (talk) 17:31, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
This site has some really great scans of polonaise engravings and I think as they're accurate reproductions of two-dimensional art objects that are out of copyright, they are therefore permissible to use on Wikimedia Commons. Even though they appear to all be 1913-14 reprints from the original engravings, they are still super-clear and legible. Although this one appears to have a waist seam a l'anglaise.... I know this is a blog but again, great contemporary images - although the circassienne definitely has l'anglaise waist construction...! It strikes me that this article may need to be expanded to cover the various methods/techniques of 18th century skirt draping, with polonaise as the main title as that's what most people will look up, I doubt anyone other than the most focused academic will glance at a frock and go "ah, robe à l'anglaise retroussée!" ;) Could do what I did with Provençal quilts and have different sub-sections for each style of draped skirt, noting that the term "polonaise" is now widely used to describe a variety of styles which can then be individually described and referenced? Just a thought... Mabalu (talk) 19:03, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't think the plates you're pointing to as having anglaise construction are that definitive - fashionable women were supposed to be wearing padding, of course, and then the fashion-plate idealization plumps it up even more, and it looks to me like those are just folds formed in the dip where the exaggerated pad/roll meets the stays. (I must sound like the stubbornest so-and-so ...) To be honest, I don't think "robe à l'anglaise retroussée" is much more technical than "robe à la polonaise" - the vast majority of people aren't going to glance at anything and say "ah, robe à la polonaise," really! But the only secondary sources I can find for that one are bloggers, so we'd better lose it anyway. Mainly, I think it'd be best if we just adjust so that it's noted that sources give conflicting definitions, though I think subsection headings for the 18th and 19th century versions might be good just to put some space between them? And then I need to write a srs scholarly paper and get it published so it can be cited for my Master Plan to take effect! Principessa (talk) 23:33, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
I have two other books by Ribeiro on 18th century dress, but I can't recall what detail if any they have on the pesky polonaise. I may not be able to do any serious digging until this weekend, but let me see what I can unearth. I may also be able to find that engraving, or something like it. -PKM (talk) 01:16, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
I wasn't really serious about writing an article (not least because I'm pretty sure I know of a blogger who's planning on doing it) but after dinner I thought I might plan something out and do some research on how books are defining the polonaise, and what they're citing ... Through Google Books, I've taken two pages of notes, most of them from books published in the last fifteen years. So far, most don't mention the bodice cut at all. Dangerous Liaisons and the KCI book specifically point to anglaise-bodiced gowns as polonaises; Queen of Fashion and Dress in France describe the loose cut, Lure of Perfection describes them as hooking together at the neckline, and European Costume and Fashion (pretty old) describes the rounded open fronts. My plan had been to follow citations back to sources, and see where their citations comes from, but barely any of these books cite. :/ I'm going to try to look into re-enactor-aimed books and re-enactor blogs, because I'm starting to think that that's where the definitive statements about the cut are coming from. Principessa (talk) 02:15, 1 February 2012 (UTC)



These are the two references I have:

  • Ribeiro, Aileen: The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750–1820, Yale University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-300-06287-7
  • Ribeiro, Aileen: Dress in Eighteenth Century Europe 1715–1789, Yale University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-300-09151-6

In The Art of Dress, p. 66, Ribeiro says "Madame Roland refers to the style of dress which of the French had borrowed from the English, the robe à l'anglaise, and of which the polonaise was a variant." That is pretty specific. She also has many contemporary images identified as polonaise, several with back views, and most obviously fitted. I have the books sitting on my scanner with scattered bookmarks. More soon...- PKM (talk) 23:55, 5 February 2012 (UTC)

Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune Le Rendez-vous pour Marly.jpg

Whoop! I found it. Can we all agree on this image (right) for the lead, dated c. 1777? I can make a crop of just the lady with the parasol if you like. I promise I'll work on this text Real Soon Now and remove the uncited mediocre references I added in 2006. - PKM (talk) 00:55, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

I like the image as a whole because it shows back and front views, so would not crop it. Mabalu (talk) 10:05, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
good point. Oddly, Ribeiro says the polonaise is a variant of the robe à l'anglaise but elsewhere she says it is always open in front ... I think she is defining robe à l'anglaise as having a fitted back, or at least a back with the pleats stitched down. I need to do a closer reading on this. - PKM (talk) 17:59, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
Maybe "open in front" is a reference to the skirts of the polonaise always being open in front - you never see a closed gown with a skirt a la polonaise... Got me wondering now, what upper garments did you wear under the open-fronted polonaises? Stays of this period appear to be pretty functional and not really designed to be gazed upon, and stomachers appear to have become quite demode by then, plus you'd think they wouldn't cover the stays up enough... So was there some kind of early pre-camisole thing going on, I wonder... Mabalu (talk) 18:33, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
I like the plate as is too, for the front and back views. I'm trying to find exactly what Madame Roland said in her memoirs, but I'm having a hard time tracking it down - PKM, does Ribeiro give a citation? I don't have that book. Mabalu, I'm pretty sure stomachers were worn with polonaises (at least, at first) - just differently shaped ones. Principessa (talk) 22:23, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
I added the lead image. I'll see if I can dig through Ribeiro and update the text this weekend. She mentions a "vest" being worn under the open polonaise, as I recall. More soon... - PKM (talk) 00:27, 12 February 2012 (UTC)
Oh dear, this muddies the issue even further - a Caraco a la Polonaise!. Absolutely love the image though - and it's led me to a very interesting debate (alas, on a blog!) here. Someone could write a book solely on the polonaise and ALL the variations on the theme... Mabalu (talk) 18:27, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

Major edit[edit]

I have rewritten large parts of this based on the discussion above, citing the additional sources. I also standardized the notes and references, formatted the blockquote, and removed the unreferenced name "milkmaid dress" for which I can find no visual or written source. There is still more that could be done with this, especially on the 19th century revivals. Comments or suggestions? - PKM (talk) 21:29, 12 February 2012 (UTC)

Oh, well done on the 19th century additions! - PKM (talk) 03:33, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

I only just saw this, AFTER doing some work on expanding the 19th century bit - although a lot of what I've done is probably the dreaded original research. (although I've tried to keep it as direct and focused as possible and state that this is what the sources say, even if they ARE contemporary sources...) Mabalu (talk) 03:34, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

Edit conflict!! Glad you approve. Mabalu (talk) 03:34, 13 February 2012 (UTC)
Ashelford has a bit on the fabrics used for the polonaise, but I can't get that added tonight. Soon... - PKM (talk) 04:48, 13 February 2012 (UTC)
I have just added in a 20th century chapter and expanded slighjtly on the 1880s-90s. Also added a couple of images which I hope will meet with your approval - Loved the 1875 portrait as it just seemed to encapsculate the 1870s polonaise perfectly. Also learned a LOT about the World War I polonaise while trawling Google News for fashion articles describing polonaises...! Mabalu (talk) 23:25, 13 February 2012 (UTC)
Love it! - PKM (talk) 06:40, 16 February 2012 (UTC)