Liberty Equality Fashion
The Women Who Styled the French Revolution
The forgotten story of how three women dazzled the world with their radical style and transformed the fashion of the French Revolution
Joséphine Bonaparte, future consort of Napoléon; Térézia Tallien, the most beautiful woman in Europe; and Juliette Récamier, muse of intellectuals, cast off the rigid clothing regime of the past. Overcoming forced marriages and imprisonment during the Terror, they became the first self-made fashion celebrities. From one year to the next, the Three Graces led a rebellion against corsets, petticoats and enormous skirts. Their flowing garments not only embodied freedom for modern women but also marked the emergence of global capitalism, shopping culture and the rise of powerful style influencers. Joséphine combined the style of Black women from her Caribbean childhood with garments from India and Kashmir to fuse cultures and bend gender rules. Her best friend and style collaborator, Térézia, celebrated the female body and her own erotic independence. Juliette pioneered a radical minimalism, posing for portraits in pure-white, virginal gowns. After the French Revolution, a conservative reaction would keep women “buttoned up” for two centuries, making the fashion-forward story of the Three Graces even more resonant today.