Le Mercure Galant

An early edition of Le Mercure Galant.

An early edition of Le Mercure Galant (41)


A major factor in the connection between fashion and Frenchness was Le Mercure Galant, the first French journal to report on fashion.36While it included articles on various topics of interest to the elite, many pages were devoted to “describing the fashions of the king and royal family and discussing the impact of royal authority on French fashion.”37It also included discussion of the roles on artisans, merchants and high-class consumers in the development of France’s fashion culture, revealing the inner workings of the French fashion system.38

female mercure

Female dress in Le Mercure Galant (42)

Male dress in Le Mercure Galant

Male dress in Le Mercure Galant (43)

The articles varied in length, some being brief blurbs to others ranging from 30 to 40 pages. The editor of the journal, Jean Donneau de Visé wrote his articles in “a light conversational style” as if he was simply discussing the fashions with court members.39Merchants and their stores were also noted in the article besides their corresponding products, giving the merchants advertising and allowing readers to easily locate clothing they wanted to purchase. The journal made a point to go into great detail on certain aspects of clothing, like fabrics and lace. Various accessories, like shoes and jewelry, led to extensive discussion. Certain shapes of clothing were sometimes described, but the focus remained on the writing about the textiles and accessories.40

There is great significance of this fashion journal in the connection between fashion and Frenchness. It established the importance of fashion in society by displaying not only the trends, but also the relationships between all sectors of the fashion industry. The journal focused mainly on the King, his court and the upper class, showing the influence that the elite held in fashion. Through this focus, the impact of King Louis XIV’s authority is displayed. His prominent role in fashion was highlighted through articles on court dress and the fashion restrictions he put in place.

This link (above) is a modern interpretation of Le Mercure Galant. The tone and layout of the magazine display a current-day style, while the content of the articles represent what would have been present in a 17th century edition. The articles on the actual shape/cut of fashions are shorter than the article on lace. This is because the journal typically went into more detail on the specifics of clothing instead of the overall style.