Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


The fashion style called La Mode à l’Écossaise flourished during the early years of the French Second Empire (1852-1870). There is no equivalent English term for it except maybe “tartanmania.” In the early 1850s Queen Victoria’s fondness for wool tartans had already popularized this textile as clothing for women and children in England. Tartans came to France as a full-fledged fashion style after Empress Eugénie wore a tartan gown for the trip to England. The six-day State Visit of the French Imperial couple started on April 16th, 1855, a very foggy Sunday, when Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie set sail from Calais aboard the mail-steamer the Pélican while another boat the Pétrel carried the Empresses’ hairdresser, her wardrobe and the Imperial jewels. At Dover, they were greeted by His Royal Highness Prince Albert who accompanied them for the rest of the journey to Windsor Castle, where they were received by Queen Victoria.

Ivor Guest (1952) in his book Napoleon III In England wrote about this State visit in great detail describing the outfits of the Imperial couple upon arrival: “The Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie could be seen quite clearly standing on deck, the former in the uniform of a French General with blue tunic and red trousers, the latter in a dress of Royal Stuart tartan, grey paletot and straw bonnet, [after lunch] the Empress had changed her cloak for a black velvet mantle trimmed with lace, and now wore a blue silk chip bonnet with a plaid ribbon to match the tartan of her dress, and a black veil” (p.103).