Like the Chevalier d’Eon who, after having lived in women’s clothes, was recognized, at his death, to be a man – and a very well-endowed one – our abbot succeeds in fooling his contemporaries, who hesitate on which sex to give him. Always occupied with frills and trimmings, he is to be seen, until an advanced age, and even up until his death, dressed in this manner, not only in his own home, but sometimes even in company and in church. Right up to the end, he had the coquetry of trinkets and will never be cured of this inoffensive and costly mania.
From a very young age, encouraged by his mother, he dresses like a girl. He tells us:
“They were careful to rub me every day, from the age of five or six, with a certain water which kills hairs at the root, as long as it is used early enough.”
He is not a child like others of his age. He is a pretty doll. Every evening, he takes the precaution of washing his neck and breast
“with veal water and a pomade of sheep’s feet, which made the skin soft and white”.
What he doesn’t say and which we glean from other sources, is that he likes to be with women and girls, to dress them, to do their hair. He knows what clothes suit them better than the most clothes-conscious women. Later on, his greatest joy will be
“to dress them and buy jewels, so as to be able to lend them to those who were lucky enough to be his favourites”.
But let us return to his confessions which accidentally escape from his pen. According to him, he has his hair curled and be-ribboned and, after having had his hair done by expert hands, he decorates his neck with a diamond cross or with pearl necklaces, his fingers with “two rings, which were well worth four thousand francs”, and his wrists with bracelets of pearls and rubies. A chamber-maid is specially employed in his service.
He tells us in minute detail about his wardrobe and talks about his taste for black and gold dresses, with satin trimmings. With one of them he wears a mousseline cravate, whose fringes cascade over a big black ribbon. The tops of his white shoulders are uncovered sufficiently, and as a little lackey ceremoniously carries the long train, his white damask petticoat can be glimpsed.
Francois Timoleon de Choisy likes contrasts since his black dresses are always lined with white and his white dresses are lined with black.
When he visits his uncle, a grave State Councillor, he wears over his
“corset laced behind, a dress of ciselled black velvet, a skirt of the same over it, an ordinary petticoat, a Steinkerque mousseline cravate, gold and black”.
A wig, “very curled and powdered”, completes this seductive outfit which amuses his severe uncle.
Even when he is not dressed up, he is extremely fashion-conscious. He wears
“a dressing-gown of pinkish red, a fichu, white ribbon lacings, lace headdresses with pinkish red ribbons on my head; no patches; little gold earrings”.
Every evening, he is curled and styled, has headgear fixed on, then an Alencon lace-encrusted jacket is put on him. He is careful to remove his diamond earrings, before going to bed, replacing them with smaller, less valuable ones, in gold.
His bedroom is a real frame for his beauty. The wall-hangings, window and door drapes are all in red and white damask. The room contains a big pier-glass, three big mirrors, another one on the white marble chimney-piece, porcelains, paintings in gilded frames, crystal chandeliers, seven or eight wall-plaques where, in the evening, candles are lit. The bed, a la duchesse, is also of red and white damask, the curtains attached with white taffeta ribbons. The sheets are lace and the pillows – three big ones and three or four small ones – fixed, in the corners, with fire-coloured ribbons.
To be continued.