Countess Olympe asked the question, “what is the difference between a caraco and a casaquin?” And what about those other jackets-with-mysterious-French-names too? Well here we go…
Disclaimer: The information in this post is what I have gleened from sources, but the lines seem very blurry between these styles, and so if I am wrong about something, please leave me a comment and correct me!
A caraco is a long-length jacket with a fitted back, like a robe a l’Anglaise. The length of the skirt of these jackets seems to be about mid-thigh, and the skirts usually have inverted box pleats at the back, often pressed but sometimes left loose. Caracos typically have 3/4 length sleeves with flounces. Examples of caracos close severals ways, with lacings over a stomacher, pinned to a stomacher, with “flaps” that hook across a stomacher, or with a comperes front (a false front made to look like a stomacher, that closes at the center with hooks or buttons), or edge-to-edge by hooks.
|The matching caraco and petticoat from the V&A|
|A interesting caraco with an extremely low-cut front|
“Caraco,” in English, means “camisole.”
A Pet en l’ier
A pet en l’ier jacket is a garment of mid-thigh to mid-hip length, with a saque back, that is, watteau pleats at the back. This jacket usually has 3/4 sleeves with flounces, and closes over a stomacher or with a comperes front.
|A short-length pet-en-l’ier from KCI|
Now get ready for this – “pet en l’ier” typed into Google translate comes out to “fart in the street.” Those dirty French! If this is wrong, please correct me, my faithful French readers!!
A pierrot is a a very short jacket, actually more of a bodice with a ruffle or flounce added onto the back. Pierrot jackets came into style later in the century, and often closed edge-to-edge with hooks or interior lacings. They were most commonly long-sleeved, and worn with walking-length skirts, puffy fichus, and monster-sized hats.
|A zone-front pierrot|
|A pierrot from KCI – notice the lack of jacket skirt in front|
“Pierrot,” in English, means “sparrow.”
A casaquin jacket is that of short length, about mid-hip, but still with a flared skirt and pleats at the back. It has a fitted back, like a robe a l’anglaise, and may or may not have seams at the waist. Casaquins may have 3/4 length of full-length sleeves, and close over a stomacher. The hallmark of a casaquin appears to be the lacey trimmings.
|The casaquin featured in this week’s Costume Analytics|
“Casaquin” appears to be a derivative of “casaque,” the French word for “jacket.”
So there you have it. I did not cover the Polonaise, the Riding Habit, Redingote, or the Figaro, but hopefully this little primer has been helpful to you all!
Jen ThompsonOctober 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM
Thanks for the overview! I've always been a bit confused about the difference between a pierrot and a casaquin. I usually just settle for calling it "one of those little jacket thingies"! 😉
IsisOctober 15, 2010 at 7:13 PM
To add to the confusion, I have also seen a short robe battante be called casaque. A loose jacket with a French back. They went out of style quite early on, so perhaps the name was just passed on to a later fashion in jackets?
American DuchessOctober 15, 2010 at 7:20 PM
Isis, you got it. A "casaque" went along with the pet-en-l'ier, and was an earlier style. I think this painting shows a casaque:
Here's one from the V&A:
Jen – (first off I'm honored that you read my blog!) I've been confused about these things for…gosh, since I started with the 18th c. stuff. I'm not entirely sure I've got it right, and I've left some jackets out (as Isis notes), but it seems to make sense this way so I'm sticking to it, haha 😀
KatinkaOctober 16, 2010 at 9:15 AM
I'm so glad you did a post on this, and my understanding of the differences lines up entirely with yours.
I was surprised the other day because the new LACMA exhibit appears to have one labeled wrong! When I was there, I caught that a pet en l'air was labeled as a caraco (or vice versa, I don't remember now, haha)
AnonymousOctober 27, 2010 at 7:21 PM
Based on original descriptions on fashion plates (which I consider one of the most reliable sources of fashion terms) I think that caraco is actually more of a collective name for all manner of "jackets". Various types of jackets, pet en l'airs (it's actually l'air, not l'ier, so "fart in the air", because of the short skirt!) for example, are often referred to as caracos. On fashion plates the names caraco, camisole and in some cases casaquin also seem to be used quite interchangeably.
So labeling a pet en l'air as caraco as mentioned in the above comment, is not wrong, it's just a less specific name. A bit like calling a bolero a jacket nowadays, or calling jeans pants.
AnonymousOctober 27, 2010 at 7:24 PM
Oops, that above comment was from me at http://18thcenturyblog.com, I couldn't use any of the "comment as"-things.
UnknownDecember 10, 2010 at 7:03 AM
Hi I'm a french collector and textile dealer. Pet en l'air is the name of the pleats in the low back and we often see them in caracos which ( you'r right) is the usual name for jackets. The other name of Pet en l'air is caracaca in soth France…. I think it could be funny for you.
Serge from http://www.villa-rosemaine.com/en/bourse
AnonymousMarch 12, 2011 at 3:53 AM
Pet-en-l'air, is an expression. It can't be really translated. Péter en l'air (the action) is someone who is show off too much with vanity. I really don't know why they call this garment like this. I suppose it's a fun name!
The back pleats are called only "plis" in the 18th century. After the costumers and historians will call them "plis à la française" (french pleats).
Pierrot is not a sparrow. Pierrot is a cute and intimate variation of the name Pierre (Peter). Pierrot is also a personna in the comedia del Arte.
I hope it help! 😉
Lauren StowellMarch 12, 2011 at 4:15 AM
ah, excellent! Evelyn, thank you for setting the record straight with the translations. Google translate failed me! I started learning French awhile after I wrote this post and I realized that literal translations and vernacular are, I suppose just like in English, two totally different things.
SestablesSeptember 4, 2012 at 4:34 AM
Hi! So the difference between a pierrot and a casaquin (aside from trimmings) is mostly that a pierrot has ruffled skirty things where a casaquin has pleats; pierrot is a fully-closed front and casaquin has a stomacher? Are zone-fronts strictly casaquin? What if they don't even meet in the middle but not over a stomacher, like the Kyoto Costume Inst jacket? Where would that be classified? I would be very appreciative of any sources you have on 1780s/1790s jackets, as things seem to start to get a little hairier around then.
Lauren StowellSeptember 4, 2012 at 5:30 AM
Hi Sestables – thanks for your comment. What I've found to distinguish casaquins and pierrots is that the pierrot's "tail" is mostly out the back, not around the sides. Pierrots can be zone front, as well as closing at center front. You don't see robings or stomachers wit pierrots, as they were out of style by the 1780s, when the pierrot came into fashion. Casaquins were indeed worn with stomachers, and the skirtings are around the side as well as the back. The KCI jacket, if you are referring to the aqua/turquoise 1790s one, is a jacket and gilet – the gilet is a complete vest, like a man's vest, with the jacket worn over it. If the jacket for that pairing had to be classified I'd call it a pierrot, because of the lack of skirtings, but it might also fall into the riding habit category. You might like Dames a la Mode for fashion plates for the 1780s and 90s – lots of primary source material, plus descriptions, usually in French, to clear up some of the terminology.
MimiSeptember 19, 2013 at 3:21 PM
Hello Duchess! Thank you for all these explanations. "Pet en l'air" means "fart in the air" or "fart high". Nowadays, this expression could be related with showing off but not sure it was the case at that time. The exact expression we use now is "péter plus haut que son cul". Literally: farting higher that your own ass! Enough dirty French for today 😉
Weriem – http://weriem.com/
Random PonderingsMay 4, 2015 at 11:54 PM
Given that the Caraco was quite often laced to the stomacher, and the very low busted photo of the museum piece Caraco is from 1740-50s, when "Extreme Décolletage" (ie full display of bare breasts) was a common style, mimicked by al classes (see : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gr%C3%A4fin_Lichtenau.jpg ) I think that this one was for an "Extreme Décolletage" gown.
I do wish people could grasp that when it comes to assumptions about what it meant (in each era and society) to reveal various bit of skin, the past is like "another planet". After all it would have been far more scandalous for "Grafin Lichtenau" (in the portrait I linked to) to have revealed her shoulders or her ankles, than her nipples. People saw nipple every day. My how our societal ideas are odd.
Tara ManciniJuly 23, 2015 at 9:55 PM
Great Blog ! This may be of use for your research. I don't speak French. The Dutch is a little difficult to translate because it is older Dutch.
1708 – "Le grand dictionnaire francoise & flamand, compose sur le modèle des dictionnaires de Richelet, Pomey, Tachard…"
French and Dutch
"CASAQUE , f.f. Habillement plus large qu'un juste-au-corps. Ееn ryrok, of ruiters rok, een wyde rok."
The Dutch says "a riding dress, Rider's Dress, Wide dress" Most references by French and Dutch state it is a "wide" garment with long sleeves that could be "bound up" for Early18th cent. I am guessing the styles would change over time.
"Casaquin. Petite casaque etroite. Een nauw of eng rokje."
The Dutch – I think says – a tight or narrow dress. This one seems to be similar style as the casaque, but different cut, a narrow fitted cut.
"rokje" denotes a "smaller" in someway garment.
GeertMarch 29, 2018 at 10:51 AM
I've just stumbled on this blog entry and am delighted! I've been looking for the meaning of 'casaquin' for years for my grandmother used the term for a cardigan, no idea where she got that from.
I can help with the Dutch 'rokje': a 'rok' is a skirt, 'rokje' is a small/short skirt.
I don't write in such details about clothes but I do like them and occasionally mention them in my own blog: do have a look at Living Fabrics (living-fabrics.com). I would love to read your comments!
I will be back here, it's great stuff, thank you!
Keep up the good work, Geert
AnonymousJuly 12, 2019 at 7:01 PM
ahahhhhaaha I absolutely must buy it to my two …………!
tamrahennatxSeptember 18, 2020 at 5:13 AM
Greetings from 2020! I have a question regarding that low-cut jacket – what was worn underneath to keep the stays from showing?
Gabrielle Arnault-LazardSeptember 13, 2021 at 5:53 AM
As a French, I just wanted to let you know it’s spelled “Pet en l’air” (fart in the air, indeed!). I love what you are doing, keep it up !
Gabrielle, Marchioness of Gossip