After 1789, fashion, including footwear, changed dramatically and, as in the previous centuries, was adapted for use in the ballet. Jacques-Louis David, principle artist of the French Revolution, the new Republic and eventually the Napoleonic Empire, was asked to design a new style of clothing that would reflect the values of liberté, egalité, and fraternité (Lee 1999). Drawing on the Neoclassical themes and subjects of his paintings, he looked to the fashions of ancient Greece and Rome, which called up the republican values of post-Revolutionary France.
Women began to don dresses modeled after ancient tunics with high waistlines (the now recognized “empire waist”) and long, draping skirts. The cut of these new fashions for women drew attention to the breasts and the legs, (unlike fashions in the previous century, which focused on the waistline and the hips). In fact, looking at these dresses, one can see how the female body would have appeared to be comprised of little else. As well, the fabrics used to make these dresses changed from multiple layers of weighty material to lighter, draping textiles, lending the skirt a columnar line. These fabrics not only flowed and fluttered, giving the impression of weightlessness, but were also slightly translucent, revealing the outline of the legs. Silk crêpe, cotton gauze and, in particular, muslin became fashionable in the nineteenth century for their qualities of lightness and airiness (Starobinski et al. 1990).