Marianne, the French allegory of liberty and reason, is easily the fiercest political caricature. No question she can beat up Uncle Sam, that sniveling government brown-noser. She’s way more dangerous than John Bull and infinitely more interesting than her copycat, Columbia.
The first cool thing about Marianne is that she’s a woman. Her feminine identity comes from a coincidence of the French language. The Enlightenment ideals that kindled a wave of international revolutions during the late 18th century: la liberté, la raison, la nation, la révolution, and la République are all feminine nouns in French. Marianne is a feminine foil to the symbolically male kingdom of France: le royaume.
The second cool thing about Marianne is her crudeness. Her name is a contraction of Marie-Anne, a popular peasant’s name at the time of the French Revolution. Her most powerful pictorial representations show her barefooted and bare-breasted, covered in gunpowder, with hairy armpits and plain, ripped clothing, stepping over corpses as she leads revolutionaries into battle.
Her image has softened over the years to a more classical goddess look, with bushels of wheat in her arms and long white dresses. But her violence waits inside her; threatened with tyranny, her face contorts once more with rage and she picks up her revolutionary pike.
There’s a tradition in France for each town hall to display a bust of Marianne. This sculpture used to have generic features to represent the people of France, but since 1969, the mayors of France periodically vote on an actress or other public figure to become the official representation of Marianne.
The women who have shared this honor are Brigitte Bardot (1969), Mireille Matheiu (1978), Catherine Deneuve (1985), Inès de la Fressange (1989), Laetitia Casta (2000), and Évelyne Thomas (2003). Since July of this year, Marianne is Ukrainian FEMEN activist Inna Shevchenko.
I think Marianne makes a great Halloween disguise. She is ferocious and revolutionary, but she has the grace and beauty of an ancient goddess. She makes for a political, historical, and (relatively) dignified costume.
I based my Marianne look off of Eugène Delacroix’s 1830 painting Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple). Although she’s on everything from the euro coin to postage stamps, this is probably her most famous appearance in popular culture. She’s also at her grimiest street-fighter best.
The first thing you need is a long dress. You can cheat and look for a “Regency Era” or “Jane Austen” dress on Etsy, since it refers to roughly the same time in history. I bought a Regency-style petticoat because I didn’t want the frilly look of a whole gown. Besides, Marianne does not necessarily have time to get fully froofed up while she’s busy deposing a monarch.
Next, you need a phrygian cap. These are the red droopy hats that have symbolized revolution since the slave revolts in ancient Rome. This is non-negotiable. They are an unequivocal part of Marianne’s costume.
Yes, I am telling you that you need a gnome hat. Yes, I know you treasure your personal dignity. But if Inès de la Fressange can wear one, so can you. I bought a slouchy beanie to be pulled up and forward for the proper phrygian droop.
Now for the makeup. The look I am going for is half greasy, smoky, bloody fighter and half celestial Greek goddess.
This means a smoky eye done with a mix of my favorite soft black eye pencil, NARS Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner in Via Veneto, blended out with Smith’s Rosebud Salve. I roughly lined the eyes before smudging with a finger dipped into the salve. I added a bit more eyeliner for definition, then finished with some volumizing mascara.
Next I chose a hot, flushed reddish pink cream blush, Le Blush Crème de Chanel in 65 Affinité. I’m going for an “over-blushed” look, so I drew a stripe along each cheekbone, war-paint-style. Then, I blended.
To add to the heat of the look, I dabbed a bit of Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet in 38 La Fascinante on the middle of my lips. I blotted to leave just a reddish stain on the mouth.
For the final touch, I swirled MAC Fluidline in Midnight Snack over my collarbone and arms for some musket-firing realism. Oddly, the Fluidline blended into my skin a little too well and left me more sparkly than smoky. You might want to try powder rather than cream for this part.
For hair, I used this great spray that my mom gave me the last time I visited. It’s called Redken Quick Tease 15, and it gives you a backcombing look without actually backcombing. It can transform even my ultra-fine hair into a giant fluff-ball in record time.
Here is what I looked like post-dress and hair poofing and pre-makeup and gnome hat.
And here’s the final look!
Now grit your teeth with the fire of revolutionary rage. Don’t forget your tricolor flag and a sharp spike. Extra points per ounce of armpit hair.