Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Any research done in relation to the period of Les Misérables, whether for fanfiction or fanart purposes or otherwise.
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deHavilland
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Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby deHavilland » Mon Aug 12, 2013 8:21 pm

"Poor Bahorel, she's a superb girl, very literary, with small feet, small hands, dresses well, fair, plump, with eyes like a fortune teller. I'm crazy about her."

"My dear friend, then you have to please her, be fashionable, show a bit more of your legs. Buy a pair of doeskin trousers at Staub's. They help."


I don't know that this deserves its own post, but because of my vast love for our student of the eleventh year and by proxy, his tailor, Herr Staub, it's getting one.

To begin with, Les Mis is loaded with historically accurate places and historically accurate people - if maybe not always the historically accurate dates to accompany them. Staub, the tailor, gets a single, passing reference seen in the line above when Bahorel recommends Joly go to his shop for doeskin trousers to earn back Musichetta's good favor.

The footnotes that Mme Bahorel so kindly provided (and translated) in the first pass of the brick readthrough include the following note:

26 (Staub): Staub : tailleur chic, chez qui s'habille, par exemple, Lucien de Rubempré dans Illusions perdues.
Staub: chic tailor, whose establishment dressed Lucien Rubempré in Lost Illusions, for example.


Staub is not just a creation of Victor Hugo's for the sake of having a name to attach to a tailor's, but an actual person who existed in Paris at the time.

In Jim Chevalier's "August Zang and the French Croissant: How Viennoiserie Came to France" we get the following insight to the man behind the doeskin trousers:

In 1825, Jean-Jacques Staub, a famous Swiss tailor, bought what was still known as the Hotel de Caumont. It was named for Armand de Caumont, the Duke de Force, who occupied it in the eighteenth century. In 1778, his grandchildren sold it to a treasurer-general; which is to say, a very rich man. It then passed through other hands before Staub bought it and "entirely rebuilt it" -- presumably, like Staub's own creations, in the most up-to-date Parisian style.

To be "dressed by Staub" was then a sure sign of status. In The Red and the Black -- which Stendhal wrote while living on the street -- Charles de Beauvoisis is "happy with the cut of Julien's black suit, 'It's from Staub, that's clear.' In Lost Illusions, Balzac has Lucien de Rubempre dressed by the tailor: "The next day, towards noon, his first piece of business was to visit Staub, the most famous tailor of this time... Staub went so far as to promise him a delicious riding-coat, a vest and a pair of pants..." When he died in 1852, Staub left a fortune of 300,000 francs. His proximity could only have helped Zang's new business. It may have helped too that he was Swiss (Balzac and others called him "German"; "Germany" at this point referred to the German Confederation, which among other states, included most of both Prussia and Austria, though not Switzerland.

The address [of Staub's shop] even came with its own colorful -- in this case bloody -- tale. Just a few years before, in 1835, a tapestry worker had lured a woman to the building's rear courtyard on the pretext of an offer of marriage, robbed and killed her, then cut her up into pieces, a crime for which he was guillotined the following year."


It's noted that Staub was a tailor frequently used by Balzac in real life, so it makes perfect sense that he would include him in Lost Illusions (in A Distinguished Provincial at Paris) and with the praise of being "the great tailor of that day:"

Next day, towards noon, Lucien betook himself to Staub, the great tailor of that day. Partly by dint of entreaties, and partly by virtue of cash, Lucien succeeded in obtaining a promise that his clothes should be ready in time for the great day. Staub went so far as to give his word that a perfectly elegant coat, a waistcoat, and a pair of trousers should be forthcoming.


He went back to his inn, and there found the great Staub himself, come in person, not so much to try his customer's clothes as to make inquiries of the landlady with regard to that customer's financial status. The report had been satisfactory. Lucien had traveled post; Mme. de Bargeton brought him back from Vaudeville last Thursday in her carriage. Staub addressed Lucien as "Monsieur le Comte," and called his customer's attention to the artistic skill with which he had brought a charming figure into relief.

"A young man in such a costume has only to walk in the Tuileries," he said, "and he will marry an English heiress within a fortnight."

Lucien brightened a little under the influences of the German tailor's joke, the perfect fit of his new clothes, the fine cloth, and the sight of a graceful figure which met his eyes in the looking-glass.


The Repertory of the Comedie Humaine gives us a couple of added notes regarding Staub as he appears in Balzac:

STAUB, a German, and a Parisian tailor of reputation; in 1821, made for Lucien de Rubempre, presumably on credit, some garments that he went in person to try on the poet at the Hotel du Gaillard-Bois, on the rue de l’Echelle. Shortly afterwards, he again favored Lucien, who was brought to his establishment by Coralie. [A Distinguished Provincial at Paris.]


And, in another note (this time about Wilhelm Schwab) mentions Schwab as having "kept the books [for the tailor, Wolfgang Graff], rival of Humann and Staub."

(Humann gets his mention in Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo: "I can assure you that this hobgoblin of yours is an uncommonly fine looking fellow -- admirably dressed; indeed I feel quite sure, from the cut of his clothes, that they were made by a first-rate Paris tailor -- probably Blin or Humann" as well as another in Balzac's novelette, Z. Marcas as "a celebrated Parisian tailor of 1836 and succeeding years. At the insistence of the students Rabourdin and Juste he clothed the poverty-stricken Zephirin Marcas 'as a politician.'")

But if Balzac - and Bahorel - are to be believed, it's still Staub who is the best in town. And where exactly can one find Staub if they choose to take Bahorel up on his suggestion of doeskin trousers? A receipted invoice kept in the Northumberland County Council's archives dated the 28th of June, 1831 cites Staub's address of the time at 92, rue de Richelieu, to the west of the Palais-Royal; about a forty-five minute walk from the cafe Musain.
Last edited by deHavilland on Tue Feb 21, 2017 4:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby Acaila » Mon Aug 12, 2013 8:35 pm

...I just had an actual nerdgasm.

That's so Hugo, why make someone up when you can make it so accurate.

Amazing job, thank you :D
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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby between4walls » Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:18 pm

Nice find, deHavilland!

Yet another reason to finally get around to Lost Illusions.
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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:26 pm

Only get around to Lost Illusions if you're willing to slam your forehead into the table multiple times because Lucien is an idiot and David isn't much better. But Splendours and Miseries of Courtesans only makes sense when you've fully experienced what an idiot Lucien is.

It's one of those books. Entertaining as heck, but oh god, the characters. It's useful research, too, in terms of actress relationships and in the way the press was perceived to function.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby deHavilland » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:40 pm

I certainly wouldn't read it just for the fact that there's Staub mentions. Look, I already posted both of them for you. ;) (I would read it if you wanted to look into the Balzac vs. Hugo pissing contest, though.)

Thanks guys, it was fun to compile.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:47 pm

Yay for this! This is so useful now for me. Thanks!
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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby Acaila » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:55 am

Out of interest, do we know anything about doeskin trousers actually being a fashionable thing or not?
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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby YoungStudentMarius » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:10 am

Oh, that is absolutely fantastic; thank you very much, Geronimo. :mrgreen: And it's very intriguing to see the references in other literature, too. I'd always assumed that Hugo had just made it up, but yes, it's so very like him not to. :D

I don't know, Acaila, but it'd be very interesting to find out. I guess I hadn't thought of Bahorel as a really sharp dresser, before-- I mean, I know, scarlet waistcoats, and all, so a flashy one-- but I guess it hadn't crossed my mind, for some reason, that he'd actually be really knowledgeable there. Amazing how context like that changes things, I guess.
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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby deHavilland » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:22 am

If Bahorel gets his clothes from Staub's, he's a sharp dresser indeed. (Where do you shop, Courfeyrac? Graff's?)

Doeskin was pretty popular for trousers, riding habits and coats because it's soft but really durable thanks to a compact weave - though I think it really came into its popularity later than the text. I read somewhere about Napoleon's soldiers putting on leather trousers wet so that they could achieve the tightest fit possible, but I can't find the sourcing on that so it might just be a happy mental image.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby Acaila » Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:24 am

I'm sure I've read something about that too, but possibly in a fic :)
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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby between4walls » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:28 am

MmeBahorel wrote:Only get around to Lost Illusions if you're willing to slam your forehead into the table multiple times because Lucien is an idiot and David isn't much better. But Splendours and Miseries of Courtesans only makes sense when you've fully experienced what an idiot Lucien is.

It's one of those books. Entertaining as heck, but oh god, the characters. It's useful research, too, in terms of actress relationships and in the way the press was perceived to function.


Is there something going on there with how the press "was perceived to function" vs. how it actually functioned?

I already have a copy of Lost Illusions; I loved Pere Goriot ("À nous deux, maintenant!") and The Atheist's Mass. And David sounds interesting, actually. But the title is kind of a warning sign as far as the characters go.
Here day embraces night, and says: I will die with you and you will be reborn with me. From the heavy embrace of all desolations springs faith.

The real name of devotion is disinterestedness.

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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby between4walls » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:35 am

Advising friends to go to the top tailor in town would go along with Bahorel's generally spendthrift habits and "tolerably large allowance"; I wonder whether Joly is in a position to follow his advice.
Here day embraces night, and says: I will die with you and you will be reborn with me. From the heavy embrace of all desolations springs faith.

The real name of devotion is disinterestedness.

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Re: Buying a Pair of Doeskin Trousers at Staub's

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:52 am

Balzac is highly accurate in a lot of ways, but I get a real feeling that what's being portrayed in Lost Illusions is supposed to be extrapolated over the entire class of journalists (and across the entire class of actresses): it's a deeply cynical universalisation that I'm not sure is 100% accurate to how things actually played out as opposed to the perception he wanted to give his readers. Sort of an opposite of All the Presidents Men - no way is the profession as a whole as self-sacrificing and idealistically dedicated to truth as that film has sort of come to be a shorthand for, but I cannot believe at a period where the Journal des Débats changed political orientation, where political orientation was the cause of so many papers opening and closing, that the journalists themselves on the whole are as craven and apolitical as Balzac paints. It's a little too neat of a hatchet job on the profession, reading as a stereotype of the journalist. I think it's like any stereotype: come by honestly but then put to improper, too broad use. He's dead on with bought reviews and such; it's more the way that seems to be expanded out to include everything ever in any paper, with loyalties shifting along with paychecks in a highly politicised press atmosphere that is why I think it's more about perception of the press than the reality of the press. (Balzac thinks all people are terrible. But something seems more univeralised with "all journalists are terrible people" than "all bourgeois are terrible people".)

David's a sweetheart; he reminds me of Julien Sorel's little boyfriend, in that they are simply too nice to be friends with the antihero of their novel or to thrive in the cynical world of their novel.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard


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