Yvette Guilbert

by curiousmiscellany

These long black gloves belong to the one and only Yvette Guilbert (1865-1944), French cabaret star during the Belle Epoque. Guilbert made the rounds in the prominent Parisian establishments of the time (Eldorado, Jardin de Paris and Moulin Rouge) and was known for her raunchy patter or spoken songs, which caused her to be labeled sometimes as a diseuse (sayer) as opposed to a chanteuse (singer). Some say that Guilbert’s fame was especially due to the portraits of her by artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who even dedicated two entire portfolios of lithographs to her image. Of her signature style Guilbert explained, “In the beginning, I was extremely poor and since black gloves were the cheapest, I chose those. As much as I could, however, I wore them with light-colored dresses. I wore [the gloves] high so as to show off my slender arms and accentuate the elegance of my long neck.” While performing, she would remain almost completely still, gesturing ever so slightly with her arms, and occasionally lifting her pinky finger. In the 1920s, Guilbert wrote L’art de chanter une chanson (How to Sing a Song), which is still in print today. Its opening line reads, “This little book is written with the purpose to help those who – mistaken about what is Art – will vainly struggle against their proper ignorance.”