Northeast Times

Look the look for Bastille

All the rage in Fair­mount since 1995, the Bastille Day Fest­iv­al will once again take over the streets around East­ern State Pen­it­en­tiary.

H. Kristina Haug­land, As­so­ci­ate Cur­at­or, Cos­tume & Tex­tiles, at Phil­adelphia Mu­seum of Art shows a silk dam­ask gown from late 18th cen­tury.

This week­end, Fair­mount will cel­eb­rate Bastille Day, a French hol­i­day that com­mem­or­ates the Ju­ly 14, 1789, storm­ing of the Bastille in Par­is.

That event is con­sidered the be­gin­ning of the French Re­volu­tion, and Fair­mount is now in its 17th year of cel­eb­rat­ing the pivotal act of re­bel­lion. 

Loc­al cel­eb­ra­tions for the French hol­i­day kick off this year on Thursday, Ju­ly 14, and con­tin­ue throughout the week­end with bar crawls, spe­cial deals and French cuisine at area res­taur­ants, film screen­ings, a dec­or­ated bike parade and more.

But, the high­light of the fest­iv­it­ies has to be a re-en­act­ment of the storm­ing of the Bastille — with East­ern State Pen­it­en­tiary at 20th Street and Fair­mount Av­en­ue stand­ing in for the French pris­on.

The storm­ing of the Bastille will take place fol­low­ing a street fest­iv­al along Fair­mount Av­en­ue, from 2 to 6 p.m. on Sat­urday, Ju­ly 16.

At about 5:30 p.m., act­ors will join fest­iv­al rev­el­ers to “storm” the walls of East­ern State Pen­it­en­tiary with pitch­forks and Su­per Soak­er squirt guns.

Dur­ing the re-en­act­ment, Mar­ie Ant­oinette — to be por­trayed, as al­ways, by Terry McNally, co-own­er of the nearby Lon­don Grill — will be cap­tured and will be de­livered to an “ex­e­cu­tion­er” while cry­ing “let them eat Tastykake.”

The words will cue act­ors atop the walls of East­ern State Pen­it­en­tiary to rain 2,000 But­ter­scotch Krim­pets down on the crowd.

It’s a strange Philly-French hy­brid cel­eb­ra­tion for every­one in at­tend­ance, and every­one is wel­come to par­ti­cip­ate.

And, if you’re plan­ning to at­tend, why not look the part?

Dur­ing the day, there will be cos­tume con­tests and prizes for “Best French Themed Cos­tume” and “Best French Char­ac­ter.”

H. Kristina Haug­land, as­so­ci­ate cur­at­or of the cos­tume and tex­tile de­part­ment of the Phil­adelphia Mu­seum of Art, offered some tips on how to dress the part of a res­id­ent of France in 1789.

Haug­land penned “How to Dress for the French Re­volu­tion,” a guide that is avail­able on the pen­it­en­tiary’s Bastille Day web­site at ht­tp://east­ern­state.org/bastille-day.

The first choice for a cos­tume de­pends on what side you’d like to take in the French Re­volu­tion. Would you like to be a peas­ant ready to re­volt, or a wealthy ar­is­to­crat?

“Clothes were very im­port­ant, very sym­bol­ic,” said Haug­land as she dis­played an 18th cen­tury silk dress, a piece of the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion.

“This dress, only the wealthy could af­ford this,” she said. “If you were rich, you wanted every­body to know it.”

Out­fits worn by the ar­is­to­cracy, she said, could cost as much as a car might these days.

To be a French ar­is­to­crat, one would want to wear fine silk out­fits, full of ruffles, lace and del­ic­ate trim­ming.

Hair­styles too were a status sym­bol for the rich and here, wo­men wore fant­ast­ic­ally curled and coiffed locks, while men kept fanci­ful as well, with side curls and pony­tails.

“You could tell who was wealthy and who wasn’t,” she said.

An­oth­er “es­cap­ist trend” for the wealthy, said Haug­land, was dress­ing in out­fits that might be re­min­is­cent of the jobs of peas­ants — though the rich made theirs from fine ma­ter­i­als.

Think of it as a play­ful, whim­sic­al sort of cos­tume; as an ex­ample, Haug­land said, Mar­ie Ant­oinette of­ten liked to dress as a shep­herd­ess.

Clothes for com­mon­ers were more pur­pose­ful.

They wore out­fits of wool and lin­en, suited for the hard, daily work of the peas­ant.

But, as part of the re­volu­tion, com­mon­ers also wore cer­tain sym­bol­ic art­icles of cloth­ing.

For ex­ample, while men might wear typ­ic­al work clothes, they’d ac­cess­or­ize with “rebel col­ors” of red, white and blue and a “bon­net rouge” or red cap.

These caps, typ­ic­ally a knit stock­ing cap with a short, blunt top, she said, were im­port­ant as they had been worn by freed slaves in the times of an­cient Rome and were worn by free­dom fight­ers dur­ing the Amer­ic­an Re­volu­tion — a con­flict that greatly in­spired the French.

In fact, a pair of “bon­net rouges” from the French Re­volu­tion is cur­rently on dis­play at the Phil­adelphia Mu­seum of Art.

“Clothes came to sym­bol­ize the Re­volu­tion,” said Haug­land.

Dur­ing this week­end’s event, Haug­land said by dress­ing in cos­tume, those tak­ing part in the up­com­ing cel­eb­ra­tion will im­merse them­selves in the his­tory and cul­ture of France.

Be­sides, it’s fun to dress up in cos­tumes some­times.

“It’s really good to see people learn about his­tory like this,” said Haug­land. “People don’t al­ways know much about the French Re­volu­tion … and, it’s a lot of fun.”

Bastille Day cel­eb­ra­tions in Fair­mount kick off on Thursday, Ju­ly 14 with a bar crawl in the even­ing.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

Bastille Day Fest high­lights

This week, Bastille Day cel­eb­ra­tions will fill Fair­mount. Here’s a taste of some of up­com­ing events.

Fri­day, Ju­ly 15: “Fair­mount Goes French” with French menu items at par­ti­cip­at­ing Fair­mount res­taur­ants and bars.

Also, there will be an Art After 5 Bastille Day Party fea­tur­ing Beau Django at the Phil­adelphia Mu­seum of Art and a “French Trivia Wheel of For­tune” at Lon­don Grill Bar.

Sat­urday, Ju­ly 16: the free Bastille Day Street Fest­iv­al will take place along Fair­mount Av­en­ue, in front of East­ern State Pen­it­en­tiary, from 2 to 6 p.m.

At 2 p.m., there will be a Fair­mount Pet Shoppe Pet Parade and a Fair­mount Bi­cycles Dec­or­ated Bike Parade. There will be oth­er con­tests and live mu­sic throughout the day.

A storm­ing of the Bastille re-en­act­ment will be held at 5:30 p.m.

Re­gister your pet for the Fair­mount Pet Shoppe Pet Parade at pet­parade@east­ern­state.org. Prizes awar­ded in two cat­egor­ies, “Best French Themed Cos­tume” and “Best French Char­ac­ter.”

Re­gister your 4-10 year old for the Fair­mount Bi­cycles Dec­or­ated Bike Parade at bike­parade@east­ern­state.org.

Two grand prizes from Fair­mount Bi­cycles in­clude new bike hel­mets and $50 gift cer­ti­fic­ates.

After the storm­ing, the en­tire neigh­bor­hood of Fair­mount will fea­ture re­volu­tion­ary hap­pen­ings as area res­taur­ants and busi­nesses cel­eb­rate all night.

For more in­form­a­tion and a full list of Bastille Day events, vis­it east­ern­state.org/sched­ule-events.

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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