Dress-down Friday: Liane de Pougy

From the ever brilliant James Conway

Strange Flowers


Like her great rival La Belle Otero, French Belle Époque courtesan Liane de Pougy was a hugely popular postcard motif of the era. Their blue-blooded suitors may have showered them with gifts and hard currency, but the humblest admirer could buy a piece of the grandes horizontales (or at least their likenesses) for just a few centimes.

Pougy had a home-crowd advantage against the Spanish-born Otero, and her risqué profession was balanced in the public imagination by her sophistication and culture. And while she attracted clients every bit as prestigious as Otero’s, Pougy was much shrewder in shaping and using her image to her own ends. Like Ganna Walska in later years, Pougy embodied a conception of fame which appears eerily redolent of our own age. She complemented her magnetic beauty with a keen fashion sense, sporting a Marcel wave from the hands of the original Marcel (Grateau) himself…

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