Galerie des Modes: Vocabulary

The hardest thing about translating these fashion plates is that there are a number of words that have different meanings in 18th century and 21st century French.  It did finally (finally) occur to me that I could find older French dictionaries on Google Books, which is very helpful, but there are still terms that are difficult for me to understand.  While many of them clear up after looking at them with fresh eyes or seeing them in a new context, busqué is continuing to stymie me.  The literal meaning of busquer in the 18th century dictionary is "to seek", related to the Spanish buscar; there is also busque, meaning "busk" (so therefore possibly "busked") - and Google Translate is telling me it can mean "hooked", as in a nose's shape.  But in the fashion text, the term is used to describe an apron bib that is "busqué in a half-circle, like a maid's", and a pointed, closed-front bodice that is "décolleté and busqué like a scabbard" and "busqué en pointe".  (So Marion and Heileen, if this is obvious to you, please help!)

I should probably explain how I'm dealing with the terminology in my translation.  There are some French terms that I'm leaving untranslated for the most part, because they're frequent enough, complicated enough, and/or handy enough that it makes more sense to define them elsewhere (in my glossary page, linked in the right-hand column) and use them.  For the most part, anything that is given in italics without an asterisk and definition at the bottom can be found in there.


  1. I'm really intrigued by the "busqué" term. Out of the specific context of one precise fashion plate, I'd have said it meant "busked" or "boned at center front". But the apron thing ? The décolleté ? It makes me veeeery curious !

    1. No, no! You're supposed to know! I was hoping it would turn out to be obvious!

      I think all the uses I've come across have been in the seventh (first) section, so they'll probably be up this week, and then you can see the full context and pictures.


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