Avenue Montaigne revives “Catherinettes”
Under Saint Catherine’s Wing
The tradition may have been lost in France, but it persists on the Avenue Montaigne, where certain symbols are still cultivated.
This is why one can still catch sight of charming young ladies wearing spectacular hats in yellow and green tones every year on the 25th of November. Who are these ladies called “les Catherinettes”? Originally, Catherinettes were young ladies, still single at the age of 25, who paid homage to Saint Catherine d’Alexandrie, a martyr sainted after being tortured to death.
She became the model for young courageous ladies, loyal and pure. In other words, the ideal patron saint for girls seeking husbands! Catherinette was also the name given to the theses presented by students around this saint’s day, in late fall. All of this contributed to the former notoriety of this saint.
From Agriculture to Couture
A few decades ago, this saint’s day still attracted a great many participants, above all for the highlight, when office workers and workshop employees gathered at the corner of rue de Cléry and rue des Petits-Carreaux in Paris’s second arrondissement around
a statue of the saint. The custom was to climb up on a ladder, since the statue was quite tall, to crown the saint with a hat. Festivities continued into the evening. Patron saint of school children, librarians, and potters, Saint Catherine, who lived around the beginning of the fourth century, is also the protector of couturières. One might ask why? According to Alfred Fierro, an expert on Parisian history, this could be due to the existence, in the past, of the convent Sainte-Catherine-des-Coutures in what is now the fourth arrondissement. The word “couture” had a different meaning back then, referring to cultivated land. However, over time, there seems to have been a slight deformation of the meaning.
Yellow and Green
A true Catherinette’s hat is bi-colored: yellow, the color symbolizing faith, and green, indicating knowledge. Why has this celebration disappeared? It is, no doubt, the victim of the evolution of society which tends to forget traditional practices.
Nonetheless, while the general public may no longer know what a “Catherinette” is, in couture circles, she has not been forgotten! This date provides the occasion for designers, and particularly milliners, to create masterpieces for coiffing those young ladies on their staff who at 25 years old are still single, a circumstance that is neither rare, nor worrisome today! The Comité Montaigne, which includes prestigious fashion houses, brings this event to life annually with a Catherinette celebration uniting more than a hundred participants. The festivities take place in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on the 25th of November, of course, in a joyful and often moving ambience when the queen and her court are elected, honoring the most creative and spectacular hats.