For a while afterwards, Jeanne worked as a shopgirl at Labille’s, a glamorous toilette where wealthy members of society would buy fans, feathers and hats. The position allowed her to interact with a variety of wellborn men, and she was known to trade her affections for fans, feathers and hats. While the owner of the store disapproved of her morals, and her laziness (she did not show up for work on time) he claimed that he could hardly dismiss a girl who attracted so many potential clients to his shop.
The Prince de Ligne, for instance, writes in his diary of a grisette at Labille’s assumed to be Madame du Barry who is “tall, well made and ravishingly blonde, with a wide forehead, lovely eyes with dark lashes, a small oval face with a delicate complexion marked by two beauty spots, which only made her more piquant, a mouth to which laughter came easily and a bosom so perfect as to defy comparison.”
I always marvel at how, in their private remembrances, men and women of this period describe people they’ve seen as we might describe them to a police sketch artist.
Speaking of which – the police did keep a file on Jeanne during this period. She was described as “a pretty little grisette ready to accept whatever came her way” but since she did not solicit men off the streets, they didn’t really bother her.
But then, her life was about to change dramatically.