The eighteenth century is a distinct period in the history of the French fashion because during that time, France became the main arbiter of style in Europe. The clothing created in this country enjoyed enormous popularity in England, Germany, Russia, the United States and so forth (Okonkwo 23). Furthermore, the eighteenth century was the period when fashionable clothing was accessible to a very limited group of people, who mostly belonged to the aristocracy.
The French fashion which existed at that time had to emphasize the high social status of a person, his/her elegance, and taste. Nevertheless, the French Revolution changed peoples attitudes toward clothing. These are the main issues that should be discussed. One can even say that, the analysis of this trend can show that fashion is closely tied to the social life of a country. It is not a purely aesthetic concept.
First, it should be pointed out that in the eighteenth century French tailors developed a standard which was known as the art de vivre which later became accepted in many other countries (Okonkwo 23).
The French fashion industry became an object of desire for many people who wanted to emphasize their high social standing and taste. It was associated with the court of Louis XIV who was regarded as the most powerful monarch of that period. Furthermore, the reputation of French artisans was recognized among by aristocracy of different countries.
Additionally, at that time, the French fashion was centered primarily in Paris while the provincial nobility mostly preferred much older styles. Thus, one can argue that the French fashion was extremely popular, but it was accessible to a very limited group of people. These trends were dominant in the eighteenth-century France before the outbreak of the Revolution.
There are several peculiarities of the French industry that one can identify. The clothing that people wore usually reflected their social class and they had to correspond to a particular occasion. For example, womens clothes had to be stiff-bodied and well-decorated (Steele 35). These features were typical primarily of court dresses that had to be more formal. It should be noted that after the French Revolution, women preferred to wear loose and less decorated dresses (Thesander 47).
One can also mention that at the beginning of the eighteenth century the to create pompous dresses that were supposed to conceal the defects of a persons figure (Thesander 38). For instance, women wore dresses with farthingales or hoops that helped to spread the dress (Blum 7). Women did not try to emphasize their
More importantly, they could wear dresses with negligee only on unofficial occasions (Thesander 38). As a rule, negligee was even associated with nudity (Steele 35). In contrast, women, who did not belong to the nobility, did not have to meet such standards in part because they could not afford dresses that were suitable for different occasions. This is one of the trends that emerged in the eighteenth century and it remained prevalent until the French revolution.
Furthermore, it is possible to argue that mens clothing was also influenced by such a notion as a notion as social class. One should note that men wore primarily frock coats, especially in the first half of the eighteenth century (White 58). Such frocks were usually made of very expensive textiles such as silk.
Men, who represented the nobility, , while workers wore mostly trousers (White 58). The mens clothes had to indicate the status of an individual. For instance, stockings were supposed to indicate that a person belonged to the upper classes. One should take into account that after the French revolution, trousers became more and more popular, while stockings gradually went out of fashion.
This example demonstrates that the French fashion did not exist only as an aesthetic concept; it also had to reflect the status of an individual. To some degree, it was dependent on social development of the country. This is one of the most trends that should be taken into consideration.
On the whole, the French fashion of the eighteenth century has several distinct periods, namely before and after the Revolution since this political upheaval changed peoples perception of social class and attitudes toward clothes. This is another trend that one can identify when speaking about the French fashion of the eighteenth century.
Certainly, the influence of the French revolution became more noticeable in the nineteenth century, but even at the end of the eighteenth century the changes of peoples attitudes could be observed. Again, the example of trousers suggests that social development affected peoples perception of fashion.
Overall, the eighteenth century was a remarkable period in the history of the French fashion. One can identify several important trends; one of them is the rise of French artisans who became increasing popular in Europe and the United States. Secondly, fashion was available to a very limited group of people who mostly belonged to the nobility. The development of fashion suggests that peoples perception and evaluation of clothing is very changing.