Eighteenth century how to become an icon in the history of fashion and influence our life
Embellishment, poise, elegance are some of the adjectives that can be used to describe the trend in art and architecture of 18th century. The age witnessed the most elegant and stylish way of fashion. It can also be called as a fashionable era. 18th Century era is generally known as the Age of Enlightenment. The beginning of this century experienced a significant change in culture, art and architecture. Fashion industry also was on its peak. The fashion centre in this era shifted from Versailles to Paris. The educated Aristocratic class was called bourgeoisie class. They settled down in Paris. The new fashion introduced by this class had a great influence on the whole society in France and other parts of Europe. 'La mode was a privilege to the elite men and women who had the resources to invest in heavy, ornate attire made from costly silks and brocades.' (Jones Jennifer)
“A perfection of form was attempted by restructuring the human body through the use of clothing and either reducing or expanding the existing shapefunctional objects of everyday use such as fans, stockings, stomachers, aprons, and workbaskets became artistic creationsthese embellished accessories perfected the desired appearance of the completed composition.”(Maeder,1983)
The fashion did not just remain the monopoly of elite class but the trend spread in middle as well as lower class also. 'By the middle of the eighteenth century, fashionable dressing was no longer the exclusive privilege of the elite but something in which men and women of the middle class could indulge.'(Jones)
There were many fashion icons in those days and the special fashion trend called Rococo style was introduced. The paper starts with the background of the era called Age of Enlightenment. It is important as this era itself gave birth to fashion trend in Europe. The paper also throws the light on the fashion industry of 18th century which is prominently influenced by the movement called Rococo. The paper also focuses on the impact of Rococo approach in different types of art and even architecture. The era was so fashion oriented that even in the modern age also people are still fascinated by the fashion trend of 18th century. This fascination of 18th century fashion trend is still reflected in movies. The latest animated movies such as tangled, 12 Dancing Princess, portray the fashion trend of 18th century. Even the movies based on Jane Austen’s novels also have the same fashion trend reflected in the movie. The paper first discusses the movement or approach called Rococo, which was dominating in the era. It also focuses on the fashion icons of that age. Among them were Marie Antoinette, Louis XV’s mistress Madame Pompadour, and Eugene
The Age of Enlightenment: as the Age of Fashion Trend
The Age of Enlightenment can be defined in different ways. Randomly speaking it is the age of philosophical, cultural and intellectual transition. Age of Enlightenment is a cultural movement in which people began to think rationally. For everything, people started emphasizing on reasons rather than traditional Christian beliefs. It brought reform in Europe as well as American society. The scientific knowledge became prominent and the established Christian values and beliefs were started being challenged by the people. The age is a culmination of scientific and intellectual revolution in Europe in 18th century. The proponents of the movement felt that if human being wants to be liberal and happy, they have to think rationally. There should be reason and change. The major characteristics of this era are rationalism, scientific approach towards looking at anything. The biblical doctrines were challenged and denied as they had not scientific evidences. The thoughts of the people became centered on reason, science, individual right and the development. The age ensured the prospects of a Utopian world with social peace and prosperity. Naturally people started going far from religion and the place of religious doctrines were taken by the scientific and rational approach. This approach impacted on the life of the people. Individualism culminated into materialism. The dream of Utopian society made the people think rationally. They started taking interest in material things. Trade flourished which created a sense of fashion among the people of 18th century. The outer presentation became necessary. The people especially the aristocratic or elite class felt it necessary to exhibit their power and status through material things, such as robes, attire, accessories, jewelry. Clothing has got immense prominence for expression and individuality. While describing about the new individualistic approach of 18th century, Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton state the lavishness of the contemporary society. 'The central premise of elite social behavior was that the body was an instrument of pleasure. Interaction was conceived as a process of se-duction – not necessarily a pursuit of overt sexual expression, but rather an exchange in which individuals sought to engage and delight each other with an artfully conducted repertoire of pleasing poses, gestures, expressions, and conversation.'(Koda & Bolton 2006) The people started expressing individualim and liberty through fashion. The fashion industry “search(ed) for freedom of movement, for fantasy and pleasure, refined taste and relaxed clothing.” (Delpierre 1997)
This though was the foundation of the fashion trend among the people in those days. Rococo, Neoclassicism and Romanticism were the dominant movement in eighteenth century.
Rococo Approach in Fashion Industry
The age of 18th century was influenced by Rococo style. It influenced various types of arts such as painting, sculpture, architecture, interior designing and even fashion industry. The origin of this movement was in Paris in 18th century. It was known as a very playful as well as a decorative style. It was an answer to the previous style called Baroque. The Rococo style was first developed in decorative art and interior design. Later on the style influenced other fields such as architecture, sculpture, theatre, painting, music and even in fashion industry. If we consider the paintings in Rococo styles, they have a special attributes such as ornate in style, and it employed a gold and pastel base color. The forms of Rococo pattern would always be asymmetrical. The themes are playful, witty, rather than political. It was quite suitable to the temperament of the contemporary aristocratic society of France and England. In Rococo style the light colors, curved line was included. The first painter of Rococo style was Antonie Watteau. In sculpture the creative work of Etienne-Maurice Falconet is regarded as the best representative of Rococo style.
The proponents of the Rococo trend were florid, jocular and with a very graceful approach. If we look at the epistemology of the term Rococo, it is the blend of two words, Rocaille and Baracco. Rocaille is a French word which means shell. The design of this style contained the curve shape like shell and it would focus on wave like motif. Rococo style superseded the older style of Baroque, which was originated in Rome. The trend became popularized not only in France but across Europe. The fascination about French art and culture increased among the people across Europe. The total monopoly of the Rococo fashion went to France and Paris became the fashion hub. Initially this was the style used in fine arts but later on it occupies the fashion industry. Rococo style incorporated various attributes. It included a taste for Oriental designs and asymmetric compositions. The fabric used for this style was lightweight silks such as taffeta or satin or damask. The colors were chosen in pastel and light shades. The pannier or hoop skirts were introduced first in 1720. It would shape like a basket, in which chickens were carried and therefore they were called pannier. The skirts would be there over the pannier. The skirt was called Jupe. And over the Jupe, a coat like robe used to be there. There was a gap between the Jupe and coat. It was filled with decorative stomacher. The length of the sleeves was down to the elbow and it bore wind like cuffs. 'For women, the essential spirit of rococo fashion was rooted in elegance, refinement, and decoration, but there were also elements of capriciousness, extravagance, and coquetry. In contrast to the dignified solemnity of seventieth century costume, women's dress of eighteenth century was both ornate and sophisticated.” (Fukai p.26) The wigs were worn occasionally be the ladies. They preferred to have their own hair powdered and coiffed. They were decorated with a small bonnet of flowers, jewelry and bows. The dresses were trimmed richly. They also used make up and perfumes As compared to women, men's fashion trend remain steady. During lat baroque era, the justaucorps, waistcoats and breeches were introduced and continued in Rococo era. Only the shapes changed.
18th Century clothing has its special attributes. The clothing in the era of 18th century was really fascinating. If we have a look at the clothing used in this era, we are tempted to touch them and try on our body once. The characteristics of the 18th century clothing were its beautiful fabrics, designing and tactile quality. The people belonged to this era, were very fashion conscious and their dresses used to be dependent upon the occasion and activity. The term “dressed” and “undressed” was quite different then as we mean it today. The term dressed was used for formal clothing while the term undress was used for inform clothing.
In 1775, the woman used to wear pair of exaggerated side hoops or panniers to support her wide skirt when she was in formal occasion. The undress (informal) clothing was the skirt without panniers. Similarly, for the men, the dress for official or business purpose was different from the clothing they used for ball. The clothing was different for the visit to church. In short, the clothing was decided according to the occasion in 18th century. The making of clothing was a trade spread all over the world. The pattern was made by using different resources from the different parts of the world.
The custom made clothing also had the trend in 18th century. The elite class people used to design their dress according to their choice. They ordered a particular fabric like superfine woolen or silks. The design on their dress would embellish with imported buttons. The women clothing included laces, stockings, shoes, petticoats, clocks, aprons. They would import these items. Their gowns were made by the local tailors whom they called ‘seamstresses’.
Men’s Clothing Trend in 18th Century
While describing the obsession of men towards fashion, Peter McNeil and Giorgo Riello state, that for much of this time men were in fact more gorgeously appareled than women.
The eighteen century men used the robes such as banyan, breeches, coats, cloak, cravat, Great coat, hat, hunting shirts, leggings or spatterdashes, Manmouth Cap, neck handkerchief, neglige cap, shirt, shoes, stockings or hose, stocks, suits, trousers, underdrawers, waistcoat, and wigs.
The banyan was an informal robe which was worn in place of a coat. This fashion trend was influenced by Orient fashion. This robe was called Indian gowns, night gowns or wrappers.
The fashion of using breeches was there in Europe from 16th century to early 19th century. This robe was used as a lower body garment. In 18th century breeches were seen beneath shorter waistcoats and open coats. During this era the cut of the breeches became tighter and skin fitting. It could easily show the shape of the leg. Breeches were made by using variety of material such as wool, linen, cotton, and even leather
The coat was the uppermost layer of the man in 18th century. The century witnessed lot of changes in the style and pattern of the coats. In the beginning of 18th century, the coat was comparatively straight loose garment, with the fullness in knee-length skirts, with folds over the backside of the hips. In 1730 full skirted coat was developed. The coat would includenarrow skirts in pleats and collar. Coats became the formal fashion while the frock was used and fashionable undress (informal)
Cloak has a significant status in the world of men’s fashionable garments throughout the history of fashion. The characteristic of 18th century cloak was its collar at the neck, a cape over the shoulders and it hand to the knee or below. The cloak was generally in a circular form. This robe was made from wools, dyed scarlet. Apart from wool, other choice of fabric used for the coat included worsteds, camlets and sometimes plaids. Cloaks were also known as rockets or “roquelaires”.
Another type of men’s robe was Cravat. It was a neck cloth commonly worn by eighteen century men. It was the neckwear form. It was narrow length and it used to be adorned by lace, fringe or knots. It was wrapped around the throat and loosely tied in front. In the middle of 18th century it was worn as an informal dress.
In eighteen century the folded hats and cocked hats came in fashion. The material used for hats would be wool and camel’s down. The Hunting Shirt was one more style of robe which became popular especially in North America. Some years prior to American Revolution, this dress attained a special American character. The people wore hunting shirts with the motto on the breast, Liberty and Death. The colonial armies also chose these shirts as their uniforms.
Covering the lower leg was necessary for protecting legs from cold and keeping them warm. Hence the leggings came in the fashion. The leggings were generally made from wool, linen or leather. It was commonly used by the sportsmen, laboring men and the men from military.
Small knitted woolen caps were also popular in 18th century. It was generally used by the sailors, slaves, and laborer. Knitting of these caps was the leisure time activity for the sailors. They sold these caps to generate extra income.
Neck handkerchief was generally used by the sportspersons, tradesmen and laboring slaves.. It was a square folded and tied around the neck. The material used for neck handkerchief was generally linen, cotton or silk. The colors were also very common among the neck handkerchiefs. Generally the neck handkerchief used to be white or plain in colors, with checks and stripes or printed patterns.
One of the types of informal caps used in eighteen century was Neglige Cap. Men used the cap to cover their shaved or bald head when there is no wig and other wore them over their hair. Variety of material would be used to make this cap. These caps were always decorative and embroidered.
Shirts in 18th century were used as the under garments of men. It covered the body from neck to knee. The gentleman’s shirts had ruffs at the wrist and breast. The laborer’s shirt was made by unbleached linen. The plain shirt could be used as a nightshirt.
There was a variety in the shoes of men. They had several styles as well as qualities. Fashionable shoes were made from soft leather and common shoes would be made from low quality or sturdier leather. The most common colour in the men’s shoes was black.
In eighteenth century, the stockings were used both by men and women. The knitting frame or machine was developed in late 16th century and it was further developed during 18th century. The fashionable stockings were generally made from silk or cotton and they were commonly white. The stocking used by slaves and laborers were made from worsted wool and they were seen in colors such as gray or blue.
One of the most popular robes among the gentlemen was a Stock. It was the gentlemen’s formal neckwear and made up of fine white linen, pleated to fit beneath the chin. For the clergy the white linen was used for stock.
The modern term called three-piece suit has its origin in 17th century. Further it was established properly in 18th century. The first decade of 18th century, the men’s suit included coat, waistcoat and breeches. It was a fashionable dress of eighteenth century and it would be a formal dress. Wearing it in matching pieces was called as a “suit in ditto.”
Trousers were the dress among tradesmen, labourers, and slaves. It was cut with a straight leg and were worn to the ankle or it may be slightly shorter. The trousers were designed by the durable linen.
In 18th century the major garment used as male undergarment was knee length shirt, but some men also wore underdrawers. It was made by linen or woolen flannel and white in colour. It would serve as an additional layer for warmth
The eighteenth century man was never seen without a Waistcoat. It would open in a V shape beneath the stomach. The waistcoats were made in all quality of silk, cotton, wool, or linen. Sometimes it was embroidered, printed, brocaded, quilted, tasseled, or laced in gold or silver pattern. If it was worn for utilitarian purposes, it might have sleeves.
There was one more robe or we can better call it an accessory, and that is wig. Wig was not always permanent in Western fashion. Sometimes it appeared in fashion and sometimes it disappeared. Eighteenth century was the golden period for male wigs. In the second half of the 18th century wigs appeared as a court fashion in both England and France. The variety of forms in the wig became popular. Certain kind of wigs were directly associated with the profession of the person. The material for making wig is commonly the human, goat, yak, or horse hair. The choice of material was subjective and depended upon the preference of the person. In the end of the century, the wig became out of fashion among the youngsters.
Climate was the major factor for deciding the fabric. In Virginia for example, the climate is sultry. The people used washable linen or cotton clothing which is suitable for the sultry climate. The choice of cotton or linen was not only limited to a particular social strata. Even the people from rich class would also choose cotton or linen. In winter the men used to wear unlined coats and thin waist coats. The fabric majorly used for these coats was either cotton or linen. In summer the ladies used to wear gowns made of a light silk which was ideal for the summer.
In the museum, the clothing of 18th century has been preserved but unfortunately the everyday clothing of the era is not found in the museum as they were not survived in course of time. To understand thoroughly about the clothing in 18th century, only the museum collection is not sufficient, but the preserved print sources and written records also need to be referred.
The important status of Fashion Designers in 18th Century
The fashion designers attained a special status in 18th century. It was one of the most popular and influential careers. People were always fascinated by the latest trend in fashion and that is why the fashion designers gained immense popularity. The clothing and fashion trend in 18th century was influenced by the Marie Antoinette, the Archduchess of Austria and the Dauphine of France. She was the iconic fashion figure of that era. Her dressmaker was Rose Bertin and her trademark was ‘Extreme Extravagance” She was Marie's personal designer. She was not a professional designer initially, but a fabric seller attended a French court and offered her the material to design Queen Marie's dress, and soon she attained the status of being Marie's lady-in-waiting. She took the responsibility of the Queen's looks and style. Rose Bertin was so popular fashion designer in those days that her newly created ideas were adopted by Paris immediately in the following days.
French Revolution & Its Impact on Fashion Trend in 18th Century
During the French Revolution, the fashion industry was affected for a temporary period in France. It was a period of political and social upheaval. Further, it was a dark period in the history of France. The significant transition occurred during this period is the political change from absolute monarchy to nationalism. It impacted a lot to the fashion trend. Looking like a common person had been the necessity. It was an age of simplicity. There was hostility among the people about aristocracy. The financial conditions also were the major factor behind being simple. The fabric used for the costume became common. The cotton fabric was widely used and thus the cotton fabric took the place of silk, velvets, laces, ribbons etc. The extravagance was avoided and it was removed from the fashion trend. Women’s clothes also became very simple. Flamboyance was gradually disappeared from the fashion trend. If the person dressed himself/herself in a flamboyant manner, he/she would become the subject of satire. There was a change in the fashion of the men also. They became simple and practical. Simple jackets and trousers became popular among the people. The common people used to wear Pantaloons, which became the fashion trend. The people started expressing the change through their costumes. Thus the politics became the responsible factor for complete transition of clothes trend in the end of 18th century.
The Fashion Magazines in 18th Century
The fashion magazines were emerged in 18th century. The target readers of these magazines would be fashion conscious and intelligent readers. They provided details about the latest fashions. Soon the fashion magazines reached to the middle class and even lower class people also. It was because of their fantastic and colorful illustrations and the latest fashion news. The fashion magazines in those days talked much about women fashions. Children's clothes were not mentioned in the then fashion magazines. The magazines further showed the lifestyle of affluent ladies and their fashions.
The fashion icon of 18th century:
The fashion world of 18th century witnessed many gorgeous fashion icons, who particularly belonged to the aristocratic society. Through their unique way of fashion, their fashion sense, their looks, they carved a niche in the 18th century fashion world. Today even we talk about classic fashion and follow 18th century fashion; these icons have to be taken into consideration for their looks, styles and the way of presenting themselves. Among them the prominent faces were Marie-Antoinette, Empress Eugenie and Madame de Pompadour.
The fashion industry first took its shape with its first model or fashion icon Marie Antoinette. At a very young age, Marie married with Louis XVI. She moved from Vienna (Austria) to Paris after her marriage. Initially Marie was not very much conscious about the fashion and her look and she did not look like a Royal Princess. Marie's mother used to send her letters from Vienna, insisting her to take care of her look and her beauty. It was very important in those days especially the women from Royal family to present themselves elegantly to show their prestige and power. Rose, the fashion designer completely adapted her look and made Marie a fashion icon. After being the Queen of France, Marie was very much obsessed by her beauty, look and dress. She used to spend lavishly and did not concern about the deteriorating condition of France due to crises. She was living a very lavish life. This was the typical characteristics of 18th century women and that is their over-fascination or obsession for fashion. Even Alexander Pope in his poem Rape of the Lock has described the superfluous lifestyle and obsession of the style and fashion of 18th century aristocratic women.
Figure 1: Marie Antoinette
Figure 2: Empress Eugenie
Empress Eugenie was another fashion icon of 18th century. She was born in Spanish noble family. While describing Eugenie, writer Maxime du Camp describes her as “Superstitious, superficial, not adverse to lewd language, always preoccupied by the impression she made, trying shoulder and bosom poses, her hair dyed, her face rouged, her eyes lined in black, her lips painted red.” She was really very beautiful with stunning blue eyes, red hair and a very beautiful complexion. Napoleon was very much attracted towards the beauty of this damsel and he wanted to make her his mistress. Eugenie first met Napoleon at the Élysée Palace on 12 April, 1849. She married to Napoleon four years after her first meeting with him. Later on when she became the Empress, she became popular as a fashion icon. She first introduced the colors “Empress Blue” and the hairstyles dubbed 'à l'imperatrice' 'Eugenie became the fashionista of France and an example of beauty, style, and extravagance to French women.'
Blue was the favorite colour of Empress Eugene as said above. Her personal fashion designer was an Englishman Charles Fredrick Worth. He used blue colour frequently in her haute couture clothing and furnishing. The empress was quite fascinated by the fashion icon Marie- Antoinette. She also collected jewelry and other fashion material of Marie-Antoniette. After Nepolean's death, Eugenie was exiled to England in 1870. At that time also, she took her favorite blue items with her
Figure 3: Madame De Pompadour
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson was the earlier name of the fashion lady, who later on became popular as Madam De Pompadour. She was born in Bourgeois. She lived in the court of France in 18th century. Her life story and her journey towards the glamorous life is also interesting one. She got a chance to attend the salons of Paris and she had a chance to know artists, philosophers and writers, and it was a key to her to get access to enter the masked ball organized for the marriage of Dauphin. In the function, she first met Luis XV. He was fascinated by her beauty and it made her one of the most famous women of the king and also of France. Madame Pompadour was known for her love and knowledge in literature and art. She was very artistic and master of different arts. She had a tremendous fashion sense and her fashion style was known as “Pompadour Style” She had a deep interest in the fashion and dress style of Rococo trend, light, simple, and pastel colors. During her stay in the court many colors were invented such as “Rose pompadour”, “bleu du Roi”etc. These colors are still there in fashion. She used to wear the stylish dresses to illustrate, remind and impress King Louis XV with her beauty and elegance and her character.
In above picture, Madame Pompadour has worn a typical blue color dress. Blue color was the popular color in those days. The dress she wore is called “Robe a la Françoise”.
Another fashion icon in 18th century was Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. She was the fashion icon of her day. She was the trendsetter. Like Marie Antoinette, Georgiana had also a tremendous sense of fashion. People especially the fashion conscious women would wait to see what fashion and style of clothes and hairstyle Georgiana is bringing. The Daily newspapers gave lot of coverage to her dressing. Once, her dress designer even was bribed for disclosing the latest design of the Duchess. She has an elegant, exquisite and extravagant taste of fashion. Marie Antoinette sent her one of her rich and elegant Muslim gowns. Georgiana was the first lady who introduced the fashion of wearing big Ostrich feathers on her hair and soon after that the ladies followed the fashion blindly. Sometimes it looked so ridiculous, but the fashion obsessed ladies were obsessed to follow Georgiana. Being actively involved in politics, Georgiana she also introduced uniform like dress for women for parade and marches. It was different from the ordinary wives.
The 18th Century fashion Trend and Hollywood Movies
There are several movies set in the 18th century. The animated movies also have displayed a lot about the 18th century fashion industry. For effective and exact depiction of the 18th century, and to create the mood it is very necessary to take efforts on the costumes. Some of the movies have been discussed as the part of the thorough research.
Figure 4: Twelve dancing princesses
The special attributes of the 18th century is seen in these animated movies of Barbie dolls. Each princess has given a specific color. The fabric, pattern and style of the dresses presented in the above picture is the exact representation of 18th century fashion icons. They have a hoof and jupe with embroidery. It represents the typical lavish embellish lifestyle of 18th century women. The dresses can be categorized as formal dress worn in balls or formal occasion.
Figure 5 Duchess Rowena
Duchess Rowena is the antagonist of the movie. Probably, that is the reason why she has been portrayed in dark blue color costume. Her costume also resembles the 18th century dress. She has a round hoof on the both sides of the waist. Over that a faint blue color jupe is there and a jacket with of dark blue color. And over the Jupe, a coat like robe used to be there. There was a gap between the Jupe and coat. It was filled with decorative stomacher. The length of the sleeves was down to the elbow and it bore windlike cuffs.
For further study the film 'Tangled' is discussed thoroughly from the fashion point of view. In the movie the reference of Kingdom of Corona is given. The entire world depicted in Tangled is the fairy world and it is associated with the European culture. The movie is related to the prince, princess, king, queen, witch; it has to have the 18th century background as per the requirement of Disney. So the entire world of 18th century has been portrayed in the movie. Same is with the costumes. The designer has taken care to make the costumes close to the era of 18th century. The seamstress has taken the inspiration from 18th century fashion trend. It is called period style dress. The dress of Rapunzel was very close to the Corona Castle and village. As she spent most of her early life in an isolated castle, she does not have access to the aristocratic society and their loud dresses. She has also never encountered any formal occasions and hence doesn’t have any formal, heavily designed dresses which were worn with a hove. Throughout the movie, she is shown wearing a simple and undressed (informal) costume. Her skirt has simple yet attractive embroidery. The lace pattern of her top resembles the 18th century informal dresses’ pattern.
A Depiction of 18th century winter clothes/ warm clothes in the movie “Frozen”
The movie frozen is set in Norway. As Norway experiences harsh winters, the study of the winter clothes of the 18th century and the fashion in Norway can be analyzed. Starting from Elsa, We will study her coronation dress to see the type of clothes worn by Norwegian queens. Elsa’s design of clothes reflects her modesty. She didn’t dress as loudly as the other queens of her era and preferred a simple dress for her coronation. She has worn an additional full-sleeved top inside her actual top to protect herself from the harsh cold. She has also worn an elegant yet simple robe over her costume. This robe is worn for protection as well as for religious importance. Her top and skirt have simple designs with more or less the same pattern.
Eighteen century was the peak period of fashion especially in Europe and other Western country. The century is the witness of the peak of materialism and richness and at the same time it experienced the upheaval and destruction in the form of French Revolution. The 18th century people, initially living a lavish life had to change their taste in the course of time. The political collapse leads to the cultural, economic and social collapse also. The lavish fashion trend was the outcome of the affluence in France which started degrading on the background of the revolution. The Eighteen century history of fashion is important to study as it gives us various transition and the impact of these transitions on the fashion industry. It is also important to study 18th century fashion history because still it gives inspiration to the fashion industry of contemporary period also.
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