Rococo Fashioned Women: Notice pastels, floral patterns, and flowers
Three things are needed to have fashion; a society with enough influence to carry out fashion ideals, information transferring abilities, and a need or desire for that fashionable item.
Beginning in the 18th century, France had a shift in culture known as the Enlightenment. This new ideal of valuing reason over authority caused new forms of art, culture, and fashion. Up to this point, Versailles was the hub of fashion information, but the Enlightenment caused Paris to become a culture center. Educated bourgeoisie gained influence and power during this time, so when new fashion arose, it not only affected the royals and aristocrats, but also middle and lower classes as well.
Madame Pompadour: Notice the full flowing skirt silhouette and powered white hair
One of the greatest figures in Rococo fashions was Louis XV's mistress Madame Pompadour. By adoring herself in pastel colors, floral patterns, and the light, happy styles which became Rococo, she made Rococo clothing fashionable for that time.
Marie Antoinette in "chemise a la reine" designed for her country house. The dress was designed for easy movement due to no corset and was based off the "chemise" or lady's underwear of the time. Pagoda sleeves based off of oriental designs were popular.
Fashion designers gained influence during this era and fashion magazines emerged to capture the imagination (and money) of all classes with their colorful, hand painted illustrations. The new silhouette for women developed and the pannier (wide hoop under the skirt) became the staple in women's fashion. Corsets tightly constrict waists to bring contrast to the wide skirts. Plunging necklines and open front skirts which displayed petticoat underneath became popular as well. Hair was powered with wheat meal and flour, which caused outrage to the lower classes as bread prices increased.
The Watteau gown had a loose back which became part of the full skirt and
a tight bodice. The women above in the floral navy shows this example.
Men's fashion really just became variations of a coat, waistcoat, and breeches. The waistcoat was the most decorative. Coats became more fashioned to the body and lace jabots were tied around the neck. In men's fashion, tailoring became the way to emphasis wealth and power, thus a tailored suit became the status symbol without all of the flowers, lace, and bows that women had in Rococo fashion. "Macaronis" or lavish French men were especially fashionable in dress.
Fashion also played a large role in the French Revolution. The Tricolor - red, white, and blue- on rosettes, skirts, and breeches became a sign of the Revolutionaries. The Sans-Culottes, or "without breeches" became the lower class Revolutionaries (they were trousers instead due to the un-tailored nature of this clothing article). Extravagant gowns or suits became dangerous to wear because it became the sign of an aristocrat, which the Revolutionaries despised.
The Rococo fashion era largely ended during the French Revolution, yet its contrasting themes created a diverse fashion like none before. The quest for simplicity yet extravagance, light colors vs. heavy materials, the bourgeoisie and the aristocrats...these contrast made up what became the Rococo fashion and culture of this particular style during this time.
Tortora, Phyllis G., and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume: A History of Western Dress. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1998. Print.
West, Abigail. "History of Costume." History of Costume. Word Press, 12, May 2014. Web. 06 Mar. 2014.