18th Century Europe till the French RevolutionWeek #6:
18th Century Europe till the French RevolutionStep 1:
Read the online "lecture" on dress in the 18th Century below and click on any links that interest you. You are not required to read all the material on all the links, however:
Europe till the French Revolution
The Rococo period was marked stylistically by the same convoluted detail and elaborate decoration which characterized the Baroque period immediately preceding it. But despite this similarity Rococo style had, at its center a radical difference.
Where every aspect of the fine and decorative arts of the Baroque period had at its core an extreme solidity and heaviness, Rococo art , music and furniture had, as its basis, a lightness and fluidity which grew more pronounced as it progressed. Rococo forms in the decorative arts typically seem to float upwards in complex curvilinear patterns, defying both physical and emotional gravity.
Flowers, birds, and bows became dominant motifs in a style that highlighted a kind of idealized femininity. These forms were incorporated into all the visual arts, both fine and decorative, so that it is not surprising to find that shapes used in furniture are similar to the shapes used in costume.
The 18th Century woman was the most free and well respected member of her sex in history of Western Civilization until the 20th Century. The advent of the had suddenly changed the rules of Western society from one where brute force constituted power to one where intelligence and reason were the admired and powerful traits. Since women had no trouble competing in this new way, for the better portion of the 18th Century women discretely ruled society and made advances in it, becoming authors, artists, doctors and business women. It is little wonder that the arts and philosophy of the time glorified women, and that the style most associated with the 18th Century, the Rococo, is replete with what psychologists call "feminine forms."
Cut of Women's Clothes 1700-1789
The style of Womens garments in the 18th Century reflect the improving status of women in society. While the mantua
early 18th Century was a rather simple limp garment composed of two lengths of
fabric pinch pleated at the waist over the
stays with wide soft sleeves sewn in, the mantua was gradually stiffened, decorated and expanded with
mid/century it had been stylized into the Robe de Francaise a doll-cake-like structure that insured that a woman
took up three times as much space as a man and always presented an imposing and ultra feminine spectacle. After 1760, women began to expand vertically as well, raising their
hair with pads and pomade to a height in the
1770's that only a man on stilts could hope to emulate.
Watch for a film interpretation of the styles of this era.
After 1780, a fashion for Rousseauesque naturalism took over and women adopted more "natural" looking fashions which still took up a considerable amount of space, but emphasized the natural sexual characteristics of the female figure with padded busts and bottoms and riots of cascading hair under massive hats.
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Continue reading the Lecture:
The Enlightenment caused a number of changes in mens values as well. Intelligence and wit were prized about physical prowess of any kind and the army became a profession only resorted to by the poorer, younger sons of the gentry. Military dress played less of a part in the fashion inspiration for mens clothes as a result, and womens dress, Asiatic dress, and Country clothing were turned to as sources of inspirationinstead.
It should be noted that at this time period high fashion and everyday dress for the nobility became separated into two distinct entities, for example, a
mid-18th Century English Duke might wear
embroidery and velvets at a formal occasion yet wear simple dark Quaker built clothes during the day, almost indistinguishable from what a middle class shopkeeper might wear.
The Dominant style in the the
early part of the century was with the formal mode of dress which gradually phased out, until in
1800, almost all that was left was the informal day dress. Throughout the century the two styles existed side-by-side, usually cut along the same lines and only distinguished by color, fabric and trimming.
Cut of Men's Clothes 1700-1789
The predominant cut in 1700 was full skirted but soft with strong vertical lines introduced with rows of buttons, long hanging cravats, and
As women began to adopt the full skirted pannier style, mens dress did likewise, expanding their skirts through the 1740's, till the trend reversed, and coat skirts softened again and were
cut less fully.
By 1760 coats were being cut away from the front, and vest were cut at hip length.
The 1770s introduced the small standing band collar and small flat collar.
The 1780s are marked by shorter waistcoats, and fold over collars.
The comparative stability and prosperity of this period, compared to the turmoil of the preceding two centuries meant that there was a huge expansion in the production of luxury goods of all kinds. Expensive, frivolous, non essential items such as
snuff boxes, folding
cosmetics were popular with fashionable persons of both genders. Fashion items were produced in more luxurious styles, both because of the economic good times for the rich and middle classes, but due to several technological innovations.
Patterned fabrics for example were produced in larger quantities and more varied styles due to the adoption of the Jacquard loom (incidentally a very early ancestor of the computer).
Faceted diamond and rhinestone jewelry became common due to the invention of the Brilliant cut for stones. Other items such as women's
shoes and men's waistcoats simply became more delicately made and decorated with fine fabrics and
File:HistoryV&amuseum18t.jpg18th Century Costumes from the Victoria and Albert Museum as seen in
Religious conservatives continued to preach against the vanity of these fashions, but their sermons on dress were far more moderate than in the preceding century. The attitude is more one of coaxing through logic and sentiment rather than a berating the fashionable for their sins. "Plain dress" groups like the Quakers managed to design versions of "
plain dress" that were so tasteful, well-made and refined looking that late in the Century many English and American men of style adopted their dress regardless of their religious views.
lower classes' dress continued to be ragged and wretched as the Agricultural Revolution continued to force peasants off of the farm and into
city trades. This massive labor displacement, which continued into the 19th Century is what created the urban proletarian workforce that made the Industrial Revolution possible in the 1790's-to the present.
Lower class tennant farmers get dressed:
All this stability in style was brought to an abrupt end in 1789 when the
French Revolution pitched Europe into it's second sharp transition period.
This Concludes Week #6's LessonReturn to
Timeline Images for Study:
The Aristocrats, copyright BBC, 1999