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During the 18th century, Louis XV became the King of France at age 5. A new
style, Rococo, was introduced which created a more slender and delicate appearance with an asymmetrical balance. Also, during this period of time France was involved in many wars which caused the country to go into debt. Louis XV died in 1774 who was known to be the most hated king. His grandson, Louis XVI became king. At the age of 14, he married an Austrian princess, Marie Antoinette, who did not like the customs and etiquette of the French court. Due to the success of the American Revolution, which France assisted in the financing of, Frenchmen were encouraged to reform the government and society. In 1789, the French government went bankrupt resulting in the writing of the constitution.
The center of France became Paris. Louis XV, at the age of 13, returned to Versailles and the palace was once again the center of royal life. It became not as important during the reign of Louis XVI, because of Queen Marie Antoinette and her dislike of the French etiquette. She was extravagant in her spending when France was having financial difficulty. Marie and her friend created a fashion for peasant-style dresses and hats. Her lifestyle was a cause in the decline of support for the monarchy.
For England, the center of fashion was London, but small towns and country estates had their own social class structure and had an interest in fashion. Fashionable clothing was divided based on the time of day. Men’s garments were divided by undress or lounging clothes, dress was daytime or evening wear, and full dress was the most formal evening dress. Nightgown was not for sleeping but a dressing gown or informal robe that was worn indoors. A powdering jacket was worn when the men had their wigs powdered. Women’s clothing was divided as undress, half dress or morning dress. Habit was a riding costume or a tailor-made costume. Her coat was not for outdoors, but was the petticoat. Her coat was called a greatcoat.
The Flying Shuttle was invented in 1733, which increased the production of clothing. Cotton became less expensive. Textiles that had elaborate and sophisticated patterns were manufactured in Europe. The 18th century influenced male tailors to make men’s suits and coasts and women make dresses for women.
The 18th century styles reflected the increased trade between Europe and the Far East.
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The major garments of men’s dress consisted of underdrawers, shirt, waistcoat, outer coat, knee-length breeches, hose, and shoes. On occasion, hats and wigs were added with other accessories and outdoor wear. These garments were constant through the century, but the styles changed during the first and second halves. The drawers are equal to modern undershirts or medieval braies, which were worn under breeches, closing at the waist with drawstrings or buttons. Shirts were very similar to ones in the prior centuries, but now were shown with ruffled frill at the front of the neck and sleeves. Undervests or under waistcoats were worn during cold weather or as a second waistcoat over or under the shirt. If worn over the shirt, the undervest had a visible collar. Collars and cravats were another part of the men’s garments. During the first half of the century, collars gathered to a neck band with neck cloths or cravats around the neck and knotted under the chin, concealing the collar. At the second half of the century, the neck bands were extended which evolved into a collar that was sewn into the shirt.
The woman’s silhouette was a long slender bodice and a skirt with back fullness. Around 1720, wide hoops known as panniers, were used as a part of the everyday costume. During the years between 1720 and 1780, the varied shape of the hoop caused changes in the silhouette of garments. The women’s dress consisted of chemise, shift, drawers, under petticoat, stays, jumps, hoops, and gowns. The chemise was worn next to the body, knee length cut full, with wide necklines edged with lace. Often the lace was shown at the neckline of the outer dress; the sleeves were full to the elbow but not visible. Drawers were not a universal garment. The under petticoat was worn over the chemise and under the hoop. Stays were corsets intended to be visible, with both the front and back being boned. Many were laced up the back, but some were laced at the front and back. Jumps were loose, unboned bodices that were worn at home providing relief from the tight corset. Hoops shaped the skirt. Around 1710, the hoops were coned shaped with each hoop increasing in size as moving closer to the floor. In the 1720’s, the hoops were shaped like a dome. The hoop shape narrowed from front to back and wider from side to side during the 1730’s. In the 1740’s, the hoops became extremely wide and remained this size until the 1760’s. Gowns were made to be either open or closed at the center front and could be loose or fitted. Some types were robe battante, robe volante, innocente, and sacque all worn unbelted and loose from the shoulder to the floor. The pet-en-lair was a short, hip-length gown worn separate with a gathered skirt. Mantua-style gowns were cut in one piece from the shoulder to hem and fitted in the front and back. They were more popular in England than France. Most were open in the front with a visible petticoat. The petticoats were normally decorated with quilting. The hairstyles of the women were simple, worn wavy and loose around the face. The hair could also be twisted into a bun and worn at the top of the heat at the back or arranged around the face in ringlets or waves. Hats were worn indoors and outdoors. The indoor hats were called pinners, circular caps with single or double frills around the edge, worn flat on the head. Hoods were worn outdoors.
The 18th century costume played a major role in the social status of those in this time period. Clothing was also worn to express social behavior. The increasing of international trade was shown through more elegant textiles.