Aristocratic Fashions In 18th Century France

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Before the sobering influence of the French Revolution, aristocratic fashions in 18th century France were the epitome of abundant ornamentation, flamboyance and fantasy. Queen Marie Antoinette, the fateful 18th century Queen of France beheaded during the Revolution, was known for her excessive aristocratic fashions and elaborate hairstyles. One of the most influential figures in fashion in France and in the European royal circles, Queen Marie Antoinette wore panniers which held the skirt out at the sides as this was a requirement for court fashion on formal state occasions.

The clothing of women was highly confining and cumbersome in aristocratic fashions in 18th century France. Hoop skirts were prevalent in the 1740s to be replaced by panniers until the 1780s. Inverted conical torsos above full skirts were the fashion in France during the 18th century. The ‘pouter pigeon’ front of the skirt with many layers of cloth came into style as skirts gradually lost their unnatural shapes in France towards the end of the 18th century.

Gowns, called a robe in French, were the highlight of aristocratic fashions in 18th century France. They were worn over a petticoat and had a decorative stomacher pinned to the gown if it was opened in front. The fashion of elbow length sleeves was tight with ruffles or frills. The necklines were trimmed with ruffles and lace as was the fashion. A neckerchief would be tucked into the low neckline.

Undergarments and Hairstyles of 18th Century France

Underneath the gown, aristocratic women wore a chemise. The chemise had tight sleeves with a plunging neckline. Aristocratic fashions in 18th century France displayed stays which were strapless but boned. These were tightly laced at the back and gave the torso a conical shape. Stays provided good back support and made aristocratic fashions look elegant.

Hairstyles in 18th century France were elaborate wigs that were built up high and included decorative objects. Aristocratic fashions demanded that hair be powdered in the 1780s in various colors. Natural hair color and curls became fashionable towards the close of the 18th century in France.

Aristocratic fashions in 18th century France were elaborate styles for women at court. They wore gowns that were confining with panniers beneath a low neckline chemise.

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