Marie Antoinette Online Forum

The Movement Toward Simplicity Re: Clothing
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Author:  cherecoeur [ Wed Oct 28, 2009 11:07 pm ]
Post subject:  The Movement Toward Simplicity Re: Clothing

Dear Reader: When the adoption of the simpler, some thought shocking, style of dress was adopted by the queen about 1780, does it not seem an improvement over the rococo dresses she is painted wearing in the 1770s? I wonder, since furnishings and decorations had taken on a more severe, classical style, why clothing remained so extravagant for so long. After all, the neoclassical style in the arts, even demonstrated in a demand for more realism in opera, had begun much earlier. It must indicate that clothing styles of the period lagged behind, as evidenced by the final achievement of the Empire style which one would think should have coincided with the long established fervor over aping Roman and Greek designs.

Author:  Marija Vera [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 9:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Movement Toward Simplicity Re: Clothing

It seems that there always existed some duality in rococo fashion, simplicity opposed to extravagance, and sometimes it’s not easy to determine the order. Here are some lines from the book Fashion - A history from the 18th to the 20th century, concerning the topic of that advance.

"After the initial popularity of rococo, clothing styles veered off in two opposed fashion directions, one involving a fantastic conceit of artificial aesthetic, and the other a desire to return to nature.

For women, the essential spirit of rococo fashion was rooted in elegance, refinement, and decoration, but there were also elements of capriciousness, extravagance and coquetery. At the same time people also sought a comfortable lifestyle, one in which they could spend leisurely hours in cozy sitting rooms, surrounded by knick-knacks and their favorite furniture. To accommodate these more down-to-earth urges, a relatively relaxed and informal style of dress also appeared.

A new style in the early eighteen century was the "robe volante", or the flowing gown, derived from the négligé popular towards the end of Louis XIV's reign. The characteristic feature of the gown was a bodice with large pleats flowing from the shoulders to the ground over a round petticoat. Although the bodice was tighly molded by a corset, the loose-fitting pleated robe gave a comfortable and relaxed impression. Following the robe volante, the typical women's rococo gown was called robe à la française, and this style was worn as a formal court dress up until the Revolutionary period.

During the period when rococo reached it's decorative heights, the aristocracy found itself runing toward the fashion of the commoners for hints on how to dress for a more comfortable lifestyle. The functional coats and skirts of ordinary people influenced aristocratic women’s costumes, which gradually tended toward simpler styles except on formal occasions.

The growing popularity of simpler, more functional dresses in France at the time was in part due to “Anglomania”, a fascination with all things English prevalent at the time in French culture. The first signs of Anglomania in men’s costumes can be found in the final years of the reign of Louis XIV, and then in women’s costumes after 1770 (style adopted by Marie Antoinette). When the English custom of walking in the countryside and enjoying the open air became popular among the French, the robe retrousée dans les poches appeared as a fashionable style for women. The skirts were pulled through the slits for the pockets in the side of the dress and draped over the back in a practical arrangement originally created for working-class women to wear while at work or walking through the town."

Author:  cherecoeur [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 11:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Movement Toward Simplicity Re: Clothing

Thank you Marja Vera for taking time to provide us with such an informative reply. I can certainly appreciate the desire women had for comfort and perhaps even gaining ground to be coquettishness at the same time! The word "dishabile" (this doesn't look right) comes to mind. Anyway, a state of elegant disarray can be very appealing. / Formal dresses must have been very uncomfortable if we are to believe the portrayal in movies of the torture involved in getting dressed ( I suppose that remained the case until the 20th Century - I should read the book). Marie-Antoinette's desire for a private life free as possible from court pressures, which most of US would want but was terribly disadvantageous in her position, certainly would call for a relaxed attire.

Author:  Marija Vera [ Wed Nov 04, 2009 9:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Movement Toward Simplicity Re: Clothing

When one compares the court costumes from the 16th, 17th century and then the early and middle 18th century, it’s clear how the style evolved and reached a perfect balance in being simple, elegant and feminine without the great excess of the later rococo fashion, which doesn’t always please my eye (macaroni fashion etc…). Still, the change that then occurred, towards simplicity, which culminated during the revolution, does seem rather radical even I don’t find it necessarily good, especially when it comes to men’s fashion that in my opinion had a major downfall. Here is the addition to my previous text, again some quotes from the book that I copied. The book is published by Taschen , it’s in two volumes, and it shows the collection of the Kyoto costume institute. However, the 18th century section is not large and although there are many beautiful pictures, there is not much text for someone who is more seriously interested in the subject.

“As the ancien régime teetered on the verge of collapse, the fully-matured rococo style waned in importance.

Women’s dresses were not so much items of apparel as awesome architectual constructions made of fabric. The refined aesthetic of rococo culture disappeared, and its delicate lightness was replaced with the looming shadows of the Revolution.
The gigantic coiffures, huge wigs, and outrageous headdresses of this period amplified the darkness of thoose looming shadows. Women’s faces looked tiny framed in the center of such outlandish ornamentation. Coiffures were often large enough to contain models of chariots, landscapes, streams, fruit baskets, and all sorts of other fanciful elements.

A vital method for spreading the trends of Paris was the fashion magazine. Although one periodical that introduced the latest fashions in Paris had already emerged during the seventeenth century, several new and important fashion magazines sprang up in the pre-revolutionary period. These included Le Journal du Goùt (1768-1770), Le Cabinet des Modes (1785-1786), and La Galerie des Modes et du Costume Français (1778-1788), all of which appeared during the second half of the eighteenth century.

In marked contrast to the extravagance of court costumes, ordinary clothing tended to be simple and comfortable. The excavation of the ancient Roman ruins of Herculaneum in 1738 provided the impetus for an emerging style of neoclassicism based on a worship of antiquity. Incorporating the concept of Rousseau’s “return to nature”, this attention to ancient Greece and Rome became an essential theme in the changing ideals of European society. It was a theme that came to dominate the arts and general lifestyle of Europeans from the second half of the eighteenth century until the early nineteenth century.

A forerunner of the clothing style that would reflect this theme, a style influenced by Anglomania, was one adopted by Marie Antoinette, who favored the simple, white muslin chemise, a style that around 1775 came to be known as the chemise à la reine. In terms of its material and its construction, it served as a transitional form to the high-waisted dress of the Directory period.

In 1789, the French Revolution promoted a profound change in the aesthetics of fashion, and the favored fabric shifted from refined silk to simple cotton. The Revolution adopted fashion for the purposes of ideological propaganda in the new age, and revolutionaries declered their rebellious spirit by appropriating the clothing of the lower classes.

Those who still wore extravagant and brightly colored silk clothing were considered anti-revolutionary. Instead of the knee breeches and silk stockings that symbolized the nobility, revolutionaries wore long pants called sans-culottes (non breeches). Besides this long pants, the revolutionary sympathizer dressed in a jacked called a carmagnole, a Phrygian cap, a tricolor cockade, and clogs. Derived from simple English tastes, this fashion evolved into a style of frock coat and trousers, which was afterward worn by the moder citizen in the nineteenth century.

But not everything changed in 1789. During the Revolution, new fashion styles emerged in quick succession, reflecting the changing political situation, but conventional clothing, such as the habit à la française, was still worn as the official court costume. New and old fashions intermingled during the Revolutionary period...”

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