The list of French Fashion designers is never ending, with famous designers like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, and many more making a list. These famous French designers helped to establish France’s reputation as the go-to for all things fashion. French history is the epitome of style today. Many articles, books, and magazines idealize France fashion and explain how the average person can emulate the effortless Parisian fashion look. While the French style might seem effortless to most, much work goes into achieving such a chic look. The Parisian fashion history dates back as far as the 17th century.
Paris has always been known as the fashion capital of the world. This is mainly because some of the leading fashion designers came from this world, and the industry began hundreds of years ago. The Parisians were amongst the first set of people to recognize clothing was a business and then started exporting their products from as far back as the 17th century. This article will explore Parisian fashion history and how it evolved over time into the style we love today.
King Louis XIV and Parisian Fashion
If you’ve ever dived into Parisian fashion history, you must already know King Louis XIV. He’s known as the Sun King and is famous for moving the French court to Versailles. King Louis XIV is one of the main reasons French royalty is synonymous with excessiveness and opulence. It’s fair to say that the chic style associated with Paris all started with Louis XIV.Louis had lavish tastes and was famous for his exquisite attire. He introduced the textile trade to France and then placed it under the control of the royal court. Soon, the royal court became the international authority on style.
His reign thrust France into the spotlight as they became the first to separate different fashion styles into different seasons. In addition, he first distributed fashion pieces in the French court before making their way to the rest of the world. As a result, France has become the place to go when looking for top-quality material for many centuries.
In addition, Louis was known to show off his style through elaborate costumes. He wore many of them to get his royal portrait painted. He was also known for wearing elaborate wigs and significantly creating a black market for humans here. Overall, Parisian fashion history is incomplete without mentioning King Louis XIV.
Marie Antoinette – French Fashion Icon
Right after King Louis XIV, his son King Louis XVI and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, took over the throne. Although this pair became known for going to the guillotine during the French revolution, Marie Antoinette was also popular for her sense of style. Due to this, many French people despised the new queen. This is because Marie seemed to care more about the latest shoes, dresses, and Wigs than feeding her people.
Although there’s no way to defend Marie Antoinette and her interesting choices, Parisian fashion history is incomplete without her stories. Her costume designers were impressive and entirely accurate. A deep dive into Marie Antoinette’s fashion choices would give you a clear idea of what style was during this time in the French court.
Marie Antoinette is one of the people who made sky-high wigs very popular. She was also known to put feathers in her hair, and her custom dresses were created by Rose Bertin, a leasing Parisian designer at the time. Most custom-made dresses Marie Antoinette wore marked the Haute Couture’s beginning. However, her time on the throne sadly ended when she was dethroned, jailed, and then killed by French revolutionaries.
Parisian Fashion History – The Incroyables and Merveilleuses
The Incroyables and Merveilleuses translate into English as the Incredibles and the Marvelous. The Incredibles was a name for the group’s men, while Marvelous referred to the women. They were a group of Parisians that emerged after the Reign of Terror and the French revolution with a need to cut loose and take fashion less seriously than their predecessors in the French court.
The Incroyables and Merveilleuses style consisted of styles that were quite similar to Roman or Greek tunics. These outfits were usually made of gauze and linen, and there were sandals to match the look. This group also work wigs that featured hair dyed to colors like pink, purple, green, and many more that made them look as silly as they acted.
No one faulted them after the French revolution, and they scandalized Paris with their actions. However, many would argue that it was all part of the charm and image. For many people who understand Parisian fashion history, this is their favorite period in fashion.
Parisian Fashion History and the Return of Haute Couture
We earlier mentioned that Haute Couture started with Marie Antoinette. It took a break after the French revolution but came back in the late 19th century. We owe this return of haute couture to Charles Frederick Worth, who started the House of Worth. Additionally, this was the first modern couturier house in Paris and gave many other French fashion designers a head start. At the time, famous designers like Jeanne Paquin, House of Patou, and Paul Poiret already existed.
They took their cue from the House of Worth and established their presence in the Parisian fashion world. It is thanks to these fashion artists that the term fashion designers began. Haute Couture was special as every piece was custom-made specifically for the lucky person who got the opportunity to work with these designers. The pieces ordered by the elite were made to perfection for them and no one else.
The First Set of Fashion Shows in Parisian Fashion History
Thanks to the House of Worth, fashion shows started in Paris. He would create a portfolio of designs he wanted to sell, produce them and then hire live models to be displayed in his fashion showroom, where his clients would pick and choose the designers they were interested in. Through this method, the fashion show was born in Paris.
Coco Chanel and Vogue
The Fashion magazine, Vogue, started in 1920 in Paris while the designer Coco Chanel debuted her first collection in 1925. Coco Chanel created one of the leading fashion houses in Paris.
This Saumur designer didn’t like uncomfortable outfits like the corset that required a woman’s body to achieve a particular shape. In contrast, Chanel’s designs were simple, boyish, and elegant. Her outfits were also in direct contrast to those worn by full-figured women. She introduced a looser free-flowing design that people took to in the 1920s.
Chanel remains one of the prominent fashion designers in the luxury fashion world. So it also comes as no surprise that she started in Paris, where they gladly accepted all types of innovations.
Post-War Fashion in Paris
When World War II started, it was apparent that fashion needed to be put on hold. Due to this, the Parisian fashion industry suffered significantly. Many fashion designers like Chanel and others had to close their fashion houses because of the Germans.
Due to the rationing of fabric and a general disorder throughout Europe, there were not many styles one could turn to. Other countries like the US decided to fill the gap in the market by strengthening their industry. There was also a ship to American designers like Claire McCardell at the time.
After the war, a new designer Christian Dior presented his ‘New Looks’ designs in 1947. This look came with a collection of dresses that had small waists and full skirts. After the extended horrors that came with World War II, most women were ready to treat themselves to luxurious fabrics and elegant designs.
Chanel returned, and other designers like Pierre Balmain and Hubert de Givenchy emerged in the fashion world. At the same time, the French fashion magazine, Elle, was also published.
The 1960s and Ready to Wear Fashion
Until the 1960s, fashion was pretty standard. This means that everyone wore the same times always. Only the elites had about 2-3 outfits to choose from. However, in the 1960s, things changed significantly. According to Parisian fashion history, French Fashion faced its biggest fashion threat in the 1960s. It was the time of the rise of youth culture in Swinging London. The movement was led by Mary Quant, a British designer who created audacious designs for the youth. Some of her designs include short mini-skirts, which were adored by the younger generation. They viewed it as a symbol of female emancipation and sexual liberation.
In the late 1960s, young Yves Saint Laurent emerged in the fashion space, and he helped Paris reclaim its fashion crowd. He is also known for adding some men’s jackets to the female wardrobe. In addition, he was the first fashion designer to create a ready-to-wear collection.
Taking cues from him, clothing began to be mass manufactured and became more affordable. Today, almost all the fashion houses create ready-to-wear lines. This provided more press coverage for them than the couture collection and also helped fashion houses make more profit, which helped with high fashion’s longevity.
The hippy movement also took place in Paris during this period. It became a top trend in the 1960s and the 70s. From then on, inventive designs continued to pop out of Paris and played a significant role in solidifying its place as the world’s fashion capital.
Paris Fashion Today
Almost every French Fashion house has its bases in Paris. The city is also homes to the Paris Fashion Week, a biannual week-long event that features fashion shows from French fashion designers and international designers as well. Also, famous streets in Paris are popular for designers and luxury shopping. Some include the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysees and the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.
Parisian fashion history shows how the country became the world’s fashion capital. We explored the development of haute couture and how fashion houses began to emerge. We also explored the works of popular luxury fashion designers like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Coco Chanel. We hope you enjoyed this Parisian fashion history and how it took us through the historical side of fashion.