Categories: CultureFashionHistory

Late Louis XIV fashion of Women 1700–1720s

Fashion in the period 1700–1720s, or the final period of Louis XIV style, is called the period of transition. The new style was lighter in form, and featured greater fantasy and freedom of line, thanks in part to the use of wrought iron decoration, and greater use of arabesque, grotesque and coquille designs.

Under Louis XIV, the powerful French court of Versailles determines fashion: it is stately, stately, expensive and substantial. Nevertheless, citizens copy the latest fashion on a sober scale. Louis’ wife and his mistresses determine fashion at the court with its strict etiquette. Paris is the capital of haute couture: fashion dolls are sent all over Europe. When the king grows old and becomes religious, fashion becomes more and more relaxed.

At the beginning of the 18th century, art, and by extension the suit seeks to describe aspects of life and the individual with light and color. The costume will transcribe the new sensibility of the time and the emergence of new needs: more lightness and more fantasy. The new modes of the beginning of the 18th century are received with great success. This shows a society on the sidelines of Versailles, made up of younger individuals from the new financial and commercial sectors. These young men are freed from the fashions of Versailles and the obligations of the court. They prefer to seek their welfare but to obey the authority of the ruler.

From 1710 until about 1720s, the period known as the Regency, it was largely an extension of the style of Louis XIV of France. The style of the Régence is marked by early Rococo, rich Baroque designs were giving way to lighter elements with more curves and natural patterns. These elements are obvious in the architectural designs of Nicolas Pineau. During the Régence, court life moved away from Versailles and this artistic change became well established, first in the royal palace and then throughout French high society.

Fashion in the period 1700–1720s in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by a widening silhouette for women following the tall, narrow look of the 1680s and 1690s.

The woman’s clothing is distinguished and stiff. Over the tight corset, the woman wears a gown consisting of a bodice with a square neckline, decorated with lace. The tight three-quarter sleeves have strips of lace. The skirt is conical; the underskirt has horizontal strips and the overcoat is turned backwards, with a reinforcement on the lower back and with a drag. In such a dress many meters of expensive fabric are processed; silk from Lyon is very popular. The women wear loose curls; afterwards it is cut down and provided with a fabric cap, extensively decorated with bobbin lace, the fontange. As accessories there are the impeller and snuff boxes. Perfume is generously used to dispel uncomfortable odors. Long gloves and a sleeve are also always within reach. Especially white pearls are very popular with jewels ; also corsage jewels are worn. A fad is the mouche or the “tâche de beauté”; the famous beauty spot. The skin is made as clear as possible with all kinds of powders.

Women’s fashion
The clothes of women of that era adopted a more informal fashion. The shapes of the dresses became more natural.

During most of the 18th century women wore dresses floating. They had skirts heavily draped over baskets. The silhouette of the women who wore them seemed like a big bell with a very small waist and wide hips. Most of the dresses were low-waisted, pointed. Under each dress the women wore a boned body and petticoats. The corsets were essential for getting a small waist and for keeping the shape of the corsages, and the petticoats helped support the baskets under the skirts. Watteau folds covered the backs of the coats and a traincompleted these elegant dresses. In 1740, the silhouette of the dresses was transformed. The baskets grew around the hips, the skirts starting to look like boxes. Just before this fad disappears, the magnitude of some of these dresses reached four meters. But after this brief fad, the more natural forms came back.

This fashion of dresses imposing and inconvenient to present themselves in society will bring the appearance of the neglected to put on a comfortable outfit at home.

Until 1720, fashion was the fountain headdress consisting of a cap topped with a fairly high wire form composed of several degrees filled with muslin, ribbons, flowers and feathers.

The hair does not cut any more, one even adds some hairpieces to gain some bouffant. Many accessories (flowers, birds, doll, animals, etc.) are added to the hairstyle to express the tastes of those who wear them. Queen Marie-Antoinette launches the style of the beanstyle hairstyle created by Monsieur Léonard. They also powder themselves to be white.

They sometimes wear a laissez-tout-faire that is an ornate apron worn by elegance. It is the fashion of the parasols. The shoes are pumps or mules made of silk with high heels.

Like Louis XV, rich women used luxury fabrics for their dresses. The satin, the taffeta, velvet and silks were popular, and dresses were often covered with floral embroidery in the feminine style of Rococo. The middle-class women used cotton and wool and put stiff petticoats instead of baskets. Detail and jewels were missing in the peasant dresses, but the basic form remained the same. Without exception, everyone is trying to be fashionable. Rich people, even peasants, imitated the styles of the king and his court.

Social classes have certainly influenced fashion in the xviii th century, but fashion has influenced the social classes.

Gowns and dresses
In the early decades of the new century, formal dress consisted of the stiff-bodiced mantua. A closed (or “round”) petticoat, sometimes worn with an apron, replaced the open draped mantua skirt of the previous period. This formal style then gave way to more relaxed fashions.

The robe à la française or sack-back gown was looser-fitting and a welcome change for women used to wearing bodices. With flowing pleats from the shoulders was originally an undress fashion. At its most informal, this gown was unfitted both front and back and called a sacque. With a more relaxed style came a shift away from heavy fabrics, such as satin and velvet, to Indian cotton, silks and damasks. Also, these gowns were often made in lighter pastel shades that gave off a warm, graceful and childlike appearance. Later, for formal wear, the front was fitted to the body by means of a tightly-laced underbodice, while the back fell in loose box pleats called “Watteau pleats” from their appearance in the paintings of Antoine Watteau.

The less formal robe à l’anglaise, Close-bodied gown or “nightgown” also had a pleated back, but the pleats were sewn down to fit the bodice to the body to the waist.

Either gown could be closed in front (a “round gown”) or open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.

Open-fronted bodices could be filled in with a decorative stomacher, and toward the end of the period a lace or linen kerchief called a fichu could be worn to fill in the low neckline.

Sleeves were bell- or trumpet-shaped, and caught up at the elbow to show the frilled or lace-trimmed sleeves of the shift (chemise) beneath. Sleeves became narrower as the period progressed, with a frill at the elbow, and elaborate separate ruffles called engageantes were tacked to the shift sleeves, in a fashion that would persist into the 1770s.

Necklines on dresses became more open as time went on allowing for greater display of ornamentation of the neck area. A thick band of lace was often sewed onto the neckline of a gown with ribbons, flowers, and/or jewels adorning the lace. Jewelry such as strings of pearls, ribbons, or lace frills were tied high on the neck. Finally, one other large element of 18th century women’s dress wear became the addition of the frilled neckband, a separate piece from the rest of the dress. This ornament was popularized sometime around 1730.

The stays or corset of the early 18th century were long-waisting and cut with a narrow back, wide front, and shoulder straps; the most fashionable stays pulled the shoulders back until the shoulder blades almost touched. The resulting silhouette, with shoulders thrown back, very erect posture and a high, full bosom, is characteristic of this period and no other.

Skirts were worn over small, domed hoops in the 1730s and early 1740s, which were displaced for formal court wear by side hoops or panniers which later widened to as much as three feet to either side at the French court of Marie Antoinette.

The shift (chemise) or smock had full sleeves early in the period and tight, elbow-length sleeves in the 1740s as the sleeves of the gown narrowed.

Related Post

Some women wore drawers (underpants) in England. For instance, as early as 1676 inventory of Hillard Veren had “3 pair of women drawers”. Though, they are not common in English or New England inventories during the 17th and 18th century. Clothing Through American History: The British Colonial Era, by Kathleen A. Staples, Madelyn C. Shaw page 245

Woolen waistcoats were worn over the corset and under the gown for warmth, as were petticoats quilted with wool batting.

Free-hanging pockets were tied around the waist and were accessed through pocket slits in the gown or petticoat.

Loose gowns, sometimes with a wrapped or surplice front closure, were worn over the shift (chemise), petticoat and stays (corset) for at-home wear, and it was fashionable to have one’s portrait painted wearing these fashions.

Riding habits consisted of a fitted, thigh- or knee-length coat similar to those worn by men, usually with a matching petticoat. Ladies wore masculine-inspired shirts and tricorne hats for riding and hunting.

When outdoors, ladies also wore elbow-length capes, often lined with fur for warmth.

Fabrics and colors
In the early years of this period, black silk hoods and dark, somber colors became fashionable at the French court for mature women, under the influence of Madame de Maintenon. Younger women wore light or bright colors, but the preference was for solid-colored silks with a minimum of ornamentation.

Gradually, trim in the form of applied lace and fabric robings (strips of ruched, gathered or pleated fabric) replaced the plain style. Ribbon bows, lacing, and rosettes became popular, as did boldly patterned fabrics. Silk gowns and stomachers were often intricately embroidered in floral and botanical motifs, demonstrating great attention to detail and care for an accurate portrayal of nature. A mid-century vogue for striped fabrics had the stripes running different directions on the trim and the body of the gown.

Chintz, Indian cotton fabric with block-printed imaging on a white base, was wildly fashionable. Bans against their importation to protect the British silk, linen and woolen industries did nothing to reduce their desirability. Brocaded silks and woolens had similar colorful floral patterns on light-colored grounds. Blends of wool and silk or wool and linen (linsey-woolsey) were popular. Until the 1730s, European textiles were of inferior quality that could not match the complex fashionable designs of Indian calicoes. Europe was able to produce high quality petit teints (colors that faded with light and washing), but they were unable to produce grand teints (permanent colors resistant to light and wear).

Footwear and accessories
The shoe of the previous period with its curved heel, squarish toe, and tie over the instep gave way in the second decade of the 18th century to a shoe with a high, curved heel. Backless mules were worn indoors and out (but not on the street). Toes were now pointed. This style of shoe would remain popular well into the next period. Shoes at the time had many variations of decoration, some even included metal wrapped threads.

Women, particularly in France, began wearing a boutonnière, or a small bouquet of fresh flowers in a “bosom bottle.” About four inches in length, these glass or tin bottles were small enough to discreetly tuck into the bosom or hair, but also just large enough to contain water to keep the flowers from wilting.

An 18th-century toilette began with a heavy white foundation made from white lead, egg white, and a variety of other substances. This was overlaid with white powder (typically potato or rice powder), rouge, and deep red or cherry lip color.

Tiny pieces of fabric, known as patches, in the shapes of dots, hearts, stars, etc. were applied to the face with adhesive. The fashion is thought to have originated as a way of disguising pox scars and other blemishes, but gradually developed coded meanings. A patch near the mouth signified flirtatiousness; one on the right cheek denoted marriage; one on the left cheek announced engagement; one at the corner of the eye signified a mistress.

Style gallery 1700–1720s

1 – c. 1700

2 – 1717

3 – 1718

4 – c. 1719

5 – 1729




1.Adélaïde, Duchesse de Bourgogne wears a riding habit featuring a long coat similar to men’s coats, with a matching petticoat.
2.Empress of Russia Catherine I, in full Court dress. She is wearing a voluminous white gown, with lace trimming the low, square neckline and sleeves, which are gathered at the elbow. Her red velvet mantel is lined with ermine. The portrait was painted in 1717.
3.Ulrika Eleonora, Queen Regnant of Sweden 1718–1720 wears a typical royal robe and gown.
4.Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orleans wears the black cap and veil of a widow with a gold-colored gown patterned with acorns and flowers. Her open sleeves are caught with jeweled clasps or pins over a shift with triple lace frills at the elbow. A royal French mantle of blue embroidered with gold fleur-de-lis and lined in ermine is draped around her shoulders, c. 1719.
5.Attendants at a wedding wear solid-colored mantuas with closed petticoats and open-fronted bodices. Elbow-length sleeves are cuffed. The ruffles of the shift are visible at neck and elbow, England, 1729.
6.Dame, 1700
7.Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, 1700
8.Catherine Coustard met haar zoon Léonor. Circa 1700

Source from Wikipedia