Louis XV style fashion of Women 1730–1750

Fashion in 1730–1750, or the Rocaille fashion, was a French style of exuberant decoration, with an abundance of curves, counter-curves, undulations and elements modeled on nature, that appeared in the early reign of Louis XV of France. It was a reaction against the heaviness and formality of the Style Louis XIV. It began in about 1710, reached its peak in the 1730s, and came to an end in the late 1750s. Rocaille was exuberant and inspired by nature like Rococo, but, unlike Rococo, it was usually symmetrical and not overloaded with decoration. It took its name from the mixture of rock, seashell and plaster that was used to create a picturesque effect in grottos during the Renaissance, and from the name of a seashell-shaped ornament which was frequent feature of Rocaille decoration.

In 1715 Louis XIV died; he is succeeded by his five-year-great grandson Louis XV. The Duke of Orleans is regent and this period is called régence. In 1730, the late baroque or rococo, with its distinctive sweetness and elegance, arises in architecture and visual art. The clothing has light pastel shades, and ruffles and accessories come back. Louis is not interested in state affairs or the poor people. His mistress, Madame de Pompadour, influences fashion: it is feminine, playful and airy. Around 1740, the Age of Enlightenment began, characterized by an informal clothing style with accessories and motifs from nature. There is civilized conversations and people read a lot.

Around 1715 the Robe Volante came into fashion for women: a pretty shapeless dress with petticoats and a dress with a wide double (Watteau) fold on the shoulders. The décolleté is usually square. The hairs are tied back and lightly decorated. Around 1720 the Robe à la Franҫaise became fashionable. This has a tight, V-shaped body with bows and décolleté, and sleeves with cuffs. The skirt or panier is becoming wider and more pompous, so women have to go sideways through a door. Women powder their own hair with chalk or flour. They wear it briefly, with curls around the head, or put up and covered with a flat hat with hanging ribbons or a bouquet. A lot of powder and rouge is used.

Fashion in the period 1730–1750 in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by a widening silhouette for both men and women following the tall, narrow look of the 1680s and 90s. Wigs remained essential for men of substance, and were often white; natural hair was powdered to achieve the fashionable look.

Everywhere at that time, clothing styles became less loaded as fabrics became more valuable. The silhouettes became more natural and less voluminous, and the colors began to lighten towards the Rococo style. Styles for both sexes have found simple compliance. The heaviness and the black colors of the previous period disappeared and were replaced by pastels, light, and a certain freedom of spirit. It was the time of the Regency and the Rococo.

Costume tastes influenced by entertainment, culture, arts, theater, architecture and fashionfelt. A sense of freedom and a joy of life that reflected well in the fashion of the time, a certain frivolity was developing. The politics and administration of the country were forgotten by the nobility and the king. The affairs of the country were left to the middle class, while the nobles and royalty pursued the entertainment and the pleasure. The remoteness of the government, combined with a new skepticism, has spread the styles of traditional male fashion; in the transition from Baroque to Rococo, this change brought the elegant, sweet, and feminine styles. the tissue sweet and floral patterns have gained popularity.

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.

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 1730-1740

1 – 1737

2 – 1739




1.Queen Sophie Dorothea of Prussia wears a rose-colored velvet gown with ermine trim (and possibly lining).
2.Prussian court fashion: Queen Elizabeth Christine, wife of Frederick the Great, wears a gown with a slightly squared neckline and narrow lace frills at bodice and sleeve. Note the trim on the pocket slits in the skirt of her open gown. She wears a diamond choker around her neck.
3.Declaration of love 1731
4.Louise Eleonore von Wreech née. von Schöning (c. 1737) Hermitage Museum (Bayreuth)
5.A rigid, upright posture with a sharp “break” at the bust is characteristic of the stiffly boned stays of the 1730s. These English ladies wear formal mantuas for tea.

Style gallery 1740-1750

1 – 1741

2 – 1742

3 – 1743–45

4 – 1744

5 – 1749

6 – 1740s

7 – 1740s

8 – 1700-1750

1.Comtesse de Tessin (Ulla Tessin), 1741, wears a black hood over a lace cap, and a red, fur-lined shoulder cape called a mantle or tippet. She carries a matching fur muff. A large ribbon bow trims her bodice at the neckline.
2.Mary Edwards, 1742, wears a red gown with a lace-trimmed kerchief or fichu tucked under the ribbon bow on her bodice. Her sleeves are bell-shaped, and she wears a lace hood or cap.
3.Hogarth’s Marriage à la Mode series depicts a fashionable young wife wearing a sack-back jacket and stomacher with a contrasting petticoat. A linen hood or cap is tied under her chin, 1743–45.
4.Luisa Ulrika of Prussia, Queen of Sweden wears a gown with “split sleeves” (elbow frills and a lower sleeve tight to the wrist). Her overskirt is looped up over her petticoat and she wears a black cap set with diamond studs. Her choker necklace is set with a diamond-studded bow, 1744.
5.Madame de Sorquainville’s open gown is laced with a wide blue ribbon over a stomacher and is worn with a matching petticoat. The front edges of the gown are trimmed with robings, rows of fabric ruched or gathered on both edges. Sleeves are narrower, and are worn with elaborate lace engageantes. She wears a small cap and a black ribbon or frill around her neck.
6.Surviving Robe à la française in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York features a matching petticoat and is shown with an elaborate stomacher. English, fabric from Holland or Germany, 1740s.
7.English silk shoes with shoe buckles, 1740s.
8.Stomacher, silk satin with metallic-thread lace, appliqués, passementerie and tassels. France, 1700-1750. Los Angeles County Museum of Art M.67.8.99.

Source from Wikipedia