Fashion in the Rococo Period

A combination of the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style, having its emergence in the 18th Century is the Rococo style of art in France. Critics have used the term to derogatively imply that the style was merely fashion. The Rococo period is now widely recognized as a major period in the development of European art. It was in this era that people set themselves apart from the emerging middle class not by wealth but by education and aesthetics.


Fig1. Rococo period clothing

Women in this era apparently wore wigs only on rare occasions and more or less preferred to have their own hair powdered and coiffed. Until the middle of the century, the hairstyles both in men and women remained exceedingly simple. If not the wigs, then hair was simply pulled back and pinned up. Men’s fashion didn’t change much during the whole era however. The justaucorps, waistcoats and breeches were worn throughout. They were introduced during the late baroque era. Although they were changing slightly in shape. The waistcoat below became ever shorter until it only reached the hips. It was in this era that finery becomes all important making way for a wealth of bows, ruffles, lace trimmings, sashes and, not at least, artificial flowers in all variants.


Fig2. Woman dressed in a classic rococo period outift

 Embroideries, mostly exquisite, continued to be in fashion.  Manteau was used in many different variants of the court dress and adopted, as we shall see later, increasingly pompous forms. The Manteau also exists in jacket shape called Casaquin. Even if ladies where no coats whatsoever, they withstand the cold winter months with fur lined capes, quilted padded skirts or maybe fur trimmed manteaus. The French robe, very famous in this era, had large so called Watteau pleats which followed elegantly down the back, which the English robe was a direct descendant of the mantue with sewn-d own back pleats.


Fig3 : Famous dressing style and clothing of this period

As it was evident, men’s fashion had not changed much during this era. The shirt features a lace jabot on the chest and lace cuffs on its sleeves. A white back placed around the neck. Mean wear, unlike women, almost exclusive wigs whose pigtail is tied at the neck and fitted with a bow or placed inside a black rubber bag. Men predominantly use white powder. By the 1770s, people began backcombing their hair above the forehead and made it higher. Thus, barbers were declared artists and only the finest and wealthiest could afford a new hairstyle on a daily basis.


Fig4. Classical men’s clothing of this period

However, from the mid century and for the first time in the history of fashion, clothes were sometimes so short that they barely covered the calf. Breast tissues became fashionable in this era. If we move on from clothing to the fabric meant to be used for a perfect touch was mostly light, pastel colors chosen in fabrics like taffeta, satin and damask.

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Fashion in the Baroque Era

The Baroque era emerged during a time of indulgence and the art of the time reflected this through ornate embellishments and impracticality. This era emerged in the early 1600s and continued into the mid-1700s. It is a period in the history of western arts roughly coinciding with the 17th century. They baroque style started around 1600 in Rome and gradually spread to most of Europe. Out of the many features that made the baroque fashion distinguished from various other fashion eras is disappearance of the ruff in favor of broad lace or linen collars. It was the fashion period in the 1600-1650 that saw this change. The waistlines rose through the period for both men and women. The silhouette, which was essentially close to the body with tight sleeves and a low, pointed waist to around 1615, gradually softened and broadened. Sleeves became very full, and in the 1620s and the 1630s were often paned.

Fig1. Classical Baroque work

There was differentiation among the classes and this differentiation was also seen in the form of colors a person would decide to wear. The upper class wore pastels and bright colors. Though in the early period they preferred large floral patterns, but later used small scrolling floral. In contrast, the middle class wore dark color and black as means of showing their wealth. The poor would wear dingy shades because they could not afford dyes. Further, the division in class was also shown and was impactful in the fashion sense followed by every class. The fashion of one class would be in contrast to the other class showing and emphasizing on the difference between them. The upper class fashion changed significantly. Women stopped wearing hoop skirts and instead layered as many as eight petticoats. Sleeves were gathered to create multiple puffs down the arm. Necklines were made lower and cut square. Men’s fashions were more elaborate than women’s. A man’s costume was decorated with as many as 600 bows. Other embellishments were buttons, lace and embroidery. Men traded short, slipper-style shoes for tall boots with a wide top cuff. Both men and women wore their natural hair long and wore elaborately curled wigs in public.


Fig 2&3: Clothing in the baroque period


The middle class on the other hand had a contrasting fashion sense although the contrast was not as significant as that of the poor class. The lower class fashion was dependent on the occupation one has. Women who worked directly for the middle class and upper class wore a small ruff, a linen chemise and a wool skirt and apron. Those who worked in the cities or the fields and had little or no contact with the upper class would have had very plain woolen attire, like the fashions of previous generations in their caste. The middle class fashion was a mixed of both as it was fluctuating from member to member of the class community. The middle class wanted to dress like royalty, but were more morally conservative. While the general shape of their costumes changed, the middle class continued wearing high necklines and ruffs, which had fallen out of fashion.


Fig 4&5: Baroque period
Children in any social class dressed like miniature adults. Very poor children owned a single wool gown. The import on cotton was banned in this era. The lower class garments were made from wool where the upper class garments were made from silk and velvets.

Fashion in the period 1650-1700 in Western European clothing is characterized by rapid change. Following the end of the Thirty Years’ War and the Restoration of England’s Charles II, military influences in men’s clothing were replaced by a brief period of decorative exuberance which then sobered into the coat, waistcoat and breeches costume that would reign for the next century and a half.

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Fashion in the 1950’s


Surely during the World War II era a lot of thing had collapsed and a lot of thing took a rise. One of them was the fashion. The 1940’s era was greatly influenced by rationing and limiting quantities of fabrics, threads and needles, so the most popular look was a simple outfit. One reason behind limiting the quantity was the expense given out during war as well as they were much in demand for the look it carried with it. The end of the war and the 1940’s gave way to the demand of more fabric, threads and needles. The sudden demand allowed a new form of fashion to carve out its importance in the history of fashion. It gave rise to consumerism and the economy of many countries took a great leap. The brightest and boldest patterns and colors were used to design and make petticoats and fabulous collars. Style clothing became an important part in the 1950’s. Mostly all the countries had a process of change going to transform themselves both societal and cultural changes. During the 1950’s style was used to set a common standard of look. Matching clothes was a way to impress people. Sisters used to wear matching clothes on occasions as well as the daughter and mother would opt for matching clothes as it was considered to be the fashion. Looking at the factual demands and possibilities of styles available, matching clothes was a fashion for some whereas it is also influenced by the fact that not many styles were available in the 1950’s although clothes were available in numerous colors, patterns or type of fabric.

Men, Women and The teenagers were affected by the fashion but they had very different reactions and affects on them. For men, fashions changed very little throughout the decade although for teenagers the megastores or outlets would keep a special collection as around 1955, teenagers were the most affected group by the change in fashion. The change in fashion amongst the teenagers was so because of the change in their lifestyle. Getting more money from family, availability of part time jobs and doors to leisure were more. Fashion had to make its way amongst the changes that were taking place in these generations. Teenage clothing specially resulted in economic boom and teenage style became an important aspect of the society. Prom nights and school dances became a trend during the 1950’s and have been since then. Prom nights and dances had special dressed for both the sexes. Available in junior and adult sizes, the dress were easily judged to be for a dance by its look.


Fig 1&2 : Fashion of the youngsters in the 50’s


The menswear although was said to create a difference of age between the younger group and older one. This was so because of the mature look the style of men carried with it. Looking at it, it could easily be suggested that the plain fabrics in dark muted shades blue, brown or grey, sometimes black would look good and could be carried off by adult men. The women in 1950’s were inspired by the look carried out by actresses on the big screen. The beautiful Marilyn Monroe is an example of the 1950’s about which one would not say much but would want to look at. Slim pencil like skirts was also popular amongst the ladies. The fashion in the 1950’s gave position to women in the society with the rigid and definite look it carried sometimes. These look was most common in housewives. Bras and bust padding was in abundance giving the desired shape to the women. Latex and nylon slimmer’s along with corsets and controllers were also heavily marketed.


Fig 3: Marilyn Monroe defining a fashion statement in the 50’s


Fig4. Men’s fashion in the 50’s


Fig5. Illustrations of fashion clothing of 50’s

The fashion of the 1950’s varied greatly from individual to individual and the amazing part about the coming in of the 1960’s fashion was the right before it made way, the fur in the late 1950’s made a comeback and was widely used by the women.

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Fashion in the Victorian Age

Victorian era that spanned over the years of 1837-1901, remains one of the richest and most flamboyant ages of all times. Be it architecture, literature or social structures; everything saw a drastic change and resurrection at hands of the changing times. Fashion too was a realm that saw a major overhaul both for the fairer sex and the Men. Queen Victoria ascended the throne and became the fashion icon for the people of that age.


Fig1. Clothing timeline of the Victorian ages.

A more civilized sense of fashion was permeated and corsets and crinolines were two eminent features of women’s clothing.
Women’s attire:

Fuller skirts, compressed vests, body hugging corsets and cage crinolines and layered clothing all to accentuate the features of a woman’s body were in vogue and were an intricate part of the feminine personae. A sense of elegance was emanated via the fashion press and women held no qualms in adapting to these changes. The dresses were born in two pieces held together by knots and hook and were very carefully designed. The corsets worn above were narrow waist and stiff to accentuate the bodice. The skirts were humungous with layers of petticoat, camisole and an underskirt. Added to this they had to wear a bustle to give form to the dress. The t-shirts or the jackets were characterized by drooping shoulders and long pointed angles. Mass production of these garments was facilitated by the invention of the sewing machines in the 1850s. Around 1880, the fuller skirts were trimmed and slimmed down and were made comparatively easier to carry. By 1900, the width of the skits narrowed down however they became more faired towards the helm. Necklines saw variations over this entire time frame from V-necks and open necklines giving way to the Pigeon breast. However, these dresses came expensive and whether or not they were worn by all and sundry is still not known.
Buoyant crinolines and stiff corsets however, became subject to immense criticism too as they they restricted movement and activities and were very uncomfortable, unhygienic and had repercussions on women’s posture and reproductive health. Also, carrying these fully fledged buoyant dresses was not easy. It also signifies how women partially suffered at the hands of fashion and poise and a major critique of this culture can be found in Victorian literature (Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice etc).
Coming to the accessories, boots and shoes made of leather and with heels and pointed toes were popular. These too, were a luxury few could afford.


Fig 2&3. Women clothing in the Victorian ages.


Another way to accessories oneself was to wear hats made of velvet, satin or cotton. Shawls, clothes, gloves and scarf also became popular and make-up became a way of asserting one’s femininity.

Men’s attire:

Men’s attire was much more simplistic comparatively but in relation to modern day clothes it was a bit too formal and elegant. Every gentleman was expected to wear a coat, vest and hat. Tuxedos were very common unless one belonged to the labor class. Also, boots and shoes made of leather were in vogue. Caps of wool were also very common and prevalent. Even men wore coats with flare that gave them an hour glass figure inspired by Prince Albert. They wore tight trousers and waist coats. And moustaches and side burns were in during that age.

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Victorian Age 2014.  [ONLINE] [Accessed 03 December 2014].

Victorian Age 2014.  [ONLINE]  [Accessed 03 December 2014].

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Understanding the costumes of ‘Shakespeare in Love’

Sandy Powell won the Oscar for best costume design for her tremendous work in the movie. Sandy Powell who has been nominated ten times for the Academy awards won the word for this movie in the year 1999 and did the same in 2005 and 2010 for The Aviator and The Young Victoria respectively. The movie from 1998 had some of the best costumes ever to be witnessed on the big screen. It was believed by Powell that nowadays the people who would be enacting the roles would most likely be taller and bigger than how Shakespeare as well as the other characters were in the real time. To meet the effects of the old days, which was nearly perfect, Powell decided to shape the costume the way it would have been and for that a corset and underpinnings were believed by her are responsible to determine the shape of the costumes. No costume can ever be hundred percent accurate because of the change in the techniques as well as the fabric and this did create a major obstacle for Powell who had decided to design the outfit as real as it could look. Another outfit that one would surely want to discuss would be the one which was used by Elizabeth I in the movie. Its surely not an exact copy of the dress but it makes the viewer feels as a fantasy after one compares it to the portraits of Elizabeth in real. The clothes used in the movie were at some point hand stitched to give it a subtle and soft look without overdoing it. Powell didn’t fail in doing so. The collar in a few scenes was from the art deco silver lace because it was impossible to find a piece of the Elizabeth lace.

It is visible in the movie that the point of having a highly fashion conscious age during the Elizabeth era is true. It was time when sumptuous fabrics were used and clothing was a primary indicator of wealth in those days. The most extra ordinary costume was believed by many was of Elizabeth. Though her dress and headwear appear almost surreally ostentatious. Some characters in the movie like made it visible that whatever the queen did was fashion and that all the ladies would follow what the queen is doing although many failed in trying to look as stunning as the queen looked in the amazing dress. The dresses of the character Viola were intelligently designed keeping in mind the condition of her economically as well as keeping in mind her character and her attitude in the movie all throughout, even after falling in love.

For women having a perfect figure, maybe like an hourglass was the only aim. Wide shoulders, a belled skirt and the bosom were tightly lifted for the women whereas the men in the movie have abundance padding and silhouette was square. The work done by Powell has tried its best to reach the reality of the scene and in many of the scenes, Powell has been successful.

Here are a few instils and  images from the movie –






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Clothing of the Renaissance Era

Trend setting in the modern day is mostly set by celebrities or known personalities whose fashion sense and style has been copied by and has impressed a lot of individuals around the globe. However, the renaissance era had no celebrities to be termed as the ‘trend-setters’ but of course, the known personalities did get termed as that. Although in the era of renaissance, the known personalities were mostly political images.


Fig 1&2. Clothing in the renaissance period


The Monarchs being the elite class back in the golden days, they became the people to set the trend. Famous amongst these were the Tudor Monarchs of England. Out of these Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were most impactful on the Western European fashion of the 16th century. This was the period when various different countries took new styles, some different from the other while some resembled each other. The northern European countries for example were distorting the natural figure by padding sleeves and stockings. The natural silhouette of the Germans was going through extreme improvement as this was termed as going to the extremes. They put large puffs on the head, shoulders and thighs and small puffs like boils over chest, back, arms, legs and feet. Colors used in the renaissance period were often the dark colors. Black velvet was a staple fabric whereas white fabric was heavily used to make sleeves or collars. The fashion in this era was marked by clothing worn in abundance of layers, contrasting fabrics, slashes, embroidery, applied trims and forms of surface ornamentation.


Fig 3. Women’s clothing


Fig 4. Clothing of the Queen and her people.

 The beginning of renaissance, clothing started to become rounder and fuller. Women’s clothing began with high waistlines, square necklines, and finestrella sleeves. The sleeves became rounder and had to be stuffed. An interesting phenomenon with women’s fashion was shifting to wider shoulders, a long narrow waist, a flat chest and full hips. Women would even pluck out their foreheads and sometimes entire eyebrows just to have the appearance of a high forehead. Because of the change in fashion, the occupation of the tailor became much more prestigious as the nobles as well as the middle class during the renaissance era would hire personal tailors to create the day to day wardrobe. Second hand clothing was also suggested to be a successful market like it was in the middle age. Most men’s hair was bobbed but the length and the style could be chosen by the individual be it curls or straight hair. Also the men started carrying the short hairstyles like the modern day scenario. Although men liked to dress up during the renaissance as they were making new rules like hats were compulsory or unless someone would want to give a fine on his own will. Shirts and doublet was also common amongst the men. While cotton is a common and inexpensive fabric today, it was in earlier days of the renaissance costly. Fabrics like silk, sating and velvet were exclusive to the upper castes. However children during this period were dressed as their parents and that means that every child would dress up according to his family style and needs.

Above all, the clothing violation was in issue in the renaissance as the punishments were often public embarrassment. To avoid rape, women would cross dress. The most public instance of cross dressing however was in theatre. The people in the renaissance era were never shy about the clothing and surely the change in the fashion in this era led to a rather colorful and bright society during this period.

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Fashion in the Medieval Period

The Middle Ages range from the period of 11th to the 16th century. The USP of this era was learning and growth on the part of human beings in all aspects ranging from art, culture, music etc. The most characteristic feature of this age was the feudal division of society between seven social categories in Europe. This division molded every aspect of human life in those times. Clothing too was influenced by this rigid social structure. A stark difference could be witnessed in the clothing patterns of the rich and the poor, the nobles, the knights, the kings, the monks and the nuns. The way they dressed became an intricate part of their personality or identity to be precise. The stature of a person was defined by the clothes they wore.


Fig1. Difference in clothing b/w the rich and poor

Only the rich apparently could dress fashionably. During the 11th century, women’s apparel basically comprised of two tunics and a veil. The dresses they wore were inspired by Roman culture and were body hugging to accentuate their feminine features. Also, these clothes they wore were completely covering. During the 12th century the tunics were made more capacious and rest of the clothing pattern remains unchanged. The veil ran all the way down from the head covering the shoulders to the feet. Further modification was evident when by the 13th century cloaks and caps attached with broad band which was tied under the chin began to be worn.


Fig 2. Illustration inspired from the middle ages


Another interesting introduction in the arena of fashion was the surcoats which were large coats with sleeves and were popular with both the sexes. The 14th century marked the introduction of ornamentation of clothes when gold, silver, pearls and precious stones were lavished on the gowns with tight bodices. Fur coats became quite common too and tight jackets that were to be worn over the gowns also became popular. By the turn of the century, women’s attire was marked by elegance and simplicity. The external corset was invented and nets and head dresses were adopted. They began to wear uncovered necklines which were very uncharacteristic. Also, they began accessorizing their necklines with rich neck pieces.


Fig 3. Clothing for women in the medieval period.

 Clothes for nobles were loose and belted and the type of hat/cap one wore was reflective of the class he belonged too. The rich wore hats made out of velvet. They wore robes with long sleeves fastened around the waist, coupled with a cloak which was later replaced by the surcoat which was quite popular with both the sexes. Mantles, hats, stockings and hose became status symbols and were indicative of luxury clothing. Sumptuousness and extravagance was the characteristic feature of the rich men’s attire. By the turn of the century, they began wearing tunics coupled with tight waist coats and leather shoes with pointed tips. Broad brimmed hats and stockings completed a man’s attire.


Fig 4. A picture showing how a wealthy man and woman dressed up during this time.

 Thus, we see that fashion and clothing during the medieval ages was not stagnant but kept on evolving over centuries. Class and societal divisions marked a difference in the way different people dress. While, a peasant hardly owned a rug those belonging to the nobility wore highly ornamented clothes.

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