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Eighteenth-Century Costume

In the 18th cent. France, under the rule of Louis XIV, became the costume center of the world, with Mme Pompadour, Mme du Barry, and Marie Antoinette successively dictating the fashions of the day. It was the age of the wig, of rococo settings, of delicate pastels and flower-patterned silks, and of embroidery. Early in the century Rousseau's ideas affected style of dress. Women's costume became graceful and pastoral; the pointed bodice, tightly laced, was finished with a triangular scarf, or fichu, at the neck, and sleeves were ruffled at the elbow. The bell-shaped hoop appeared c.1710, and c.1735 side hoops, or panniers, were popular. Women's costume, which at this period became extremely formal, was gradually softened into a romantic look (as in portraits by Gainsborough) that anticipated the Empire style.

The 18th-century man first wore a knee-length cassock that buttoned all the way down over an equally long waistcoat, and buckled knee breeches. As the century progressed, the waistcoat became shorter, the skirt of the coat began to form tails, the collar became higher, and the sleeves and breeches became tighter.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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