Issues Of European-american Fashion Development And Consumption
Paris became the provider of modern, elegant, and costly fashions for royal and aristocratic wear across Europe beginning in the late seventeenth century. Louis XIV established his personal image as le Roi Soleil (Sun King) by creating at his palace of Versailles a luxury world entirely devoted to his glorification. Key to this was the appearance of his court and especially the clothing of his courtiers. All encouragement was given to the development of a new silk-weaving industry in the city of Lyon to provide luxury fashion fabrics for the court. Thus, from the early eighteenth century Lyon became the center for the design and manufacture of the most desired fashion silks, which were worn at every European royal court. Paris itself became the center for the retailing of dress and fashion accessories. This successful Paris/Lyon commercial twinning led to the development of the Paris haute couture industry by the late nineteenth century. Through this, Paris held its place as the creator and arbiter of European-American fashion right through to the 1960s, a period of over 350 years. Paris remains the most famous center for the display of fashion, though its designers come from all over the world and are rivaled by those in New London, Milan, Tokyo, and London.
In the eighteenth century, court dressmakers and their urban and aristocratic clients were the orginators of new styles. Aileen Ribeiro emphasizes the centrality of the creative fashion role of the marchands des modes in Paris, who "supplied and arranged" all the fancy trimmings on women's dress (p. 68). In 1745, Madame de Pompadour became mistress to Louis XV and, as Ribeiro shows in her study Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe, "her fashion sense was dominant for the next decade; she summed up the elegance of the Rococo" (p. 136). Interestingly, Colin Jones (2002) confirms that Paris, rather than Versailles, set the fashions; Madame de Pompadour "shopped on the Rue St. Honoré and spurred the court to follow the city fashions, rather than rely on the city aping the court" (p. 153).
In Britain, nineteenth-century mourning dress can be seen as an example of the social control of women through etiquette, but also as an example of the development of a middle-class fashion market, through ready-to-wear manufacture, department store retailing, and advertising. Social pressures to enact every last detail of the three stages of mourning dress were so intense that between 1850 and 1900, no woman who sought any kind of public respectability and community approbation for her family dared defy the rules. Thus sales in dull black silk mourning crape, white widows' caps, black woolen bombazine, and ready-made widows' weeds flourished until the ghastly death toll of World War I eroded the pressures and etiquette regulations.
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