Before I show you the finished project, I must talk about what was going on in the world at the time. The 18th century is a fascinating era to look at.
I love researching history, and seeing how fashion is influenced by current events. For example, during World War One, the skirts became shorter and slimmer since there was less fabric. The same thing happened in World War Two, and we can see the celebration of the end of the second world war in the 1950’s, when the New Look became popular, with the wider, longer skirts.
The same things happened during the 18th century.
First, let's talk about some of the major events of this time.
The French court became a huge power in the 17th century, and it thrived under the rule of Louis XIV, The Sun King. He made France the dominant country on fashion and the arts. This power continued on into the 18th century with Louis XV, who came into power in 1715 after the death of the Sun King. With the new king, Baroque left fashion and Rococo became the style. It's delicate, feminine style is still popular to this day. The Classical style took over in the last half of the century because of international trade. Asian influences are easily seen in dress and design in the late 1700s, when the best silk made it's way from China to Europe and the new world. The boom in textile trade and the creation of new technologies in the latter part of the 18th century was the start to the Industrial Revolution.
Back to the beginning of the new century- although Louis XV continued on with France's art and fashion industries, he was not successful in actually leading the country. He was passionate about hunting and women, and he didn't even try to govern France. He racked up debts by continually engaging in wars, and his efforts in lessening the people's depression were never successful. When he died in 1774, he was one of France's most hated kings.
Louis XV’s grandson, Louis XVI became the next king, along with one of France's most infamous royals- Marie Antoinette. The pair were not fit for ruling a country: he was apathetic in unfit for his role, and she was frivolous and immature. They were also very young. King Louis XVI was only 20 years old when he got the throne. He was also handed a very difficult job, since the last king left debts and a country full of people who were learning to hate the monarchy.
In the late 1700s, France agreed to help America revolt against Britain. This was a way for France snub Britain, but it ended up being far more costly than they thought. This pushed France down the rabbit hole and their debts grew. The American revolution also put ideas into the French soldiers heads about rebelling against the throne. The soldiers came back with these dangerous ideas in their heads and that, along with the increasingly high prices of necessities such as bread, were the beginning of the brutal and bloody French Revolution. The people of France succeeded in dethroning their King and Queen, as well as beheading them. France's turmoils did not end with the century, but instead continued on until the rise of Napoleon in 1804.
France wasn’t the only country with issues during the 18th century. In fact, the UK might have actually been worse off at this point in time. Britain had many issues with power, starting with Bonnie Prince Charlie. If you read or have been watching Outlander, you would be pretty well informed of the issues that went on in Scotland during this time. During the 1740s, Scotland tried to get the ‘true king’, Charles Edward Stuart, on to the British throne. He was part of the second Jacobite rebellion. Both of the rebellions failed, and Scotland went through a horrible time of drought and brutalities. The English soldiers stormed through the country stealing and raping, and thousands of men who were suspected of being a part of the Jacobite rebellion were either imprisoned, sent to the Americas, or hanged.
Many Scotts went to the Americas, and were a part of the American Revolution 40 years later. After losing the Americas after the revolution, Britain was in a pretty bad way. They suffered through debt and droughts, and taxes went sky high until the end of the century, when a war with France brought up the price of tin, copper, and many other things.
This turbulent time made people become more creative when it came to what they wore, so we have some very interesting clothes that came out of this. I will talk about how all of this affected fashion in the next post.