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The Particular Features of the Costume of the Upper Class in France of the 17th Century Essay

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Updated: Apr 15th, 2019

The costume and dress can be discussed as the characteristic features of the culture during the definite historical period. Moreover, the details of the costume often reflect the social status of a person who wears the certain clothes.

Discussing the elements of the French costume typical for the 17th century, it is possible not only to concentrate on the cultural tendencies of that period but also to determine the social significance of the dress.

The elements of the costume used by men in France of the 17th century were affected by the social and political situation when kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV presented their own vision of the political course of the country and influenced the development of fashion.

It is important to note that men set the fashion tendencies in France during the 17th century. That is why, to discuss the particular features of the costume, it is necessary to focus on the dress of the aristocracy. To explain the usage of the definite elements in the man’s costume, it is important to refer to the social and political context of the 17th century.

During the rule of Louis XIII, France also suffered from the effects of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe (Hart & North, 1998). Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu passed the edicts according to which only the representatives of the upper class could wear lace, gold, and rich accessories (Tortora & Eubank, 1994). The distinction between the categories of the population became more obvious.

The ideas to accentuate the status with the help of costume were developed by Louis XIV to extremes. The men from the upper classes wore incomparably luxurious clothes with a lot of lace, gold, ribbons, and ruffles. The splendid costumes of the deep colours made from rich fabrics attracted the public’s attention and determined the aristocracy among the other people (Kaiser, 2012).

During the rule of Louis XIV, the representatives of the upper class wore their extremely splendid costume in spite of the occasion. The shirts and blouses of the upper class’s costume were characterised not only by a lot of gold lace but also by tied sleeves with large puffs and panes from shoulder to elbow which were often detachable with a ribbon (Cosgrave, 2000).

The next detail was a collar of different forms accentuated by the brooch. Men also wore the corset-like doublet, and their long or short coats without collars were ornamented with a lot of buttons. During the second part of the century, a jerkin with a long skirt became popular with the nobles.

The particular feature of the man’s costume of that period is the breeches which were wide at top and rather narrow beneath, they were tied with a ribbon just below the knee, and they were known as tubular breeches. The breeches were worn with white or blue silk stockings (Bradley, 2001).

The representatives of the upper class also paid attention to deep and vivid colours to emphasise their status. They wore coats in wine, scarlet, and deep blue colours, and black and purple suit was extremely popular. The red shoes with round or square toe made the costume complete.

The costumes were significant to emphasise the differences between the lower classes and nobility because only rich people could afford definite fabrics, and they were allowed to wear lace and gold. Fashion can be considered as the important aspect according to which people can make conclusions about the class, gender, or national characteristics.

References

Bradley, C. G. (2001). Western world costume: An outline history. USA: Courier Dover Publications.

Cosgrave, B. (2000). Costume and fashion: A complete history. USA: Hamlyn Publishing.

Hart, A., & North, S. (1998). Historical fashion in detail: The 17th and 18th centuries. USA: V & A Publications.

Kaiser, S. B. (2012). Fashion and Cultural Studies. USA: Berg Publishers.

Tortora, P. G., & Eubank, K. (1994). A survey of historic costume: A history of Western dress. USA: Fairchild Publications.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Particular Features of the Costume of the Upper Class in France of the 17th Century'. 15 April.

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