Архів теґу: Louis XIV

Fashion Icon: King Louis XIV

King Louis XIV

It’s no secret that fashion loves leaders. Throughout the history of fashion, new trends have been born under the influence of an authority that has either power, or frenzied energy, or an unconditional influence on the minds of contemporaries. Perhaps that is why King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) became one of the most influential trendsetters of the 17th century.

Louis XIV was nicknamed “God-given” because Queen Anne of Austria gave birth to him relatively late, at 37 years old, having previously lived in a marriage with Louis XIII for 20 years. The God-given-son sat on the throne for a surprisingly long time – 72 years – and managed to organize his rule so well that the country rose to an unprecedented height, and his time was called the “Great Age”.

Queen Anne of Austria

Louis, although he became a king only five years old, was under the care of his mother. The mother solved all the cases until the moment when her son turned 14. And then Louis took the reins firmly in his own hands.

Winning wars, developing industry, and trade, France became one of the most powerful countries in Europe, both in politics and in culture. In 1661, Louis laid out his new residence – the Versailles, and here he lived most of his life. Inspired by his brilliant finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the king put luxury literally on stream by opening state-owned enterprises for the production of clothing. And he raised fashion to the rank of law, creating his own royal etiquette, which became an example to follow in many European countries.

The French fashion system became an influential element of French politics and culture and Louis XIV naturally received all the rights of a trendsetter.

French Fashions of King Louis XIV times

Louis XIV attended a military parade in 1663 in honor of the victory over the Turkish troops. It involved Croatian mounted regiments fighting the Turks. And the king saw that the horsemen wore bright neckerchiefs, which he liked very much. Louis immediately gave an order: “Make sure that tomorrow I have a dozen of the same handkerchiefs!”.

Croats ‘”ties” were squares of cloth with large and small tassels, the ends of which were tied with a rosette and hung on the chest. Of course, the king got what he wanted. From the king, the fashion for ties passed to other courtiers and then went for a walk in European courts. During this period, the name of the tie was born, which is now mostly accepted in Europe: “cravate”, from the word “croate” (Croat).

Emanuel de Geer wearing a military sash over a buff jerkin and sporting a cravat with it in 1656, portrait by Bartholomeus van der Helst

However, it would still be a mistake to attribute the birth of ties to Croatian horsemen or even to Louis – they came to us from ancient times. Scarves around the neck, so-called “focales”, were worn by Roman legionaries in the first century, so that iron armor did not rub the neck. Similar headscarves were also in Ancient Egypt, they have been known since time immemorial in China. In these countries, they emphasized a certain social status of a person.

Louis XIV used fashion not only to enrich the treasury and spread the cultural influence of France but also as a kind of carrot and stick. With its help, he deftly manipulated his courtiers. Some things were required to be worn by everyone without exception, otherwise, it was threatened with ex-communication from the royal court, some, on the contrary, could only be worn by the highest permission.

It was Louis who introduced the so-called justacorps or justaucorps, which is translated from French “exactly on the body”. It was a type of men’s caftan, without a collar, close to the waist, rather narrow at the top, but expanding to the floors, with short sleeves and pockets. From justacorps later, in the XVIII century, a frock coat grew, and from a frock coat in the XIX century – a tailcoat, which is still popular today, as well as a jacket, without which no man can do today. So the “great-grandfather” of the modern jacket was Louis XIV.

French baroque justacorps, 1735

In the times of Louis XIV, justacorps could only be worn by the authorities, nobles. It was made of very expensive fabrics – brocade, velvet, decorated with precious stones. The king himself appointed who exactly was given the honor to wear justacorps. In all, there were no more than fifty of them at court. In 1660, the ” justacorps by privilege” appeared, intended only for the king and members of the royal family – blue on a red lining, with gold and silver embroidery.

French baroque justacorps

And only after a few decades, this caftan gradually made its way into “mass production”, became available to other mortals and an obligatory element of the European court costume. And since the middle of the XVIII century, it, decorated with an epaulet on the right shoulder, turned into a part of a female hunting costume, which was worn with a wide-open skirt.

In addition to the costume itself, Louis XIV clearly regulated the colors of clothes and even the forms of decoration. Fashion was based on a class basis and had to maintain the social status of the subjects. Gold braid and expensive buttons were allowed only to the rich aristocrats, brocade clothes were worn only by the king, princes of the blood, and those to whom the king himself allowed such a favor.

In the French legislative acts of the 1660s, all the details are regulated: how many ribbons and how wide to sew on collars, hems of raincoats, on the sides of pantaloons, on the sleeves, armholes.

By this time, the “French brand” was so promoted that the whole of Europe came to a consensus: fashion novelties can only be obtained from France.

French Baroque embroidered costume (detail)

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