Fashion History: The 18th Century
Fashion has been characterized as “a capricious goddess” and the very paradigm of superficiality, frivolity and vanity. Alternatively, fashion is often described as “the mirror of history” – the reflection of wars, revolutions and other world historical events. But fashion is neither a whirligig of meaningless change nor a blank mirror reflecting the spirit of the fine. Rather, fashion is itself a part of history, providing valuable evidence of the way people thought and behaved in the past. By juxtaposing fashions from different periods in time, we can get a dramatic visual impression of social, cultural, and esthetic change. Moreover, fashion has its own history. By exploring fashion’s past, we can better understand its present and future.
Fashion History from 1750 – 1799
Up until the middle of the 18th century, fashion was a fairly reliable visual indicator of the wear’s social rank. But fashion’s “old régime” was already coming to an end, as the aristocracy and gentry increasingly lost both their traditional monopoly on fashionable luxuries and their hold on political and economic power. Trade in textiles was one of the driving forces in European expansion, and the mechanization of textile production was the engine of the industrial revolution. Innovations in spinning and weaving technology, dyes, fabric printing and other processes made a widening range of textiles available to the fashion industry at prices that an increasing number of people could afford.
Watch the video below to get an idea how people really dressed during the 18th century: