Posted by: clevsea | August 31, 2006

Fashion Victims

I’m reading a weird book, “The Essence of Style” by Joan DeJean.

I think it is supposed to be PRO fashion.

I am reading it because I like history and I like textiles and this
book combined 2 of my interests.

However, I am having the opposite reaction to the book than I think
I am supposed to have.

You see, Louis the XIVth is responsible for the waste of money, the
fashions and their ultra fast changes. As far back as the 1600’s the
people in France became slaves to fashions and what was “in”
and “new.” It would appear that before that time people simply wore
clothes until they wore out. But Louis’ obsession with looking good
(?) was contagious and the rest of us caught the disease.

According to this book the fabric was about $7000.00 per yard. The
author took into account the math needed to make us understand how
much money the women were spending on clothes in the 1600’s. Paris
was setting the trends and declaring the color of the season,
something they still do. One Spring *lace* came in style and had to
be on everything you wore, the Spring before that was “Out” and to
be avoided at all costs.

Some guy decided to write a newspaper to women, the first one, so
that he could keep the French informed about was was new for Fall
and what accessories were mandatory. What the French did impacted
England and it trickled from there.

So I am astounded that following fashions (like a simple minded
slave) started such a long time ago. In fact esclave de la
mode, “slaves for fashion” came into the common language in 1694 and
the term “fashion queen” in 1719.

It was all about money. How to get the customer to throw away
something that was not worn out. How to get the customer to feel
badly that they were wearing last year’s “look” and replace their

I’m looking at an ad from 1678. It’s detailing the hot new look for
the winter season. The outfit includes an embroidered silk
mousseline, a sable snug, a diamond bracelet, a muff, a black velvet
dress with diamond pins and the ermine trim on the black underskirt.
It is a pretty outfit but I’m sure that it was out of reach for most
women in that time period not to mention that black velvet, while
pretty, doesn’t seem like a good choice for a rainy winter in France.

I think the saying, those who don’t know history are doomed to
repeat it, is true with the fashion industry too. It’s 4 centuries
later and some of us still look to Paris and the fashion magazines
to tell us the latest in colors and hemlines.

Weird, I think



  1. Seriously, Clev. It is amazing. I was thinking of that the other day when I was shopping for some much needed underclothes. I am not a fashion follower in the least, but I can’t help but notice how spending much time in a clothing store makes me look with disdain on my own clothes… clothes I wa perfectly happy with before I walked into the store!
    what is it… “Godliness with contentment is great gain”? I think that’s it. So true.
    Great post. Thanks for the education. I had no idea it started that early either.

  2. Oh, I have to add to my previous comment.
    I laugh whenever they show clips from a season fashion show on the news. Those clothes are perfectly ridiculous and no one in their right [even fashion] mind would ever walk down the street wearing them. They are actually quite ugly. and the poor models are barely more than skeletons. how perfectly ridiculous! i’m not sure how those fashion shows get anyone fired up to go shopping. I know… it is the ads that do that… and the fact that people go shopping when they don’t really need anything… and then their eyes get big.
    anyway, it is a strange phenomenon.

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