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What Clothing Originated in France?

What Clothing Originated in France?

Nowadays, what you put on before walking outside can be heavily debated and remarked upon even in your closest circle of friends.

Celebrities are scrutinized for every article they put on, and the effect has trickled down to the average person. 

  • Why is the way you dress so important?
  • Why do trends need to be followed?
  • Is it for the perfect Instagram pictures, or does it run deeper?

This piece will attempt to describe the clothes in France that gained popularity and how they impacted modern fashion. 

I hope to explain to you the effect a movement can have on an idea for many years and how subsequent movements can mold it to create entirely different versions of the same.

So let’s take a brief tour of the fashion that originated in France.

Dresses from the House of Worth 

Portrait of Empress Elisabeth of Austria wearing a courtly gala dress designed by Charles Frederick Worth, 1865.
Portrait of Empress Elisabeth of Austria wearing a courtly gala dress designed by Charles Frederick Worth, 1865
Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Charles Frederick Worth was born in England and spent much of his life in France.

He was passionate about creating beautiful dresses for actresses, dancers, and singers and hosted many Americans and Europeans in his private salon in Paris. 

Paris was the hub of fashion at the time. Clothes in France were widely inspired by the current trends that were popular in Paris. There was a reason why the world looked to the French for fashion. 

Events like the Bal des débutantes are still popular in France, and people across the world are selected to attend them.

The ruffled low-cut dresses of the Parisian era are something the world still can’t forget. 

The historic dress gave way to the much better-fitted can-can dress; the rest is history.

These dresses influenced what actresses wore in Hollywood. Thus, the trend grew, and the dresses you see today (especially the gowns worn to prom) all take inspiration from the Parisian ball gowns.  

The Popular Polo

The Polo in France Fashion.
A man in a polo shirt
Image Courtesy: Pexels

Clothes in France are not just limited to inspiring fashion for women. For years, men were confined to sweaters or tight button-ups, making it difficult for them to play sports or move freely. 

Lacoste invented the polo shirt for personal use at first.

He came up with the short sleeves and a top row of buttons in 1929. He was looking for something comfortable to play tennis in.

However, the design soon took the world by storm as people started copying the idea. 

Lacoste sold 300,000 shirts yearly near the 1930s. It soon became a trend as it started to pop up all around the globe, so much so that any shirt that resembled this design began to be referred to as a “polo shirt.” 

French fashion started to gain speed and become even more popular in the 50s. 

The Not-So-Bashful Bikini 

A woman in one of the first bikinis', Paris 1946.
A woman in one of the first bikinis’, Paris 1946
Recuerdos de Pandora, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It wasn’t like women hadn’t ever gone swimming before. They were familiar with the concept of swimsuits. However, most swimsuits invented before the bikini focused more on performance and comfort and less on appeal. 

Louis Reard, with women in bikini.
Creator of the bikini, Louis Reard

There is a reason why the world looks to the French for fashion (and style).

French engineer Louis Reard made headlines with the invention of the “smallest bathing suit.” It was a daring invention indeed, which was publicized at a popular swimming pool in, you guessed it, Paris!

It was indeed a statement.

Women’s fashion could not be reserved for uncomfortable clothing that highlighted features that society wanted to highlight.

It was so much more than that; French designers were set on proving that to the world with their beautiful designs and bold leaps. 

The Popular Chesterfield Coat 

Men's Fashion Illustration from 1909 showcasing the Chesterfield overcoat.
Men’s Fashion Illustration from 1909 showcasing the Chesterfield overcoat.

We remember the long coat from the famous Pink Panther cartoon/movie and many other mystery shows.

This coat was derived from the Paletot coat, popular in the 1800s. 

It was characterized by its length, which was longer than the average coat, and its unique design. It flowed naturally with the body and looked beautiful, no matter who wore it.

Who would have thought the fashion of France would affect something as simple as a coat?

This Chesterfield coat has become a symbol of class and sophistication, as we often spot variations of the coat in movies where the protagonist sweeps the love interest off her feet.

In movies like Notting Hill, we see that the longer coat adds to the overall romantic atmosphere.

Such is the effect of French fashion!

The Cute Little Mini Skirt

A woman wearing a mini skirt.
The Mini Skirt in France Fashion.
Image Courtesy: Pexels

Everyone knows how popular the mini skirt is.

Clothes in France remained conservative, quite like the rest of the world, until a certain point.

Several miniskirts have been invented throughout history, though none was quite like the invention of André Courrèges.

He got together with Mary Quant and listed the typical conservative hemline a few inches above the norm.

Thus began the revolution. Skirts were never the same. 

The shortening of the hemline allowed many inventors worldwide to start experimenting with fashion. As restrictions had become a thing of the past, every inventor struggled to come up with creative ways to put a spin on already existing fashion and create a trend of their own. 

To Sum It Up 

Clothes in France and the fashion of France certainly inspired much of the clothing trends we see today.

But clothing is not the only thing dependent on fashion. How you look, talk, walk, and eat is also subject to change according to trends.

Some call it fashion, while others call it etiquette. 

Of course, habits such as following the custom of a place or gathering are desirable and welcome.

However, extreme fashion choices such as corsets or foot binding in the past or extreme cosmetic surgery in the present is a dangerous path. 

Following your heart and making your own fashion choices is never a bad idea. You may experiment with the current trends to create a version that puts a unique spin on them. The ball is in your court!

Header image courtesy: Image Courtesy: Pexels