French fashion

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France is a leading country in the fashion industry, along with Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the USA. Fashion is an important part of the country's cultural life and society, and the French are well known for good taste. Haute couture and the "prêt-à-porter", among others fashion styles, remain part of French traditional life. France has many famous designers.

French design became prominent during the 15th century through the 20th century, when artistic development in France was at its peak. The fashion industry has been an important cultural export of France since the seventeenth century since modern haute couture originated in the French capital at the 1860s.

Paris acts as the center of the country's fashion industry. Along with New York City, London and Milan, it is considered a lead world's fashion capital. Paris is home to many premier fashion designers including Chanel, Pierre Cardin, Céline, Chloe, Dior, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermès, Lanvin, Rochas, Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and others.[1][2]

A great number of French cities, including Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Lille, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Nantes, etc., host important luxury districts and avenues. In recent centuries, these cities have transformed into developed cities and heavy producer and customer of luxury goods.

Manosque, La Gacilly, Vichy and between other cities lead the cosmetic industry, hosting well-known international beauty houses such as Lancôme, Clarins, Yves Rocher, L'Occitane, Vichy, etc.

Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez and other cities of French riviera are known as places of luxury, annually receiving many international media personalities, potentates, billionaires, etc.


Seventeenth - Nineteenth century[edit]

Marie Antoinette was a conspicuous follower of French fashions.

The association of France with fashion and style (French: la mode) is widely credited as beginning during the reign of Louis XIV [3] when the luxury goods industries in France came increasingly under royal control and the French royal court became, arguably, the arbiter of taste and style in Europe. The rise in prominence of French fashion was linked to the creation of the fashion press in the early 1670s (due in large part to Jean Donneau de Visé) which transformed the fashion industry by marketing designs to a broad public outside the French court[4] and by popularizing notions such as the fashion "season" and changing styles.[5] Louis XIV notably introduced one of the most noticeable feature of the men's costume of the time : the immense wigs of curled hair.[6] A commonly held belief is that Louis XIV started to wear wigs due to balding, and to imitate this his courtiers put on false hair.[6] The wearing of wigs lasted for over a century; they went through many changes, but they were never quite so exaggerated as during this period.[6]

The extravagant styles of the French Royal court wracked enormous debts to keep up its pace, at the peasant’s expense. Such fashion sprees notably ruined Marie Antoinette’s reputation, and were one of the many factors paving the way for the French Revolution.[6]

The Sans-culottes (lit. “Without knee-breeches”) rejected the powdered wigs and the knee-breeches assimilated to the nobility and favored informal styles (full-length trousers, and natural hairs...), which finally triumphed over the brocades, lace, periwig, and powder of the earlier eighteenth century.

After the fall of the Jacobins and their Sans-culottes supporters, the supporters of the Thermidorian Reaction were known as the Incroyables and Merveilleuses. They scandalized Paris with their extravagant clothes. The Merveilleuses wore dresses and tunics modeled after the ancient Greeks and Romans, cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze. Sometimes so revealing they were termed "woven air", many gowns displayed cleavage and were too tight to allow pockets. To carry even a handkerchief, the ladies had to use small bags known as reticules.[7] They were fond of wigs, often choosing blonde because the Paris Commune had banned blond wigs, but they also wore them in black, blue, and green. Enormous hats, short curls like those on Roman busts, and Greek-style sandals were the rage. The sandals were tied above the ankle with crossed ribbons or strings of pearls. Exotic and expensive scents fabricated by perfume houses like Parfums Lubin were worn as both for style and as indicators of social station. Thérésa Tallien, known as "Our Lady of Thermidor", wore expensive rings on the toes of her bare feet and gold circlets on her legs.

Thérésa Tallien, a leading Merveilleuse

The Incroyables wore eccentric outfits: large earrings, green jackets, wide trousers, huge neckties, thick glasses, and hats topped by "dog ears", their hair falling on their ears. Their musk-based fragrances earned them too the derogatory nickname muscadins among the lower classes, already applied to a wide group of anti-jacobins (see above). They wore bicorne hats and carried bludgeons, which they referred to as their "executive power." Hair was often shoulder-length, sometimes pulled up in the back with a comb to imitate the hairstyles of the condemned. Some sported large monocles, and they frequently affected a lisp and sometimes a stooped hunchbacked posture.

In addition to Madame Tallien, famous Merveilleuses included Anne Françoise Elizabeth Lange, Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier, and two very popular Créoles: Fortunée Hamelin and Hortense de Beauharnais. Hortense, a daughter of the Empress Josephine, married Louis Bonaparte and became the mother of Napoleon III. Fortunée was not born rich, but she became famous for her salons and her string of prominent lovers. Parisian society compared Germaine de Staël and Mme Raguet to Minerva and Juno and named their garments for Roman deities: gowns were styled Flora or Diana, and tunics were styled à la Ceres or Minerva.[8]

The leading Incroyable, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, was one of the five Directors who ran the Republic of France and gave the period its name. He hosted luxurious feasts attended by royalists, repentant Jacobins, ladies, and courtesans. Since divorce was now legal, sexuality was looser than in the past. However, de Barras' reputation for immorality may have been a factor in his later overthrow, a coup that brought the French Consulate to power and paved the way for Napoleon Bonaparte.

Belle Époque[edit]

French designer Coco Chanel revolutionised fashion worldwide in the post-World War I era.

France renewed its dominance of the high fashion (French: couture or haute couture) industry in the years 1860-1960 through the establishing of the great couturier houses, the fashion press (Vogue was founded in 1892 in USA, and 1920 in France) and fashion shows. The first modern Parisian couturier house is generally considered the work of the Englishman Charles Frederick Worth who dominated the industry from 1858-1895.[9] In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the industry expanded through such Parisian fashion houses as the house of Jacques Doucet (founded in 1871), Rouff (founded 1884), Jeanne Paquin (founded in 1891), the Callot Soeurs (founded 1895 and operated by four sisters), Paul Poiret (founded in 1903), Louise Chéruit (founded 1906), Madeleine Vionnet (founded in 1912), Chanel (founded by Coco Chanel, it first came to prominence in 1925), Elsa Schiaparelli (founded in 1927) or Balenciaga (founded by the Spaniard Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1937).

World War II[edit]

Many fashion houses closed during the occupation of Paris in World War II, including the Maison Vionnet and the Maison Chanel. In contrast to the stylish, liberated Parisienne, the Vichy regime promoted the model of the wife and mother, the robust, athletic young woman, a figure who was much more in line with the new political criteria. Germany, meanwhile, was taking possession of over half of what France produced, including high fashion, and was considering relocating French haute couture to the cities of Berlin and Vienna, neither of which had any significant tradition of fashion. The archives of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture were seized, mostly for their client lists as Jews were excluded from the fashion industry at this time.

During this era, the number of employed models was limited to seventy-five and designers often substituted materials in order to comply with wartime shortages. From 1940 onward, no more than thirteen feet (four meters) of cloth was permitted to be used for a coat and a little over three feet (one meter) for a blouse. No belt could be over one and a half inches (four centimeters) wide. As a result of the frugal wartime standards, the practical zazou suit became popular among young French men.

In spite of the fact that so many fashion houses closed down or moved away during the war, several new houses remained open, including Jacques Fath, Maggy Rouff, Marcel Rochas, Jeanne Lafaurie, Nina Ricci, and Madeleine Vramant. During the Occupation, the only true way for a woman to flaunt her extravagance and add color to a drab outfit was to wear a hat. In this period, hats were often made of scraps of material that would have otherwise been thrown away, sometimes incorporating butter muslin, bits of paper, and wood shavings. Among the most innovative milliners of the time were Pauline Adam, Simone Naudet, Rose Valois, and Le Monnier

Evening dress, House of Dior, 1954. Indianapolis Museum of Art.


Yves Saint Laurent was a significant post-war fashion designers, with his mentor Christian Dior.

Post-war fashion returned to prominence through Christian Dior's famous "New Look" in 1947: the collection contained dresses with tiny waists, majestic busts, and full skirts swelling out beneath small bodices, in a manner very similar to the style of the Belle Époque. The extravagant use of fabric and the feminine elegance of the designs appealed greatly to a post-war clientele. Other important houses of the period included Pierre Balmain and Hubert de Givenchy (opened in 1952). The fashion magazine Elle was founded in 1945. In 1952, Coco Chanel herself returned to Paris.[10]

In the 1960s, "high fashion" came under criticism from France's youth culture (including the yé-yés) who were turning increasingly to London and to casual styles.[11] In 1966, the designer Yves Saint Laurent broke with established high fashion norms by launching a prêt-à-porter ("ready to wear") line and expanding French fashion into mass manufacturing and marketing (member houses of the Chambre Syndicale were forbidden to use even sewing machines).[12] Further innovations were carried out by Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin. In post-1968 France, youth culture would continue to gravitate away from the "sociopolitically suspect" luxury clothing industry, preferring instead a more "hippy" look (termed baba cool in French).[13] With a greater focus on marketing and manufacturing, new trends were established by Sonia Rykiel, Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix in the 1970s and 80s. The 1990s saw a conglomeration of many French couture houses under luxury giants and multinationals such as LVMH.

Since the 1960s, France's fashion industry has come under increasing competition from London, New York, Milan and Tokyo. Nevertheless, many foreign designers still seek to make their careers in France: Karl Lagerfeld (German) at Chanel, John Galliano (British) at Dior, Paulo Melim Andersson (Swedish) at Chloe, Stefano Pilati (Italian) at Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs (American) at Louis Vuitton, Kenzo Takada (Japanese) and Alexander McQueen (English) at Givenchy (until 2001).


Paris is a symbol of France and for fashion, known for its world's cultural eviroment.

France is known as a country of luxury, fashion and beauty, with Paris as one of the world's fashion capitals. It also has many cities and towns with an important history and industry of the entry, with various sized events and shows as fashion weeks and fests.


Paris is regarded as the world fashion capital, and spread throughout the city are many fashion boutiques. A majority of the major French fashion brands, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Lacroix, are currently headquartered in the city. Numerous international fashion labels also operate shops in Paris, such as Valentino, Gucci, Loewe, Escada, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, including an Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store which has become a main consumer attraction. Paris hosts a fashion week twice a year, similar to other international centers such as Milan, London, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and Rome.

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées for excellence is the avenue of luxury and beauty of France with many headquarters of upscale fashion, jewelery and beauty houses situated on it. This avenue is often compared with the 5th Avenue of NYC and the Avenue Montaigne, which is another adjacent avenue that is known for its prestigious fashion headquarters since the 1980s. The fashion houses have been traditionally situated since the 17th century in the quarter around the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Other areas, such as Le Marais, a traditional Jewish quarter, have also included the clothing industry, also the city have a lot of fashion districts consolidating the city as a fashion capital.


Lyon is a cosmo-city symbol of the country.
A view of Presqu'île in Lyon.

Lyon, the second largest city of France, is one of the growing fashion industry cites of France. It has been famous as the world's Silk capital since the 17th century, with an important textile industry and a strong based fashion culture. It is the second biggest luxury good customer of the country, with major streets and districts with houses of high fashion.[14]

For excellence the Presqu'île is the upscale district of the city contain luxurious malls, streets and avenues as the famous Rue de la République compared with Avenue des Champs-Elysées of Paris.

The Rue Édouard-Herriot, the "Avenue des Cordeliers Jacobines"', the Place Bellecour and others are some of luxury districts with elegant boutiques of Armani, Dior, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, MaxMara, Armand Ventilo, Sonia Rykiel, Cartier, and many houses.[15]

La Croix-Rousse is an fashion district heavily marked by silk industry, known for being one of the districts supported by government for the newcomer fashion designers. The city is home of international fashion houses with the headquarters of Korloff, Millesia, the jeweler Augis, and some elses, another Lyonnaise famous fashion houses in France includes Nicholas Fafiotte, Nathalie Chaize and Garbis Devar.[15]


Marseille is a contrasts city, represents the antique and contemporary cities France.

Marseille is the third largest city of France and the principal port of the country and principal port of Europe and Mediterranean sea.

The city is affectionately called "The Old Lady of the Mediterranean" or "The City of the Contrasts"[16] for excellence the city has enjoyed its position on the continent being a fluvial port with ships full of fashion products, for that reason the outside, France and home fashion houses are established boutiques.

The avenue Canebière is called the Champs Elysées of Marseille. Rue Paradis and the Rue Grignan are known for being the avenues of luxury in the city holding high fashion boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès, YSL, Chopard, Kenzo, Tara Jarmon, Gérard Darel and many others.

A view of Canebière in Marseille.

The Rue de la Tour is called "La Rue de la Mode" (English:The Fashion street) where the newest Marsellaises fashion designers and artisans are supported by the city government, for create and grown the fashion industry in the city, some of famous fashion houses in France are Diable Noir, Casa Blanca and many more.

In the Centre and Vieux Port (downtown and old port) are other of the city shopping districts, in this areas are a lot of fashion houses for both nationals and internationals.

Other cities[edit]

Passage Pommeraye a ultra-upscale shopping hall in Nantes, UNESCO's world heritage.

Although the Paris, Lyon and Marseille domain, in France exist mainly "fashionable" cities and towns, that are also important centres for French clothing design industry.

Lille's downtown in north France holds several of luxury houses. Cannes along with Nice, St. Tropez and Montecarlo year by year host thousands of socialites, artists, potentates and several personalities that come up for many events including the Cannes Film Festival, the NRJ Music Awards etc. For that reason fashion houses have taken advantage establishing boutiques in ostentatious districts of French riviera, Bordeaux with prime wine tourism, Toulouse with they pink and stylish architecture, Rennes and Nantes with antique beauty, Strasbourg offering French-German architecture, etc.

In the cities there are fashion districts, avenues, streets, shopping malls and many places specialized for all the needs of the customer.

Fashion shows[edit]

Main article: Paris Fashion Week

The Paris Fashion Week takes place twice a year after the Milan Fashion Week. It is the last and usually the most anticipated city of the fashion month. Dates are determined by the French Fashion Federation. Currently, the Fashion Week is held in the Carrousel du Louvre.


Montecarlo Fashion Week (Fashion Fair Week)


  1. ^ Why is Paris the Capital of Fashion - LoveToKnow - Women's Fashion
  2. ^ French fashion in Paris- Paris Digest
  3. ^ Kelly, 181. DeJean, chapters 2-4.
  4. ^ DeJean, 35-6, 46-7, 95.
  5. ^ DeJean, 48.
  6. ^ a b c d Dress During Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI 1643-1789
  7. ^ "Reticule". Austentation: Regency Accessories. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Alfred Richard Allinson, The Days of the Directoire, J. Lane, (1910), p. 190
  9. ^ Kelly, 101.
  10. ^ Caroline Weber, "Fashion", in Dauncey (2003), pp. 193-95.
  11. ^ Weber, p. 196.
  12. ^ Weber, p. 195.
  13. ^ Weber, p. 198.
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^


  • Dauncey, Hugh, ed., French Popular Culture: An Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press (Arnold Publishers), 2003.
  • DeJean, Joan, The Essence of Style: How The French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour, New York: Free Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-7432-6413-6
  • Kelly, Michael, French Culture and Society: The Essentials, New York: Oxford University Press (Arnold Publishers), 2001, (a reference guide)
  • Nadeau, Jean-Benoît and Julie Barlow, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong: Why We Love France But Not The French, Sourcebooks Trade, 2003, ISBN 1-4022-0045-5

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]