French Fashions: Importance

Figure 1.--We note many Frencg podt cards in the early 20th century showing idealized children in fancy outfits. This was not uncommon in Europe at the time, but the French postcards show the children in the most fashionable clothes.

A HBC reader writes, "I am doing a report on France and need to know why clothing and fashion is so important to the French". Fashion is not just important to the French of course. We have to first ask the queston as to whether fashion is more important to France than other countries. We have the idea that French fahion has played an important role in Europe since the monarchy of Louis XIV and his glorious court. We tend to see fashion as more important in France and Italy than other countries, but can not really substantiate this at this time. Perhaps some HBC readers have some thoughts here. The other part of the question, as to why fashion is so important in France. Here we do not know enough about France so as begin to answer the question. Surely there are important economic issues here. But are there aspects of French culture that makes fashion especially important. Hopefully our French readers will provide us some insights.

Reader Assessments

Several reades commented on this page.

An American reader

An American reader writes, "This is a great question for HBC. I know that fashion and the French were discussed in Shakespeare. Hamlet has a reference to the French and fashion during Polonius' speech to Laertes. Also the Japanese are very fashion conscious. The wealthier Chinese seem to be but I am uncertain how that trend is playing out." The French certainly were fashion conscious and they created fashion. Other countries like China and Japan may be fashion conscious, but they seem more consumers of fashion than creators.

A French reader

A French reader writes, "I think this postcard is dated just after 1930. Don't be surprised, but these two children are both boys. At this time, French girls would never wear pants, even short pants. Some boys could have long hair. It is true the fashion in France for children was an important aspect in their education. This really did not change ubntil the 1980s. Notice that French mothers were not very fond of uniforms, even among the bourgeoisie familly. Mothers preferred the " ensembles ". so each child had his individual look. This is why one can notice in school photos, that all pupils have different clothes. Several aspects about the French children look from about 1918 (end of World War I) until about 1980. A child might have a juvenil look , on the contrary case it'll be considered as a foreign or very poor child wearing old adult clothes or adult styles. Children coming from affluente or popular familly had quite the same loo. Just after World War II (1945), a rich child was wearing new clothes and changed regulary and it wasn't the case for the others ones wich had only the school clothes and the Sunday clothes, but this changed as the economy improved. Children with barefoot (was and is allways) not allowed, of course except at the beach! A comment: The French mothers and grandmothers were very skillful to turn old knitted clothes into new children clothes. The French people had a severe regard on the look and education of their neighbours' children."

French Canadian reader

>p> A French Canadian reader writes, "First of all , geography explains a lot of things. At first, Italy was the main fashion country in Europe and the Renaissance is a good example of Venice trading for silk from China and Persia. When François the First went in Italy when at war, he came back in France with somptuous clothings and... painters like Leonardo da Vinci. Then began a search for the finest linen. Because, England was the first sheep cattle producer in Europe, they exported them in this region called Belgium and Netherland Kings of france were eager to conquer. A lot of battles during Louis XI were wool and cotton control of production.. During that time, the centralisation of power on the "absolute monarchs"hands in France got an impulse to fashion change, mainly at Versaille. This place needs to be considered as the first appartment block in the world. The hierarchy was very rigid and the costume was a good indicator of the proximity or not of the King. The famous royal blue was the king's exclusive color and somebody wearing a dress with this color was under arrest. To understand this interest by French on fashion is to remember that the "Cour" was a matter of getting nobles at Versaille instead of in their castles. To get favor, nobles had to stay at versailles. Having nothing to do, they were occupied with fashion in such a way that to look at others and looked by others. This principle was a trememdous impulse for manufacturer all around Paris and gave a lot of jobs to a lot of people . The main reason why french established in America was Furs and for two centuries, they controled the Nortwest Territories. If you go to paris, you will find something very curious. Look at those cafés with tables and chairs always full of people the day long. Paris is a theater and the actors are ordinary people dressed with "goût". Those sitten down are the spectators and makes comments on the former. In doing so, Paris became a place where talking and hearing were gotten involved. The witty language of parisans is a powerful tool in Public relations in France. By its climate , France became the most important place for fashion in the world and still is. This is a part of the explanation . It needs more, of course. But, like gastronomie, it is the expression of an 'Art of Living'."


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Created: 11:39 PM 6/18/2007
Last updated: 7:23 AM 6/20/2007